Short essays by Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., the author of TING AND I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, published in September 2011 by Outskirts Press (Parker, CO, USA), available from outskirtspress.com/tingandi, Barnes and Noble [bn.com], and Amazon [amazon.com], in paperback or ebook formats. Please visit us at tingandi.com for more information.
Sunday, November 17, 2019
UNDERSTANDING SASSIE, Puppy Play Day
Ruth did not need to get to the shelter
early. It was Saturday, so she decided to sleep a little later. She had a leisurely breakfast and helped her
mother with the house chores.
At 5:00 p.m., she left to go to the shelter
to meet Jane and Millie.
Now that Sassie had been approved for
adoption, Ruth made sure that the tag on Sassie’s area read, “ADOPTED.”
Sassie had been waiting all day for
Ruth. When she caught the scent of Ruth,
she could only think of roast beef. Ruth
used this high-value treat to give to Sassie.
They were Sassie’s special treat from Ruth, and when Sassie thought of
Ruth, she also thought of roast beef.
Sassie was so excited to see Ruth that she
was wiggling all over. Her tail seemed
to be wagging her body, and Sassie wanted to keep kissing Ruth.
“Hold still!” Ruth said, “I can’t get your leash hooked up
to your collar!” Once the leash was
finally attached to Sassie’s collar, they began to look for Jane.
Sassie remembered to mind her manners
whenever she walked with Ruth. Sassie
would always keep the leash loose and never pulled. She loved to take a walk with Ruth because
she always made it fun. Ruth would
reward Sassie randomly whenever Sassie used her manners.
Jane was in the large inside exercise
room. When Sassie and Ruth entered this area, Ruth unclipped Sassie’s leash and
let her explore the room.
Sassie could not believe the large number
of toys that she saw in this room. She
ran to a fuzzy ball, pounced on it and then threw it up into the air. She did this several times. Sometimes she caught the ball and sometimes
the ball would drop and roll. If it
rolled, she would chase it and then pounce on it.
Sassie played while Ruth and Jane
“Millie will be here soon,” Jane told
Ruth. “She helps the puppy owners to
understand the sounds and actions of their puppies. Most times the growls they hear are only a
play growl, but to the owners it sounds real.
Millie has them look for a Play Bow and helps the owners recognize what
their puppies are saying.”
Jane no sooner said this than Millie
walked into the exercise area.
“Hi,” Millie said with a big smile on her
face. Sassie spotted Millie and decided
to bring a toy to her. “Hi, to you as
well,” Millie greeted Sassie as she dug into her treat bag. Sassie had already dropped the toy and sat
waiting for her treat. Sassie knew that
offering a sit was the fastest way for her to get a treat. Millie laughed as she rewarded Sassie with
“It is time for you to put Sassie back on
the leash,” Jane said. “Please sit in
one of the chairs that are located around the room. When all have arrived, and
everyone is seated, Millie will go over the rules, and we will let the puppies
off leash at the same time.” When Jane
finished saying this, she pointed at the chairs.
Millie handed a copy of the rules to Ruth
and said, “This is just a reminder of a few basic rules. I will also announce them before the puppies
will be able to play. I’m here to help
with behavior questions, but safety and positive socialization is the main goal
of this puppy play date.” By 7:10 p.m.,
most of the chairs were occupied by puppy owners with their puppies at their
Millie began her announcements. “You will
see that behind your chair is a hide-a-way for the puppies. Please help the puppies to feel safe in these
areas. Only one puppy should occupy a hide-a-way area. Re-direct a puppy that may wish to chase
someone into this area and let it know that the hide-a-way is for only one
puppy at a time. If you have any questions,
please feel free to ask. We want your
puppies to have fun during this time.
Now, on the count of three, unhook your leashes. One, two, three.”
The dogs began to scamper in all
directions. A few stayed by their humans
and just watched. A few ran for a
toy. A few decided to explore the
room. A few demonstrated a Play Bow to
another puppy and began a game of Chase.
The humans had treats ready to reward their puppies if they decided to Check
In. Millie explained that it was called
a Check In if the puppy decided to come back to their human on their own. She said that a Check In should always be
When the one puppy that had stayed by his
human saw another puppy come towards him, he turned and ran into his
hide-a-way. The human did a good job of
re-directing the approaching puppy by tossing a treat away from the
hide-a-way. Millie was explaining how
play can look and sound like real fighting.
“These puppies are practicing their skills in a playful manner. Always watch for the Play Bow,” Millie reminded
The humans began to relax as they laughed
at the puppy play. Sassie was so happy
and excited to be able to play with the other puppies. She used some of the lessons that Goldie had
taught her and even used a few calming signals such as the sniff or the yawn. There were water bowls available if the
puppies needed to get a drink.
As it got closer to 8:00 p.m., more and
more of the puppies were lying down to rest.
Some decided to chew on a toy.
Some teased their human for a cuddle.
Some puppies decided to crawl into the hide-a-way and rest. At 8:00 p.m., Millie announced, “Call your
puppies and please attach their leashes.
As you leave this area, please be careful and take your time. Have a safe trip home. See you in two weeks”
Sassie had decided to lie by Ruth and was
sound asleep. Ruth picked her up and
gently carried her to her area at the shelter.
Ruth knew that tomorrow morning she would return to the shelter and
bring her home. She kissed Sassie on the
top of her head and told her, “I will see you early tomorrow morning. Sweet dreams.”
With her permission, I am serializing a chapter a week, on this blog, near-final material from this instructive novel by dog trainer Helen A. Bemis, published by Outskirts Press and available through amazon.com: