Sunday, November 17, 2019


Understanding Sassie: A Novel of Dog and Human Communication

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 talked. 

“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 the treat. 

“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 feet.

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 rewarded. 

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 everyone. 

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

I coached and edited for Helen through my Write Your Book with Me endeavor.

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