A Boy With The Heart Of A Dog

Sniffing The Test

I was teaching the second grade in a large school district.

I sent a towhead boy for special testing with another teacher. Afterwards I learned he had been sniffing the test.

I asked him why he had been sniffing paper.

I was sniffing out the answers, he replied?

How can you can do that?

Mr Iiams, I have the heart of a dog!

The heart of a dog, I ask? What do you mean?

Because, I was dog. I was a police dog. 

That’s the beginning a very interesting event which actually happened while I was a teacher. The young boy described in some details his previous life as a police dog. 

The year was 2009. My wife and I had recently sold our balloon and party supply business. Since I have a Lifetime Teaching Certificate, I which earned many years before, I decided I would put it to use. I took a job teaching a second grade class in an urban school district near our home. There were twenty very sweet children in my classroom. Have you noticed that children of early elementary age can be delightfully sweet and candidly earnest? They are very similar in nature, but no two are quite the alike. My class had some bright and engaging children. And then there was this one who really stood out. 

I have a Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education, and M. A. T. degree, (Masters in the Art of Teaching). My masters studies qualified me for certification to teaching Gifted and Talented students. As a result, I am very tuned into the personality qualities of gifted and talented people.

My “stand out” student, who sniffed his test, exhibited these traits. His vocabulary was above grade level. He enjoyed interacting with adults and older kids.  Also, he was able to understand when a statement was intended to be ironic. He recognized the subtleties of  humor. These are all signs of a very smart and possibly gifted child. 

I decided to have him tested and see if he could be admitted into the gifted program. The teacher down the hall was qualified to administer that type of test. After the test, I ask her for his results. She reported his score put him in the top one half of one percent of children in his age group. She recommended him, and he was accepted into the gifted program. She’s the one who told me the story about how he “sniffed” out the answers on the test. Having taught for years, this behavior was seen as extraordinary and quite unexpected to her.

To add context to this story I’m about to tell, I learned how K-9 units are used to search buildings. Especially in dangerous situations. The young student’s story was consistent with police procedures as I know them.

Police dogs are almost never used in the daytime for patrol or crowd control. They are predominately used at night. They search buildings where dangerous intruders are thought to be inside. They are also used for bomb and drug detection. 

I have personally experienced a nighttime building search. It was the middle of the night, in a dark and spooky warehouse. I heard the click, click, click of a German Shepherd Police dog’s nails as he was walking on the cement floor. It is a familiar sound, and must be chilling for a bad guy trying to hide! 

Cops are told in training the dogs will not attack a police uniform. That is not necessarily so. They will attack someone if they run or show fear. Knowing all of these things, the child’s description of a bank building search rang true to me.

I talked the to my student shortly after the test in a one-on-one conversation. I asked him to tell me the story about being a dog. In the most matter-of-fact and convincing tone he explained to me the story of his last day as a dog.

  The Story

He said it was very late at night when he (as a police dog) had been called to a bank burglary in progress. The bank’s front window had been smashed. (In the early days banks were more like a retail stores with big front windows.)  He explained that officers were already at the scene. They did not want to inter the bank as they believed armed and dangerous suspects were still inside.

He told me “my policeman” sent me into the bank alone. I jumped through the broken window, and saw two men inside. One of them shot me.

I asked, did they catch the robbers? He replied, “how should I know, I was dead!”

What year was this?  1947 he said.

I ask him to tell me about the multiple choice test he took, when he sniffed out the answers.  How did smelling the test paper tell you the right answers from the wrong answers? In an exasperated, somewhat condescending voice he said, Mr. Iiams the answers smell just like the questions.

Of course they do, I said.

Days later I visited one of my professors at Webster University to tell her the story. She has been teaching Gifted and Profoundly Gifted students for many years. To my amazement she was not the least bit disbelieving. Without hesitation she said, “you need to get the child tested for ESP (extra sensory perception)”

I asked, do they actually do that?

She said, of course they do.

Unfortunately the school district I was in did not have such a resource, and I could not find a way to having him tested further.

What To Think

What do I to think of his incredible story? Do I think he lived a previous life as a German Shepherd Police Dog from the 1940s? I’ve thought about that over the years. Knowing police procedures of K-9 units, his story unfolded quite realistically. Why would a second grade boy think a dog would be sent into a possibly deadly situation like that?

Also, he told the story so casually, so matter-or-fact and convincingly. I have to admit I was mesmerized by his story.

In addition, there were the reactions from professionals with years of experience. The testing teacher told me about his behavior immediately, because she was so curious and interested.

My college professor, with extensive experience with gifted children, emphatically told me to have him test for ESP.

On the other hand: He is gifted with an extraordinarily high intelligence. And he has an advanced vocabulary. Could he have see a Humphrey Bogart movie? Or, did someone read the story to him about a police dog. Was he was just  fantasizing about being a character in a book or movie?

You be the judge!  I’m still trying to decide.

As An Aside

Later I bought two Lottery Tickets and ask him to smell out the correct numbers for me. To my dismay he tried and said he could not smell anything. Okay, what the heck. Right?

Weeks later it occured to me that maybe he could not smell (perceive) something which had not yet happened. Hmm?

Whether his story was fiction or nonfiction, it was quite fascinating. I think he will grow into a very interesting adult, if he keeps the heart of a dog.