Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 6, and son, Benny, 3.

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A Pretty Smart Pup

By BETH VRABEL, Smart Mama

At first glance, you might think our dog, Jasper, isn’t the brightest pup of the litter.

He tends to chase leaves right into the street, nearly giving our neighbors a heart attack.

He sticks his head through the rails of a fence and then shakes the snow from his ears with a thunk, thunk, thunk of the skull.

He still hasn’t figured out that our hallway has an angle or two and repeatedly smacks into the wall while running in a straight line.

Emma, age 6, would be quick to point out that “he also likes to lick his own .¤.¤.¤.” (That’s the point at which she always gets shushed.)

But sometimes I think that’s all a front. Because he can do some pretty amazing tricks.

He can get Emma to read a book on her own, sans the usual dramatic sighs and flapping of arms. Just last week, he sat on her lap and rewarded each read-aloud sentence with a slobbery lick across the cheek. She quickly finished one book and reached for a second.

Then there’s the way he gets 3-year-old Benny to stay in his bed at night, something Jon and I have struggled with endlessly. We go through our 12-step bedtime routine, tuck him in, and before we can sit down in the living room, there he is standing in front of us. “You forgot to give me fresh water/my blanket/kisses and hugs/something I just made up so I could get out of bed.”

But then we got Jasper.

Now, we tuck Benny in his boat-shaped bed and Jasper climbs aboard. They sail off to sweet dreams together. Or at least Benny does. Once the snoring starts, Jasper curls up in a corner of Emma’s room instead.

His other tricks include getting the children to play fetch for the toys he hides under the furniture, adding custom frayed edges to any bath towel left on the floor and proving to the children that crayons are, in fact, nontoxic. (But they do have secondary digestive consequences that can be alarming. Colorful, but alarming.)

And I’m pretty sure, based on the intense glares he gives the broom closet, that he’s working on a plan to take down the vacuum cleaner once and for all.

One thing is for sure, the chubby fluff ball has wiggled his way into each of our hearts.

Even Jon, who was reluctant to add to the family, melts at the way Jasper flops his head across Jon’s feet. When we leave Jasper crated for anything longer than a few hours, Jon is usually the one who says, “Let’s go home. Jasper will be excited to see us.”

Who knows what the little dopey dog will accomplish next?

If only his pesky tail would stop tempting him to run in circles.

Beth Vrabel lives in West Manchester Township with her daughter, Emma, 6, and son, Benny, 3. For more Smart Mama columns go here.

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