Jasper the Dog’s Attempt to Train His Human

Tooter, the loveable dog in Beth Vrabel’s A Blind Guide to Stinkville, was inspired by Beth’s own loveable pup Jasper. Jasper is quite the dog and lucky for us, he offered to write a guest post for the Sky Pony Express. Check out Jasper’s post below!
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Jasper the Dog’s Attempt to Train His Human

For the past few weeks, my human has been up to something.

Instead of leaving with the littler humans in the morning, she’s staying at home. I hear her say that she’s going to “work from home now.” I’m not sure what’s she working on but it’s interrupting my nine-hour nap between breakfast and dinner.

I ask Winn-Dixie and Pippin the Guinea Pigs what they think is happening. Winn-Dixie squeaks that she hopes my human’s working on making more salads for them. This reminds me of bacon bits, which then makes me wonder about guinea pig bits and in middle of our talk I accidentally-on-purpose give Pippin little lick and maybe drool a bit. Pippin squeaks, “To the purple hut!” and she and Winn-Dixie disappear into their enclosure.

Silly Pigs. The hut is gray. Everything is gray. I’m colorblind.

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Update: I’ve deduced what my human is working on at home! She is working on becoming a dog!

She’s not dogging very well yet.

While she’s got the sitting in front of the fire down, she’s not sprawled out on her back like a proper dog. Nope, she’s tap, tap, tapping away at the gray box she holds on her lap.

I demonstrate for her how to dog properly by laying down and rolling over, paws up. I bat at her with my tail to get her attention. But she just laughs and rubs my belly. “Don’t knock my laptop,” she says and pats the box. I know it’s tough to train a human, but I am determined.

She, too, will be a Good Dog soon.

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Laptop is a dangerous rival for my human’s affections and training. But I am too weakened from taking on the vicious Machine That Must Not Be Named to tackle the laptop threat.

The Machine That Must Not Be Named rampages the house every morning, stealing each and every crumb the little humans drop from their plates and sucking it up into its noisy belly. My poor human valiantly tries to hold onto it with one hand, but I can tell she doesn’t like The Machine That Must Not Be Named, either.

If only I could communicate with Littlest Human! I know I could recruit him to fight alongside me if he only knew how many times the Machine That Must Not Be Named feasted on LEGO bricks he left on the living room rug.

The Machine That Must Not Be Named is a bottomless pit of noise and despair! Someday—the day its long gray (of course) tail no longer sneaks between my legs during my attacks—I will avenge the lost morsels that should be mine alone to savor!

My human tells me to Be Quiet and to Lay Down as I lunge at my foe and growl at it into submission. I know she simply cares for my safety against such a monster, but I will not be intimidated. I do not fear you, Machine That Must Not Be Named!

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Yes, perhaps in hindsight I should not have feared some of my previous enemies. Maybe it was wrong to rip to shreds Tissue Box and scatter its remains through the rooms of our home, even though it steals all the humans’ most delicious scents.

And, yes, my human’s new purse wasn’t as terrifying as I had feared, despite the way it ate her favorite toy. New Purse does allow my human to zip open its mouth and burp up Cellphone whenever it rings for her.

Maybe I was even wrong about Laundry Basket. Maybe the dirty socks and washcloths did not need to be rescued from it after all.

But I know I am right about Machine That Must Not Be Named.

Right after locking the vicious beast into the closet, my human once again settled in front of the fireplace like a good dog in training. But then she opened her laptop and tap, tap, tapped away it until the little humans came home. She is not a Good Dog yet.

I hate to say it, but lately, she isn’t a Good Human, either. Three times I dropped Toy beside her, but she never threw it. I know how much she likes to throw Toy. Every time she does, I bring it back to her fast as I can so she can throw it again. It always makes her laugh.

But she never stopped tap, tap, tapping. She said, “Sorry, Jasper the Dog. I have to work.” What a thing to say to her trainer!

Update: Machine That Must Not Be Named has a name. It’s Vacuum.

I heard my human say she’s soon going to soon need a new one thanks to a hole in its hose.

Not sure what happened to the hose … I’ll just be hanging out in the bathroom until my human calms down, though.

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Am stuck in bathroom! I bark at Door but it ignores me!

At first, I was having Best Day Ever. Plenty of delicious water from Toilet. Loads of tissue paper to shred. Lots of interesting smells in Garbage Can.

But then Door closed! Am stuck!

I bark and bark but my human is tap, tap, tapping with music playing. Am so sad! All looks bleak and gray for JTD! (Because I’m colorblind.)

I must fight my way through. I scratch, scratch, scratch at Door but, though now artfully decorated by my claws, it does not open.

Finally my human remembers her greatest responsibility—me. She opens the door and I shoot out, zooming across my territory to make sure all is still well despite my absence.

My human puts away her laptop and hugs me and loves me and gives me treats. She says she is sorry. She asks, “Who’s a Good Dog?”

“Not you,” I tell her, but she still doesn’t understand dog. I fear I will be doomed to have a badly trained human. It will be so embarrassing when my friends visit and she fails to sniff their bottoms in greeting as I have been promising.

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I have made a great discovery today. First: My human is writing a story. I know what stories are because every night she reads one to me in my bed, which I share with Littlest Human (though he steals all the pillows). Well, my human is writing one of her own! This explains why she’s not quite capable of dogging correctly, I suppose.

She read some of her story aloud today while “working” and, I’ve got to say, I think she’s onto something, especially with that Tooter character. My human, she’s so imaginative! Where did she come up with the idea of a fat, farting dog?

A box full of books arrived on our doorstep today and my human clapped and cheered. Silly Human. Such enthusiasm should be reserved for sightings of The Great Leash of Go Outside and The Cooking of Bacon.  But I couldn’t let her dance alone.

Another great discovery: My human has finally acknowledged my greatness. There on the cover of the book is a perfect replica of me! Slightly Smaller Human says it’s a golden Jasper the Dog. Silly girl! It’s gray.

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My human kept asking, “Who’s a Good Dog? Who’s a Good Dog?” while we danced.

I wish I could tell her, “Not you.”

But she is a Good Human.

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Update: I spotted my human’s next book cover. It has two guinea pigs. I am betrayed.

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 Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel

9781629146232-frontcoverLucy knows that kissing Tom Lemmings behind the ball shed will make her a legend. But she doesn’t count on that quick clap of lips propelling her from coolest to lamest fourth grader overnight. Suddenly Lucy finds herself trapped in Dorkdom, where a diamond ring turns your finger green, where the boy you kiss hates you three days later, where your best friend laughs as you cry, where parents seem to stop liking you, and where baby sisters are born different.

Now Lucy has a choice: she can be like her former best friend Becky, who would do anything to claim her seat at the cool table in the cafeteria, or Lucy can pull up a chair among the solo eaters—also known as the dorks. Still unsure, Lucy partners with super quiet Sam Righter on a research project about wolves. Lucy connects her own school hierarchy with what she learns about animal pack life—where some wolves pin down weaker ones just because they can, and others risk everything to fight their given place in the pack. Soon Lucy finds her third option: creating a pack of her own, even if it is simply a pack of dorks.

A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel

9781634501576-frontcoverBefore Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville.

For the first time in her life, Alice feels different—like she’s at a disadvantage. Back in her old neighborhood in Seattle, everyone knew Alice, and Alice knew her way around. In Stinkville, Alice finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time.

Camp Dork by Beth Vrabel

9781634501811-frontcoverLucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at a weeklong sleep-away summer camp—Camp Paleo: Live Like a Caveman. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air conditioning or a heated pool. They’ll learn archery and dig for fossils. And Grandma’s coming too; she’s taking a job as lunch lady for the camp next door.

At the last minute, Sam backs out to go to a gymnastics training camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend or anything. Why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush, even when she’s only thinking it? She needs a distraction. Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.

One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. And setting up couples keeps her from facing the question tickling the back of her mind: Is she in love with Sam? But when the wrong campers fall for each other, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a super secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities Gossip Girl–style. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy again finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made and face her own feelings. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.

A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel

 9781510702288-frontcoverRichie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal,” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.

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