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Purple Pups: Deuce Smith

As soon as I enter the house, I hear the tell-tale sounds of a dog zooming across a hardwood floor.

Deuce nearly knocks me over, his entire back-half wiggling in excitement. He's instructed to settle down by his owner, Harrison Smith, but his tail continues to wag.

Smith laughs and moves to sit on the couch – which has been puppy-proofed with a cream-colored sheet – and is followed by Deuce. The chocolate Lab leaps up, crawls across Smith's lap, circles and crawls back before jumping down.

"He's rambunctious," Smith says with a laugh. "He's definitely a rambunctious dog. But he's fun-loving."

Deuce regularly initiates games of fetch with a worn-out tennis ball or well-chewed plush football, and he always opts for affection over aggression.

But when it comes to food – or "F-O-O-D," as Smith spells it out to avoid triggering the dog's excitement, Deuce often finds ways to get into trouble.

The safety jokes that Deuce "does something naughty every day," and it's often related to a snack.

"He'll steal food out of your hand. And as he's reaching for it, he'll be like" – Smith squints and turns his head away in imitation – "kind of ducking away because he knows he's not supposed to do it. But he doesn't really run away … because he likes people."

View photos of Vikings S Harrison Smith and his dog Deuce who are featured in Purple Pups.

Smith once purchased bags of Halloween candy to hand out to neighbor kids, but Deuce sniffed out the treats first.

"He got ahold of a whole Halloween-sized bag of Rolos and ate every single one of them, fully wrapped in the tinfoil," Smith recalls. "We took him to the [emergency vet] and they said he was fine; apparently milk chocolate is not quite as bad [for dogs] as dark chocolate.

"He would do it again if they were sitting out, though," Smith adds. "He's not going to turn that down."

On another occasion, Smith attempted to grip a ribeye bone and let Deuce lick the treat, knowing it wouldn't be safe for the dog to chew on it.

"I normally let him eat the meat off the bone, but he stole the whole bone and just swallowed it long-ways," Smith says. "But he overcame somehow. He's a resilient guy."

Deuce's Halloween antics tell the story: when the owners are away, the dogs will play.

Smith's front yard is equipped with an electric fence, but he rarely puts the collar on Deuce, who knows how to stay within the boundaries.

After all, Smith reminds, "he knows right from wrong."

"But every now and then he'll just choose to do the wrong because he wants the food or, I caught him in the pond swimming one day across the street just because it was hot out," Smith laughs. "But he knows what he's supposed to do."

Although the canine criminal may occasionally incite aggravation, the bond between him and his owner runs deep.

Smith got Deuce in 2016 at just a couple of months old. He pulls out his phone and shows us a photo of a small, timid-looking puppy.

"He was pretty cute," Smith says. "This was his first walk in Minneapolis, in the North Loop. We were in the dog park, and he was nervous because of all the other dogs … now he's not nervous."

There are more photos on Smith's phone, lots of them. Snapshots of Halloween that don't involve candy capers but rather the yearly costumes that he's managed to get Deuce to don. A snake one year, a pumpkin another. One time, Smith dressed him like a Dalmatian. Oh, and there's also a Christmas sweater.

But outside of holidays, Smith doesn't push the festive get-ups.

"He's not a big clothes guy. Not a big collar guy, either," he says.

Over the past three years, Deuce has grown into a muscular, high-motor sidekick for the Vikings All-Pro/Pro Bowl safety.

Having grown up with a golden retriever (and a bunny) as a youngster in Knoxville, Tennessee, Smith identified as a "dog person" early on. When his mom got a Lab named Baron, Smith fell in love with the breed and its affinity for retrieving, playing in the water and socializing.

And while Smith's dog does fit the Lab mold, a couple of things make him uniquely Deuce.

"His noises. He likes to talk, kinda. He lets you know when he wants something," Smith explains. "For a big dog, he thinks he's a lap dog, so he's very physical and wants human contact. He wants to sleep in the bed, get on top of you."

He reaches down to pet Deuce, who continues to walk back and forth in front of the camera. As Deuce works to get Smith's attention, nudging his owner in hopes to draw him from the couch, Smith gestures around the living room and toward the kitchen.

"Honestly, he's kind of why I bought this house," says Smith, who previously had Deuce in a Minneapolis apartment that restricted his ability to play outside.

"And you can't walk him. He just wants to run. He just pulls you," Smith adds. "So, I had to get him a yard. [A leash] is not really doable for very long."

Deuce's good-natured personality meshes with other dogs, and he often has playdates with Vikings pup-mates Basil (Eric Kendricks) and Macy (Ifeadi Odenigbo).

The Lab has plenty of size on Basil, a French bulldog, but Smith laughed that she bosses Deuce around.

"He just kind of goes with it," Smith says. "He's easygoing."

And if he's not running around the backyard or going for a swim in the pool with Macy, Deuce also loves anything that moves. Like lots of 2-year-old boys, he has an affinity for planes, trains and automobiles.

Or, at least two out of three.

Deuce is quick to jump in the car with Smith to go for a ride, and it doesn't stop there. He doesn't hesitate to co-pilot when Smith takes his plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza, up for a spin. He even has special headgear to protect his ears from the roar of the motor.

"He just gets in the back and goes to sleep. It's just like getting in a car," says Smith, who has flown from Knoxville back to Minneapolis with Deuce.

As Smith finishes up the interview, he gestures at the couch, pretends for just a moment to be annoyed and then chuckles at Deuce, leaning forward to show him some affection.

"Look at all this hair," Smith laughs. "Like, this was clean when I sat down."

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