Just like that, he swipes the napkin from my lap and races with sheer, urgent joy into the living room, flying like only a 9-week-old Beagle puppy dragster can.
The Bearded One and I are eating lunch in the midst of puppy chaos, and the very least of my concerns is a paper napkin — may it occupy him for a minute. It doesn’t even make the growing list of puppy taboos, aka the Dogma.
“Would you like another?” The Bearded One graciously hands me the napkin basket and I accept and dab it graciously to my lips, our universal skit of refined civilization out here in the sticks.
“Did you hear that?” Now Arly is at the front door whining which, at this stage of life, could mean that he has to pee or poop. Like any second. But didn’t he just have a long, lavish pee outside for which he was lavishly praised? Our perfect new puppy has pooped in the house every day since I told my daughter he hadn’t yet.
I put down my soup spoon and herd Arly across our tiny living room, past the pile of shredded napkin, to the back door and easier access to the yard. I hold open the screen, but it’s raining and he hesitates.
“Come on.” I step outside and circle to the other side of the door, but Arly’s still not buying it. “Do you have to pee or not?”
“Garfield is yowling,” says the Bearded One from the kitchen table. “Sounds like he’s upstairs.”
I can see the upstairs balcony deck, which is Garfield’s refuge these days — Arly isn’t allowed upstairs — and Garfield is not there.
“No, he’s not,” I say. “Is he inside?”
The Bearded One wipes his mouth with his napkin, which is on the table and never in his lap, rises and scales the stairs to check.
Finally Arly steps outside and I shut the screen door after him.
“Not here!” the Bearded One shouts down to me from inside, upstairs.
“He must be in the cat condo then,” I yell from outside, downstairs. The cat condo’s what we call the enclosed front porch.
The Bearded One comes back down the stairs to check.
From my perspective on the back deck, I see Garfield streak from the front deck and under the house. “He’s coming around!” I call. “Gar-field!” Arly looks at me. He’s forgotten why he is here and so have I.
I am here, I tell myself, because I want to live my life in the company of animals. People who play with beagles are the luckiest beagles of all.
Suddenly Garfield climbs up the back stair railing and Arly and I both startle.
I open the door and Garfield streaks in ahead of Arly, who barks. I shut the door and join the Bearded One back at the lunch table, where he is just returning, readjusting the ice packs on his sacral, which was skronked after sleeping downstairs with Arly his first three nights here.
I unfold my new napkin. Arly approaches, tail wagging. Ready to go again.
“Ha, fool me once!” I say, and smoothe down my huge new bib.