Odysseus, in disguise to all, returns home to his castle, accompanied by Eumaeus. They stop outside the castle gates to talk, with Eumaeus none the wiser of our hero’s identity. What follows next is Homer’s touching tale of enduring love between man and animal.
Excerpt from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, Book 17: 260-327 by STEPHEN MITCHELL
As they spoke, a dog who was lying there lifted his headand pricked up his ears. It was Argos, Odysseus’ dog; he had trained him and brought him up as a puppy, but never hunted with him before he sailed off to Troy. In earlier times the young men had taken him out with them to hunt for wild goats and deer and hares, but he had grown old in his master’s absence, and now he lay abandoned on one of the heaps of mule and cattle dung that piled up outside the front gates until the farmhands could come by and cart it off to manure the fields. And so the dog Argos lay there, covered with ticks.
As soon as he was aware of Odysseus, he wagged his tail and flattened his ears, but he lacked the strength to get up and go to his master. Odysseus wiped a tear away, turning aside to keep the swineherd from seeing it, and he said,“Eumaeus, it is surprising that such a dog, of such quality, should be lying here on a dunghill. He is a beauty, but I can’t tell if his looks were matched by his speed or if he was one of those pampered table dogs, which are kept around just for show.”
Then, in response to his words, Eumaeus, you said, “This is the dog of a man who died far away. If he were now what he used to be when Odysseus left and sailed off to Troy, you would be astonished at his power and speed. No animal could escape him in the deep forest once he began to track it. What an amazing nose he had! But misfortune has fallen upon him now that his master is dead in some far-distant land, and the women are all too thoughtless to take any care of him. Servants are always like that: when their masters aren’t right there to give them their orders, they slack off, get lazy, and no longer do an honest day’s work, for Zeus almighty takes half the good out of a man on the day he becomes a slave.”
With these words he entered the palace and went to the hall where the suitors were assembled at one of their banquets. And just then death came and darkened the eyes of Argos, who had seen Odysseus again after twenty years.
Translation by Stephen Mitchell
Keep your furry friends closer tonight. Heck, let them sleep on the bed for once, if not always from now on. Tell them how much you love them. For they hold more faithful love for us than those who have the ability to speak such words telling us they do.
O and OM.