Living Room Sessions: “Odysseus and his Dog”

I’ve been reading Amor Towles’ novel, Rules of Civility (which I highly recommend), and was struck by the following line:

“. . . nor was it the life of the seafarer exposed to the elements for years at a time, returning like Odysseus, older, weaker, nearly forgotten—unrecognizable to all but one’s dog.”

You know the Odyssey. But like me, you may have missed (or forgotten) the brief passage involving Odysseus’ dog, Argos:

Argos was bred by Odysseus before leaving for Troy, and was among the greatest dogs in all of Ithaca.

After twenty years away, Odysseus finally returns home to find his house overrun by suitors, and himself long-presumed dead. The suitors aim to marry his wife, kill his son, and take his estate.

As Odysseus approaches his house disguised as a beggar, he sees Argos across the yard on a pile of manure for a death bed, covered in lice, neglected. Odysseus cannot approach Argos, as this would ruin his disguise.

Argos, too old and feeble to greet his master, lifts his head and wags his tail toward Odysseus, who sheds a single tear for his favorite dog, whom he was never able to enjoy.

Argos then dies, having fulfilled his destiny of faith and seen his master once more after twenty years.


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