I've read The Odyssey several times, and last night as I drove home from work, I spotted a shaggy old dog, a very stoic and weathered looking lab who was hobbling along in front of an even older man on a leash. Immediately I thought of this:
As they were speaking, a dog that had been lying asleep raised his head and pricked up his ears. This was Argos, whom Odysseus had bred before setting out for Troy, but he had never had any enjoyment from him. In the old days he used to be taken out by the young men when they went hunting wild goats, or deer, or hares, but now that his master was gone he was lying neglected on the heaps of mule and cow dung that lay in front of the stable doors till the men should come and draw it away to manure the great close; and he was full of fleas. As soon as he saw Odysseus standing there, he dropped his ears and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master. When Odysseus saw the dog on the other side of the yard, dashed a tear from his eyes without Eumaeus seeing it, and said:
"Eumaeus, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap: his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept merely for show?"
"This dog," answered Eumaeus, "belonged to him who has died in a far country. If he were what he was when Odysseus left for Troy, he would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its tracks. But now he has fallen on evil times, for his master is dead and gone, and the women take no care of him. Servants never do their work when their master's hand is no longer over them, for Zeus takes half the goodness out of a man when he makes a slave of him."
So saying he entered the well-built mansion, and made straight for the riotous pretenders in the hall. But Argos passed into the darkness of death, now that he had seen his master once more after twenty years.
You know what I love about the Odyssey? It has these wonderful intimate moments. But in this one, I see a bit of dark humor. Odysseus has been waylaid for years by a vengeful god, his crew turned to pigs, killed by sirens, eaten by monsters; he's been bewitched by Circe, almost married off to a foreign princess, all the while his proud wife is a day away from being sold like cattle to some fat noble. But in this scene, what really pisses Odysseus off? When his dog dies. When Argos kicks the can...IT IS ON MOTHER FUCKERS. ›››
Yes, I love that scene, and the next chapter too. Odysseus can bide his time while the local dandies eat his family out of house and home and carry on with the servant girls. He even gets a kick out of the comedy of his wife flirting with the suitors. He can show patience with men being cruel to free men. But being cruel to dogs (and beggars, in the next chapter), no, that will be paid back in blood.
And Nausicaa, that sweet princess of the Phaeacians whom Odysseus turned down? There are more traditions about her than you can shake a stick at. One (endorsed by Aristotle) has it that she married Telemachus. Another (due to Samuel Butler) goes so far as to claim she composed the Odyssey.
(No kidding. There are scholars who take evidence that it may have been composed by a woman seriously.)