Argos has been waiting for his owner to come back from the Trojan wars. Twenty years and not a word. Once upon a time he and Odysseus had hunted together. But now his only function is to wait, lying on piles of dung, infested with fleas. And then suddenly Odysseus reappears, disguised in order to surprise Penelope’s suitors. Only Argos recognises him. In his excitement he drops his ears and wags his tail. Odysseus, however, dare not let the dog betray him. “Dashing a tear from his eyes”, he ignores Argos and walks on. Whereupon, in Homer’s words, “Argos passed into the darkness of death, now that he had fulfilled his destiny of faith and seen his master once more after twenty years.”

Howard Jacobson