Troilus and Daisy (or whose dog do we have now?)
Some people in Johannesburg say we have their dog. At least their ''delightfully sociable'' Tavish is just like our Daisy. They wrote after Daisy made her debut in this space awhile ago - getting under everybody's feet the way she always does and asking for nothing but perpetual adoration. Apparently she is not unique after all. One touch of golden retriever makes the whole world kin. Or so Shakespeare almost said in the same celebrated passage from Troilus and Cressida, where he sums up Daisy's other qualities: ''Beauty, wit,/ High birth, vigor of bone.'' Of course, nobody knows whether it was Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, or the Earl of Oxford who actually walked the dog.
What should be reported about Daisy since the last time?
''She's running again!'' said our daughter, home on vacation and apparently trying to dispel the impression that her tawny friend, a septuagenarian in dogs' years, does little but recline all year.
''Yeah, she stretched with me the other day,'' said her brother, indicating the kind of pose joggers are often seen in before - or is it after? - their exertions.
''She's really trying to get in shape,'' added his sister.
Allowing for any slight possibility of trying to humor Dad, there appears to be something in what they say. At any rate, when they are home the old girl goes past in a butterscotch streak fairly often. Instead of quickly turning back home after joining a bicycle ride, Daisy now presses on. The other day she kept up with us for a couple of miles around the reservoir, taking time out for a dip in the water hazard of a golf course but finishing with us just the same.
Talk about Shakespearean vigor of bone! Mature people could take lessons from mature dogs.
I must say that, at the end, Daisy's tongue was flapping in the wind like a cartoon dog's. In the quiet of the evening, on the asphalt of the path, her paws made a sound like galloping marshmallows.
Well, something like that. Anyway, it was a Daisy transformed from the usual companion of my days off at home alone.
Last winter visiting offspring made a life-size snow sculpture of Daisy relaxing on the picnic table, rear legs curled, front paws hanging over the edge. Not exactly a Rodin, but I thought Daisy gave it more than a passing glance, about the same as for ''King Kong'' on television.
She must have recognized the pose. She assumes variations of it everywhere, notably under the lilac bush, where she scoops out form-fit depressions in the soft soil. Or, when she gives up on my company, she occupies our daughter's bunk, looking out the window and barking madly (but selectively) at passers-by according to some unfathomable screening process not always unrelated to the presence of a neighbor's Airedale that might be called her bete brown.
Then, suppose I am at the typewriter, as at this moment, or taking a break with a cup and an easy chair. I become conscious of a delicate footfall. Daisy is suddenly standing ten inches away. She is motionless, looking straight into my eyes. (Avoid eye contact at all costs, says my wife, or you are a goner.) She is challengingly submissive, making me feel somehow that her fate is in my hands and that it is important for me to do something about it.
This is not quite the same as Daisy's detecting the exact nuance in time when her mistress is no longer racing around fixing everybody's breakfast but is actually leaving for work, having neglected to scatter the dog biscuits that, as Daisy well knows, she had meant to scatter.
Daisy's approach to me, sitting here, on the other hand, is more on spec. If anything is going, she is available. But she has no great expectations.
More often than not I get away with a pat on her head or a rub on her neck. Then she uncomplainingly goes back to guarding the street from her blanketed coign of vantage. My wife spreads the story that once I recklessly showed my affection by cuddling up with Daisy on the kitchen floor. Maybe, if Daisy wants to stay in shape, I'll have to give her a little run even after the kids are gone. But mostly I think she comes around just to let me know I'm not really home alone.
The question is, whose dog do we have now?