Basically, Henry Mitchell {op-ed, Sept. 17} has had the last literate word in his rejoinder to Colman McCarthy {op-ed, Sept. 12}, though I do wish he had not spoken of Adam's having had to "flee" Eden with his hound.

In ancient times, the domesticated dog played a very important economic and social role in the family. It helped in the hunt (in fact, the Greek word for hunter, cynegetes, enshrines the role of the dog -- cyne -- in this activity), guarded homes and served as a pet. In Egypt, the dog was even divinized. But surely its most attractive quality, then as now, is its faithfulness. It is not by chance that the name "Fido" is almost synonymous with "dog" (the word in Spanish and Italian means "faithful"), and assuredly one of the most vivid pictures we retain from Homer's "Odyssey" is that scene in Book XVII when Odysseus comes upon his faithful dog, Argos, who has been awaiting his return for almost 20 years.

The encyclopedic Montaigne lists numerous examples of the loyalty of dogs ("Essais" II, 12), and even St. Basil tells us that the peculiar quality of the dog is its faithfulness in friendships ("Hexae meron" IX, 3).

Dogs do get a bad press occasionally, from others besides Mr. McCarthy, but quite often this comes from an allegorical use of the dog for canonical (and not canine) purposes.

ERNEST J. MONCADA

Potomac