10/27/1986 at 01:00 AM EST
The Zeus affair, as it came to be known, started when Nicholas Daniloff made a call from his Soviet jail. Fatigued from yet another interrogation, the man who had been accused of spying phoned Jeffrey Trimble, his replacement as U.S. News & World Report's Moscow correspondent, and Trimble's wife, Gretchen. Daniloff asked them for news of the outside world. "Well," Gretchen offered, "Zeus has fleas." Click. The line went dead.
"We've been laughing over this ever since," says Daniloff from Washington, D.C. "I can't imagine what they thought we were talking about." The real subject of conversation was not a coded message but Zeus, Daniloff's brown and white Jack Russell terrier, who's still waiting to flee Moscow. A high-strung 8-year-old, Zeus has suffered numerous indignities during his five years in the Soviet Union, including freezing in the baggage compartment on the flight over, contracting the aforementioned fleas and getting bitten by an angry duck. Now Zeus, who's staying with Russian friends of the Daniloffs', must cope with loneliness. "When he comes to the office he sniffs around for Nick," says Trimble. "When he doesn't find him, he gets angry and lies down. He's very much Nick's dog."
The Zeus affair, however, is almost over. Next month Trimble expects to complete the lengthy departure formalities and ship the dog back to the States. Yet Soviet suspicions may not be completely allayed. When the Trimbles were talking with Mary Ann Lovenstein, an editor in U.S. News & World Report's Washington office, they complained of itching. "I said maybe the fleas stayed behind when Zeus moved," says Lovenstein. "The line went dead."