Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | August 11, 2010

Dog Days of Summer – Not the Dog’s Fault…

Scooter says - It's Hot - Let's Swim!

Lately I’ve been hearing people refer to the hot weather as “the Dog Days of Summer”.  This confused me, so I looked it up in the dictionary and found “Dog Days” defined as the hottest and most sultry part of the year, as well as a period of stagnation or inactivity.

So I had to ask, why are dogs, who really don’t care much for the heat, associated with heat and stagnancy?  I mean, I am a Black Lab and a) I am not often stagnant or inactive and b) if there isn’t water nearby than keep me the heck out of the heat… 

I also found that Dog Days are not referred to with much fondness, even historically.  According to Brady’s Clavis Calendarium, (1813), Dog Days are “when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies”.  

Additionally, the Prologue to Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting, set in the first week of August, reads: “These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.”  I don’t think it is fair to link dogs to human error and regret.  Thus, I am going to get to the bottom of this slander against my species.

In researching the origins of Dog Days I found a few varied yet plausible hypotheses, such as, during the Dog Days people should remember to leave extra water out for the dogs.  Another theory was that these are the days in which dogs can overheat with too much exercise and should therefore be encouraged to just laze about.  Additionally, the term has frequently been used in reference to the American stock market in which summer is a very slow time for the market and poorly performing stocks with little future potential are frequently known as “dogs.”

Although these meanings have nothing to do with the original source of the phrase, they appear to have been attached to the phrase due to misunderstandings of the origin.  An origin which I have discovered to have ancient ties, back before the night skies were obscured by light and smog, and constellations were charted with passion and imagination.

It was then that the Romans defined the constellation “Canis Major” (which translates into “Big Dog” – due to its resemblance to a handsome dog – like myself).  The brightest star within this constellation was called “Sirius” or “Dog Star”.   Sirius also happens to be the brightest star in the sky, barring the Sun, and it rose and set with the sun. This led the ancients to believe that its heat added to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. Thus this period of time was labeled “Dog Days” due to the resemblance of a clustering group of luminous balls of plasma to that of a dog – not because the canine species should be likened to sultry heat.

As such, I am writing to Mr. Webster and proposing that the definition of “Dog Days” be changed to represent that the summer months are simply the best time of year for people to adopt a fun-loving dog (like myself) into their lives.  We will seek shade with you and warm your hearts with our unconditional love and affection.  Come visit the Second Chance Shelter today and ask for “Scooter”…

Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance, Volunteer & Foster Care, or other Programs.  Visit our shelter pets online:  Direct Pet Column questions to:  kelly@secondchancehumanesociety.orgPhoto by Real Life Photographs.


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