Pet Improvement: Dog days of summer

Pictured is the outline of the dog in the constellation Canis Major — the greater dog. It features the “Dog Star” Sirius.

It is that incredible time of the year we have all been waiting for — the beautiful, warm, sunny days of August. Everything slows down, and it is a time for easy reading. The walks on the beach with our canine companions are simply joyous. 

In the Northern Hemisphere, mid to late summer is aptly known as the “dog days of summer.” Technically, though, the dog days run July 3 to Aug. 11, but there is wiggle room in that based upon location. 

They are called dog days because of the rising and setting of the “Dog Star,” Sirius. This star is literally the brightest star in the sky, second only to our sun. It is part of a stellar constellation known as Canis Major — the greater dog — and is located near the head or nose of the dog in the outline. Sirius was the dog that accompanied the invincible hunter, Orion, in Greek mythology. They were forever immortalized in the stars together.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “In ancient Greece and Rome, the Dog Days were believed to be a time of drought, bad luck and unrest, when dogs and men alike would be driven mad by the extreme heat. For them, Sirius signaled a time when evil was brought to their lands with drought, disease and discomfort.

“Sirius was described as a ‘bringer of drought and plague to frail mortals, rises and saddens the sky with sinister light’ by the Roman poet Virgil.”

During the dog days, Sirius rises at dawn, before the sun, and sets at dusk and thus people in Greece and Rome erroneously thought the star was contributing to the extreme heat. In ancient Egypt, it was used as a warning that the annual flooding was about to occur, but this was a welcome event because it brought in rich soil and water for growing crops

It is hard to imagine some 5,000 years ago what it must have been like without electricity or air conditioning. But even now with all our luxuries, there are still problems in the summer. Cars can become super-heated in a matter of minutes if left in the sun, and pets quickly succumb. The elderly can suffer if there are power outages or problems with air conditioning.

But mostly, summer is a time to relax and enjoy life. It makes one think of hammocks, lightening bugs, lemonade and frogs croaking. The heat does slow us all down a bit, but it is a good slow. The Dog Star heralds nothing but good.

As an added bonus, the night sky is sometimes so clear you can see numerous stars, constellations and recently the comet, Neowise. But in some places, there is a lot of light at night, and it dims the stars. One can only imagine in ancient times what the night sky must have been like. The stars would come down to the horizon. No wonder they saw so much with their vivid imaginations. 

For more information:

• www.almanac.com/content/what-are-dog-days-summer

• www.space.com/who-let-the-dogs-out-spring-sky.html

• earthsky.org/?p=3540

Jane Laulis is an avid pet lover. She hosts a pet talk radio show and is involved with pets from research to retail, nutrition to pet food manufacturing. She lives on the coast with her scientist husband, ocean faring dogs, indoor cats, exotic snakes and a charm of hummingbirds. She may be reached at [email protected]

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