Abby Sunshine

Duck Toller

8-17-10 Dog Days

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever - Abby Sunshine - Dog Days of Summer - 8-17-10

Hot, hot, hot. That is all we can say about the dog days of summer. Why are these sultry days called “dog days?” I did some research on Wikipedia, and found quite a few bits of information. Here is what I found:

1) In the northern hemisphere, these days usually fall between early July and early September. OK, that makes sense. It is usually very warm here during those months.

2) The Romans associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the “Dog Star” because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius is also the brightest star besides the Sun.


3) The Dog Days originally were the days when the star, Sirius, rose just before or at the same time as sunrise (heliacal rising), which is no longer true, owing to precession of the equinoxes.

4) The Romans sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.

5) The modern French term for both this summer period (and for heat waves in general) “canicule”, derives from this same term. It means “little dog”, again referring to Sirius.

6) “Dog Days bright and clear / indicate a happy year. / But when accompanied by rain, / for better times our hopes are vain.”

In recent years, thisĀ  phrase has found new meanings. See the following:

10) Some people believe the phrase refers to the laziness of domesticated dogs (who are in danger of overheating with too much exercise) during the hottest days of the summer.

lazy dog

11) When speaking of “Dog Days” there seems to be a connotation of lying or “dogging” around, or being “dog tired” on these hot and humid days.

12) Although these meanings have nothing to do with the original source of the phrase, they may have been attached to the phrase in recent years due to common usage or misunderstanding of the origin of the phrase.

13) The feast day of Saint Roch, the patron saint of dogs, is August 16.

14) And there is this mention of “dog days” in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”


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