The “dog days of summer" bring to mind the hottest days when, with parched tongue hanging out, dogs amble about, searching for a shaded spot under a tree to sleep the day away.

"Dog days" was translated from Latin to English centuries ago, and has lost its original meaning. Over time, we became less superstitious but we continue to use the most convenient and logical explanation for that phrase: the heat affects dogs in the same way as it affects humans making them sluggish. In that regard, we aren’t so different from the Ancient Greeks and Romans.

The Farmer’s Almanac specifies the dog days of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, occur in July and August, the hottest months of the year. Ok, maybe there is no surprise there. But how did we arrive at linking hot weather and dogs?

Dogs and summer…what is the connection?

In Ancient Greece and Rome, the stars gave meaning to very ordinary but unexplainable occurrences. Constellations (star patterns) helped people understand their world. They could depend on the stars to tell the time of day, or year, as well as explain any catastrophe, or navigate the seas to new worlds.

Consequently, they thought that the dawn rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, a very bright star in the sky, along with the scorching Sun, caused the sultry, sweltering days of summer.

Beliefs linked to the Dog Star.

Chewy the Golden Doodle tires quickly.
Chewy, the Golden Doodle puppy, tires easily.

Unfortunately, the hottest days of the year were also associated with drought and pestilence. The poet Virgil described the Dog Star as “bringer of drought and plague to frail mortals...” Homer’s The Iliad associates Sirius with war and disaster.

Similarly, in Ancient Egypt, this same star, (Sothis, the Nile Star) became the signal to Egyptians that the flood season was upon them.

More recently, farmers relied on the Almanac to help them with decisions regarding their crops. In 1817, The Old Farmer’s Almanac warns, “Dog Days are approaching; you must therefore, make both hay and haste while the Sun shines, for when old Sirius takes command of the weather, he is such an unsteady, crazy dog, there is no dependence upon him. (Farmer's Almanac)

Lazy, hazy days of summer today.

While the sun shines brightly,  (admittedly through the haze of distant forest fires) there is less motivation to remain indoors. The dog days are those times when the outdoors call us to enjoy the warmth of the sun; we know, especially here in Canada, that the best summer days, are fleeting.

Frankie the Pug puppy
Frankie the Pug puppy taking one of many naps on a hot summer day.

Dogs and summer.

Early mornings and late evenings are likely to be the best times to walk dogs during these days of extreme heat in our area.  (85F +)

Some dogs have already found a favourite shaded spot to watch the world go by. Chico loves his little cozy nook under the flowers.

In contrast, Tony has selected this orange pillow for his afternoon nap.

Tony the American Bulldog puppy portrait


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Our precious fur babies leave paw prints on our hearts forever. I paint portraits from photos you send me via email.  Your pets become part of my life while I am working on their portraits, and I am very honoured to be chosen to paint your devoted companion.

Reserve your spot now for a pet portrait for yourself or for a loved one. At the moment, I have openings for September and I expect that fall will be busy as it usually is with people ordering wood slice portrait gifts for Christmas. Visit my website to see the price list for all types of portraits.

2 Responses

  • Gosh Louise, you are a fountain of information or do I say font? I guess I can use both. By the way are you any closer to getting your new puppy? Oh for a dog day afternoon instead of warming up with a heater or gloves and a warm head piece when on my morning walk

    • We are in the middle of another scorching heat wave. I won’t complain (too much) because in one month, already we will feel fall in the air and then a long cold winter will be ahead of us. Chin up…for you spring and summer are on the way!

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