Have you noticed that the weather people are talking about the fact that we are in the ‘dog days’ of summer? Have you ever wondered, what are the dog days of summer and how did dog days get that name? Why not the ‘cat days’ of summer or the ‘hamster days’? As they say, “Inquiring minds want to know!”
Turns out, lots of others must be interested in those same questions. We did a Google search on the question, “Why do we call it the dog days of summer?” We got 575 million results! Many sources agree that the timeframe for the dog days of summer is between July 3 and August 11 each year. Those are often the hottest and most sultry days of summer. But how did this time period get its name?
There has always been speculation about what the term “dog days” means, such as: The weather is so hot that even the dogs go mad. Or, it’s so hot that it’s not even fit for a dog. So what is the canine connection? The phrase actually has less to do with earthly dogs and everything to do with what is happening in the summer sky.
Sirius, the brightest star in the summer night sky, is part of the constellation known as Canis Major or Large Dog. In fact, Sirius is often referred to as the Dog Star. In the summer months, Sirius rises and sets with the sun. Because of the brightness of the star, the ancient Greeks and Romans thought that Sirius gave off heat, which added to the warmth of the sun. They then associated the hottest days of the summer with Sirius and referred to them as “dog days”.
So that helps to explain the history and origin of the term “dog days”. We thought it would be interesting to find out what other people’s thoughts were about dog days. Because we’ve found dog owners are usually quite friendly, what better place to go to than a dog park!
We went to the Carver County Regional Off Leash Dog Park in Victoria. There we met Nick Hendrickson and Elaina Weingartner, along with Elaina’s dog, Nati. Nati, is a rescue dog from Mississippi. Elaina came from Cincinnati so she named the dog Nati, a short form of Cincinnati. We think that Nati is one lucky dog!
We asked Nick and Elaina what dog days meant to them. Nick gave a very realistic explanation of dog days, “Dog days means it’s towards the end of it (summer). It means fall’s coming. Dog Days are hot and long.” Elaina shared her ideas, “I always thought that the dog days of summer meant the absolutely hottest days of summer. When I was a little girl, I thought that it was named that because if a dog pants on you, it is really, really hot air – and that’s what it feels like!”
After hearing their ideas, we went to Lake Ann Park. We sat at a picnic table and I (Lynn) asked Doug what comes to mind when he thinks of dog days. He shared that he thinks about the fact that it’s always humid and hot and also, there’s often a lot of pond scum, algae growing on top of the ponds. I kidded him about pond scum being a memory of dog days.
When he asked me to share my thoughts, I realized it’s a time when you can either let the oppressive heat get to you or you can find a way to enjoy it.
Here at the lake, we see how people are choosing to enjoy dog days. They are having fun swimming, sunbathing, fishing, boating, paddle-boarding, grilling and many other activities. Those make for fun experiences and nice memories.
What about you? How do you want to experience the dog days of summer?
Here are some thoughts: Summer’s short here in Minnesota. We encourage you to find ways to enjoy the heat because we’ll be wishing for it in January. If you can’t get to a lake, enjoy the nature that’s near you. The life lesson is to take time now to squeeze out as much fun and enjoyment as you can during these hot days. You’ll want to take some pictures and videos so you will have warm thoughts to relive when the cold winds are blowing. We look forward to hearing how you choose to enjoy dog days. Also, let us know what subjects and/or questions you would like to see covered in our column.