I remember my dad referring to the long hot days of summer as the “dog days,” but until recently I thought that was just a random Southern saying.
The “dog days” are considered to run between July 3 and Aug. 11, although for those of us in the South the hot of summer can easily run through September and sometimes into October.
It was the ancient Romans who noticed the hot days of summer came with the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, in the Canis Major constellation.
Since the star was the brightest, they figured it contributed to the sun’s heat.
Scientists know that since the star is 8.7 light years away from Earth, Sirius has no effect on the temperature, but the phrase “dog days” stuck.
For whatever reason, there were apparently more rabid dog attacks in the summer, so that also contributed to the popularity of the name and characterization of the summer heat.
Pliny (A.D. 23-79) wrote about the rabid dog attacks in his natural history writings and recommended feeding dogs chicken droppings as a way to prevent their “madness.” Not surprisingly, that remedy didn’t work well.
Several sources said that since stars shift their positions over time, Sirius today rises several weeks later than it did during Roman times.
In 10,000 years, Sirius will rise in the middle of winter. But none of us will have to worry about explaining any of that.
If you’re like me, I always figured “dog days” referred to the heat of the day and that can cause fatigue and leave us — like most dogs — wanting to sleep.
I didn’t know that another, not historically accurate, reference to “dog days” has to do with the stock market.
Since the market tends to be slower in the summer months and bad stocks are known as “dogs,” sometimes those on Wall Street refer to the summer as the “dog days.”
I did some research and read that in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, they list that the “Dog Daies” as running from July 6 to Aug. 17, and that there is a feast of St. Roch, the patron Saint of Dogs on Aug. 16.
Who knew there was a patron Saint of Dogs? Apparently, Roch was a nobleman who lived in the 14th century Italy. Legend has it that he was born with a red cross on his chest and that it grew as he did.
Roch’s parents died when he was 20, and he subsequently sold his possessions and moved to Rome, where he cared for plague victims. While caring for them, sources say he was able to miraculously cure some people.
Some sources say he eventually contracted the plague and ran away to the woods, where a hunting dog licked his wounds and helped Roch heal.
Roch died in 1327. He is considered the patron saint of plague and skin rashes, as well as the patron saint of dogs in 15 cities in Italy.
Even though we are technically in the midst of the “dog days of summer,” last week was downright balmy.
Low humidity and comfortable temperatures at the end of June and early July? That’s crazy.
But we all know the heat will return soon enough.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.