Take precautions for these Dog Days of summer

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, July 20, 2022

These Dog Days of summer cause outdoor lovers as well as pet lovers to take a few extra precautions to keep themselves and their canine friends happy and healthy. I love the term Dog Days. It stirs up images of an old hound relaxing in the shade of a tree with one eye open letting a rabbit scamper by without even pretending to give chase. My dad raised Blue Tick Hounds for hunting so I have a vivid picture of this from my childhood.

The term Dog Days actually comes from the stars.  The phrase is a reference to Sirius, or the Dog Star. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, during the period of Dog Days the sun occupies the same area in the sky as the brightest star visible from any part of the earth, Sirius. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog.

In the summer months the Sirius actually rises and sets with the sun causing the ancient Romans to believe that the heat from Sirius impacted the long, hot days. On July 23 the star is brighter and closer to the sun than any other, but this doesn’t actually cause additional heat.

The 20 days before and after July 23, July 3 to August 11, became know as Dog Days, and they actually are some of the hottest, most humid days of the year. Instead of this being related to the Dog Star it is simply attributed to the earths tilt at this time of year, but I think it’s interesting to know where and how the sayings we are familiar with began.

Regardless of the origin, Dog Days are upon us, and they call for a little extra caution when any of us, man or beast, venture into the day’s heat. We all know that early morning and late evening are the safest times to exercise or garden, but for those who must get out in the hottest part of the day it is very important to stay hydrated. Many experts say to drink at least a half-gallon of water per day. Probably the most important tip is to simply listen to your body. Heat exhaustion is a very real threat this time of year.

Our pets do love to walk no matter the hour, but the hot asphalt can damage the pads of their feet. If you don’t want to go to the trouble or the expense of getting canine boots, just walk them on the grass. The heat rising from asphalt alone can cause them to overheat quickly. One way to check is put your hand, palm down, on the pavement; it it’s too hot for you to hold it there a few seconds then it’s also too hot for your pet.

A friend of mine’s husband is a bricklayer, and we were discussing the working conditions of tradesmen the other day. She mentioned that it’s easy for someone to sit in their air conditioned car or house and wonder why the workman are on half days.

It’s hot out there! Wonder no more.

 

Jan Penton Miller writes a weekly column for The Oxford Eagle.