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The Dog Days of Summer
It’s getting to be that time again…on any given August day, you’ll hear countless people refer to this time of year as the “dog days of summer”. Everyone says it, but few people have any idea what it means, or from where the term itself originated. So, what in the world is a “dog day” anyway? The phrase evokes the image of a lethargic dog, spent from the heat and humidity, lounging the day away on a breezy wraparound porch. Or, perhaps it could mean that we’re all so sticky and uncomfortable, that we’re panting as dogs tend to do when overheated. Enough speculating already, let’s dig up the details!
The “dog days”, or “canicular days”, is the steamy, sweltering period between the beginning of July and early September. The origin of the term is derived from the fact that the Dog Star, aka Sirius, rises and sets with the sun during this span of time. Canicular is a word that describes the ancient Egyptian year, which was based on the behavior of this star with the canine moniker. Early Romans actually thought the presence of Sirius during the dog days added light and heat to the sun’s contribution, since even though the days were getting shorter, the temperature increased as summer rolled on. Obviously, they were barking up the wrong tree with that theory.
These days, we use the term “dog days of summer” to describe the feeling of an endless season, replete with relentless scorching mugginess. As the ancients also believed, some modern day folk consider this a period of stagnation, during which each day feels the same as the one before it. After July 4th, there’s a long holiday-free stretch that can make the remainder of summer feel like it’s droning on in monotony. The only clue that relief from the soaring temperatures and sultry weather is within sight is when retailers merchandise their stores with back to school supplies, or possibly even fall decorations. The wishing away of warm weather by summer’s detractors can certainly prove to be a bone of contention for those who love this sunny season.
So how does one survive the dog days of summer? They can be ruff, but there are plenty of coping methods one can employ to get by until the leaves start to change, and the cold and darkness creep back into their rightful place on the year’s timeline. One very reliable saving grace of summer is water. Pools, oceans, lakes, sprinklers, and even tepid showers can put the chill back into overheated bones in no time. And, if you prefer a drier experience, there’s always our friend the air conditioner. But, the funnest way to keep your cool is with a scoop of delicious ice cream. Beat the heat with some good old-fashioned brain freeze.
The dog days of summer seem like they’ll go on forever, but alas, they’re fleeting indeed. Before you know it, we’ll all be sporting sweaters and sipping cider around the bonfire. So, enjoy the dog days fur now, shed the summer doldrums, and lap up the seemingly endless, hot weather days while you still can!