Pinch of Faith: Dog days leave us all panting like man’s best friend

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The most unpopular people on local and national television right now are the weather forecasters. Even jovial Al Roker cannot elicit a smile from thousands of viewers who are sweltering from the relentless heat that is plaguing virtually every country on the globe.  

With triple-digit temperatures and heat indices, there appears to be little relief in sight. The general consensus is that this is the hottest summer we have ever experienced on planet earth. July is the hottest month of the year as a whole, according to an article in the Scientific American publication, which goes on to state, “that makes July 2023 the hottest month since records have been kept and likely the hottest in 120,000 years.” 

Since there is no one around who can dispute that statement, it will stand.

Those who earn their livelihood by working outside must hydrate often and take every precaution to prevent heat stroke and exhaustion. 

There are some aggressive weeds invading my flower beds, but I refuse to subject my hot flash riddled body to any additional heat, so I’ll just have to ignore those unwelcome intruders until things cool down a bit and pray that my neighbors will do the same.  

I was shocked when our great nephew played his first high school football game of the season last week and amazed that every member of both teams did not have heat strokes. 

Swimming pools and lakes, the usual choice for chilling out on blistering summer days, offer little respite as their temperatures have heated up significantly as well. Like taking a warm bath, swimmers do not find the water giving sought after coolness. 

If one consults the Farmer’s Almanac, they learn that the 40-day period starting July 3 and ending Aug. 11 is known as the “dog days” of summer. Derived from the rising sunrise appearance in the sky of Sirius, better known as the “dog star,” it is the time of year associated with summer’s peak humidity and temperature. Even the dogs are smart enough to stay indoors during this time span and avoid the scorching concrete and asphalt that burn their tender foot pads. 

Going back to the days of ancient Greece and Rome, it was believed that the so-called dog days were a time of drought, bad luck, and general unrest when humans and canines would be driven to madness by the unrelenting heat. After getting into my oven of a vehicle the past couple of weeks, I can identify with this belief.  

Among the ruins of these two civilizations, I think I am safe in stating that there were no remains of air conditioning equipment discovered, so perhaps that might account for the folklore tales.

The “dog star” is the brightest star in the heavens, coming in second place after the sun. I cannot help but believe that when God was creating all the different constellations, He purposely made one to immortalize all of our four-legged companions as a constant reminder of them.  

If the conditions are right, Sirius can even be seen during daylight hours. It is part of the constellation Canis Major, which means “greater dog,” but I have sought to identify the various star formations for my entire lifetime and never was successful other than recognizing the Big Dipper.

In 2009, a study in Finland tested the belief that the rate of infections among people is actually higher during dog days. The conclusion was that “this study was conducted in order to challenge the myth that the rate of infections is higher during the dog days. To our surprise, the myth was found to be true.”

From the 1817 Old Farmer’s Almanac it was written, “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.”

Copyright ©2023 Mary Margaret Lambert

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