I think of the dog days of summer as being in August – that period of time when life seems to slow down. People are either away on holidays or they leave work early. Meals are simpler (popsicles for lunch anyone?), clothing is lighter, worries seem to recede.
Well, guess what? Depending on who you want to believe, the dog days of summer may end next week (I’m not impressed: that reminds me of fall and I’m not ready for sweaters and slippers).
In ancient times, the Romans associated the dog days with the Dog Star, Sirius, which happens to be the brightest star in the night sky. It’s so bright the Romans thought the earth received heat from it. In the summer, Sirius rises and sets with the sun and at one point in July, actually conjuncts the sun. Considered a particularly potent time, the Roman’s deemed the 20 days before this conjunction and the 20 days after as ‘the dog days of summer.’ That meant the dog days could run anywhere from late July to late August, and that’s still the belief in many European cultures today.
However, nothing stays the same, including the constellations in our sky. Given the precession of the equinoxes (basically the drift of our nighttime constellations) the conjunction of Sirius to our sun takes place earlier. So these days the Farmer’s Almanac lists the dog days as beginning July 3rd and ending August 11th.
Personally, I’m backing the Romans. Mind you, they also thought this period was an evil time when “the sea boiled, the wine turned sour, dogs grew mad and men were plagued with hysteria.” They were so fearful they generally sacrificed a dog to appease the Gods.
There’s no need for that around here. In my little world, the sea is calm, the wine is sweet and Team Sheltie is happy. Sure, I’m a little hysterical, but that’s nothing new.
And it’s got nothing to do with the dog days of summer.