Appalachian Thursday – Dog Days

leo-thistleYou’ve almost certainly heard this time of year referred to as the “dog days” of summer. But do you know WHY it’s called that? I always thought it’s because this hot, muggy time of year isn’t hardly fit for a dog. And I had a professor in college who talked about the humidity of late summer making stepping outside feel like stepping into a dog’s mouth.

An apt metaphor.

But turns out there’s more to it than that. Turns out it’s because this is the time of year when the sun is in the same part of the sky as Sirius – the Dog Star – part of the constellation Canis Major. In late July Sirius actually rises and sets with the sun. And way back in the day, folks thought the star actually added to the heat of the sun. So the dog days are the 20 days before and after Sirius and the sun line up–July 3 through August 11.

Which, ironically, is often the hottest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere.

Of course, a scientific explanation should never prevent us from embracing some good old-fashioned superstitions. So here are a few related to the dog days of summer:

  • During this time snakes are blind and will strike at anything.
  • If it rains on the first dog day, it will rain every day afterward.
  • Dogs are more likely to go mad during these days.
  • Sores and wounds won’t heal during the dog days, so put off surgery and don’t castrate your animals until August 12.
  • You’re more prone to drown if you swim during these 40 days.
  • Always put your right sock on first during dog days, or you’ll fall and break your leg. (It’s left first the rest of the year to prevent toothache.)

Science may tell us the facts, but superstition is certainly more entertaining!

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