The Dog Days of Summer

Ethel hotNicola here. Yesterday, September 1st, was the official start of autumn, at least according to the meteorologists. Here in the UK the days are getting shorter, the air is getting cooler and there is a misty haze lying over the fields on fine mornings, and dew on the grass. It's back to school, back to work, after the long hot days of summer. The harvest is being gathered in; it doesn't feel quite like full blown autumn yet but you can feel the change in the air.

For me this summer will always conjure memories of my two hot dogs, Angus and Ethel the guide dog puppy, lying on the cool stone floor as they slept away those sultry summer days. Often I found the heat made me sleepy too. The "dog days of summer" seems a perfect description for those weeks even if originally it didn't derive from dogs at all, except in an astronomical sense.

It was the ancient Egyptians who associated the rising of the summer sun with the rise of the star Sirius, the "dog" associated with Siriusthe constellation Orion, the hunter. The Greeks and the Romans picked up on this lore, connecting the dog star with heat, fire and fever. In the Iliad, It was seen as a harbinger of evil. So strong was the tradition of the "dog days" that the term was used officially in Anglo Saxon times to measure the period from the middle of July to the end of August, and was referred to in the Book of Common Prayer.

In 1729 a book called The Husbandman's Practice recommended that men should "abstain all this time from women" during the Dog Days and "take heed of feeding violently." The book observed that the heat was so great that people would sweat at midnight as much as at midday and if you were injured you were likely to be doomed since you would get a fever and die. Cheerful stuff!

Jørgen_Jørgensen_(Eckersberg)In Iceland they even had a "King of the Dog Days." Jorgen Jorgensen was a Danish adventurer who sailed to Iceland in 1809, declared the country to be independent of Denmark and set himself up as its ruler. He promised to reinstate the parliament, the Althing, and establish a liberal society in the spirit of those emerging in Europe and the Americas. However it all ended badly after barely two months when he was arrested by the British for breaking his parole as a prisoner of war. The dog days of his rule were over.

The idea of the malign summer days became deep rooted over the centuries and the association with dogs continued. The folklore was that in the summer dogs would go mad and snakes go blind, that eggs would be addled and liquids turn poisonous. You could be "dog-tired" or "sick as a dog" or even "go to the dogs." Intriguingly there is a suggestion that this relates to the dual way in which dogs were viewed, both as man's Hecate best friend but also as the bringer of disease. In the Greek and Roman worlds the dog was the bringer of health but also death, the restorative "hair of the dog" but also the "hound of hell." Hekate, the earth Mother goddess was responsible for diseases and their cure. her symbol was the dog and apparently she took the summer off, allowing fevers and infection to rule in her absence.

Now that autumn is here, the dogs are waking up again. Angus is enjoying racing around the fields and Ethel is continuing her Guide Dog training with trips on the train and the bus, puppy class, and visits to interesting places. All sorts of clubs and societies and courses are starting up again after the summer break. It's a busy time. 

Dog dayHow have you spent the dog days of summer? And if you are in the southern hemisphere, what has the winter been like for you? If the summer brings us the dog days, which animal best represents the other seasons? Does the raccoon represent the scurrying days of autumn and the wolf the remoteness of winter? And what about Spring?

 

70 thoughts on “The Dog Days of Summer”

  1. I spent the beginning of our Southern Hemisphere summer up north in Italy (where it was a surprisingly cool summer!). At one point in June Britain was the hottest place in Europe.
    However, once I got back south winter was all about the neighbours’ cat coming visiting from breakfast until about 10pm daily. So I suppose I associate winter with a cat sleeping on my lap at the computer, or sneaking into my room before I get up and me waking up with a visitor under the covers. 🙂

    Reply
  2. I spent the beginning of our Southern Hemisphere summer up north in Italy (where it was a surprisingly cool summer!). At one point in June Britain was the hottest place in Europe.
    However, once I got back south winter was all about the neighbours’ cat coming visiting from breakfast until about 10pm daily. So I suppose I associate winter with a cat sleeping on my lap at the computer, or sneaking into my room before I get up and me waking up with a visitor under the covers. 🙂

    Reply
  3. I spent the beginning of our Southern Hemisphere summer up north in Italy (where it was a surprisingly cool summer!). At one point in June Britain was the hottest place in Europe.
    However, once I got back south winter was all about the neighbours’ cat coming visiting from breakfast until about 10pm daily. So I suppose I associate winter with a cat sleeping on my lap at the computer, or sneaking into my room before I get up and me waking up with a visitor under the covers. 🙂

    Reply
  4. I spent the beginning of our Southern Hemisphere summer up north in Italy (where it was a surprisingly cool summer!). At one point in June Britain was the hottest place in Europe.
    However, once I got back south winter was all about the neighbours’ cat coming visiting from breakfast until about 10pm daily. So I suppose I associate winter with a cat sleeping on my lap at the computer, or sneaking into my room before I get up and me waking up with a visitor under the covers. 🙂

    Reply
  5. I spent the beginning of our Southern Hemisphere summer up north in Italy (where it was a surprisingly cool summer!). At one point in June Britain was the hottest place in Europe.
    However, once I got back south winter was all about the neighbours’ cat coming visiting from breakfast until about 10pm daily. So I suppose I associate winter with a cat sleeping on my lap at the computer, or sneaking into my room before I get up and me waking up with a visitor under the covers. 🙂

    Reply
  6. For the beginning of summer, I frantically tried to cram in as many tours and trips as possible. But in mid-August, I ran into the crowds of people on school holidays, so I have been relaxing with some books, a P&P binge watch, and long lunches in town center. My travel schedule is picking up again now that the dog days have passed: Ely, tall ships at Woolwich Arsenal, Sandringham County Fair, Hampton Court Palace, and Paris. I am going to be so tired by the end of October!

    Reply
  7. For the beginning of summer, I frantically tried to cram in as many tours and trips as possible. But in mid-August, I ran into the crowds of people on school holidays, so I have been relaxing with some books, a P&P binge watch, and long lunches in town center. My travel schedule is picking up again now that the dog days have passed: Ely, tall ships at Woolwich Arsenal, Sandringham County Fair, Hampton Court Palace, and Paris. I am going to be so tired by the end of October!

    Reply
  8. For the beginning of summer, I frantically tried to cram in as many tours and trips as possible. But in mid-August, I ran into the crowds of people on school holidays, so I have been relaxing with some books, a P&P binge watch, and long lunches in town center. My travel schedule is picking up again now that the dog days have passed: Ely, tall ships at Woolwich Arsenal, Sandringham County Fair, Hampton Court Palace, and Paris. I am going to be so tired by the end of October!

    Reply
  9. For the beginning of summer, I frantically tried to cram in as many tours and trips as possible. But in mid-August, I ran into the crowds of people on school holidays, so I have been relaxing with some books, a P&P binge watch, and long lunches in town center. My travel schedule is picking up again now that the dog days have passed: Ely, tall ships at Woolwich Arsenal, Sandringham County Fair, Hampton Court Palace, and Paris. I am going to be so tired by the end of October!

    Reply
  10. For the beginning of summer, I frantically tried to cram in as many tours and trips as possible. But in mid-August, I ran into the crowds of people on school holidays, so I have been relaxing with some books, a P&P binge watch, and long lunches in town center. My travel schedule is picking up again now that the dog days have passed: Ely, tall ships at Woolwich Arsenal, Sandringham County Fair, Hampton Court Palace, and Paris. I am going to be so tired by the end of October!

    Reply
  11. Funny! (But timely). I was just mentioned “dog days to my husband yesterday, as August closed and September started. Mid-Missouri summer was HOT and WET and we mostly stayed home, except for doctor’s checkups.
    Two annual trips are planned for October. I hope we can make both of them! We go over to nearby Collinsville, Illinois each October for our annual Science Fiction Convention. We met at a Science Fiction convention in July 1968, and some of the people we meet each October are people we have known since 1868 and 1969. So this convention is an Anniversary for us.
    More recently I have joined my daughter at a stitch-in which meets in Nebraska, about half-way between Omaha and Lincoln. I’ve been going to these for 16 years now, with almost no missed meetings. Usually the fall meetings are less formal than the early spring meetings, but this year there is a special class being held this October. I am not taking the class, but will stitch on my own (as will many others). We will visit with the students during the non-class hours.

    Reply
  12. Funny! (But timely). I was just mentioned “dog days to my husband yesterday, as August closed and September started. Mid-Missouri summer was HOT and WET and we mostly stayed home, except for doctor’s checkups.
    Two annual trips are planned for October. I hope we can make both of them! We go over to nearby Collinsville, Illinois each October for our annual Science Fiction Convention. We met at a Science Fiction convention in July 1968, and some of the people we meet each October are people we have known since 1868 and 1969. So this convention is an Anniversary for us.
    More recently I have joined my daughter at a stitch-in which meets in Nebraska, about half-way between Omaha and Lincoln. I’ve been going to these for 16 years now, with almost no missed meetings. Usually the fall meetings are less formal than the early spring meetings, but this year there is a special class being held this October. I am not taking the class, but will stitch on my own (as will many others). We will visit with the students during the non-class hours.

    Reply
  13. Funny! (But timely). I was just mentioned “dog days to my husband yesterday, as August closed and September started. Mid-Missouri summer was HOT and WET and we mostly stayed home, except for doctor’s checkups.
    Two annual trips are planned for October. I hope we can make both of them! We go over to nearby Collinsville, Illinois each October for our annual Science Fiction Convention. We met at a Science Fiction convention in July 1968, and some of the people we meet each October are people we have known since 1868 and 1969. So this convention is an Anniversary for us.
    More recently I have joined my daughter at a stitch-in which meets in Nebraska, about half-way between Omaha and Lincoln. I’ve been going to these for 16 years now, with almost no missed meetings. Usually the fall meetings are less formal than the early spring meetings, but this year there is a special class being held this October. I am not taking the class, but will stitch on my own (as will many others). We will visit with the students during the non-class hours.

    Reply
  14. Funny! (But timely). I was just mentioned “dog days to my husband yesterday, as August closed and September started. Mid-Missouri summer was HOT and WET and we mostly stayed home, except for doctor’s checkups.
    Two annual trips are planned for October. I hope we can make both of them! We go over to nearby Collinsville, Illinois each October for our annual Science Fiction Convention. We met at a Science Fiction convention in July 1968, and some of the people we meet each October are people we have known since 1868 and 1969. So this convention is an Anniversary for us.
    More recently I have joined my daughter at a stitch-in which meets in Nebraska, about half-way between Omaha and Lincoln. I’ve been going to these for 16 years now, with almost no missed meetings. Usually the fall meetings are less formal than the early spring meetings, but this year there is a special class being held this October. I am not taking the class, but will stitch on my own (as will many others). We will visit with the students during the non-class hours.

    Reply
  15. Funny! (But timely). I was just mentioned “dog days to my husband yesterday, as August closed and September started. Mid-Missouri summer was HOT and WET and we mostly stayed home, except for doctor’s checkups.
    Two annual trips are planned for October. I hope we can make both of them! We go over to nearby Collinsville, Illinois each October for our annual Science Fiction Convention. We met at a Science Fiction convention in July 1968, and some of the people we meet each October are people we have known since 1868 and 1969. So this convention is an Anniversary for us.
    More recently I have joined my daughter at a stitch-in which meets in Nebraska, about half-way between Omaha and Lincoln. I’ve been going to these for 16 years now, with almost no missed meetings. Usually the fall meetings are less formal than the early spring meetings, but this year there is a special class being held this October. I am not taking the class, but will stitch on my own (as will many others). We will visit with the students during the non-class hours.

    Reply
  16. Woof! Having had end-of-summer deadlines for several years, I spend the dog days of summer writing like crazy. Generally with a cat or two within view. (And frequently within petting distance, as now.) Working hard, I feel rather as if I’ve missed summer. But no question that the beginning of September feels like waking up and becoming more active!

    Reply
  17. Woof! Having had end-of-summer deadlines for several years, I spend the dog days of summer writing like crazy. Generally with a cat or two within view. (And frequently within petting distance, as now.) Working hard, I feel rather as if I’ve missed summer. But no question that the beginning of September feels like waking up and becoming more active!

    Reply
  18. Woof! Having had end-of-summer deadlines for several years, I spend the dog days of summer writing like crazy. Generally with a cat or two within view. (And frequently within petting distance, as now.) Working hard, I feel rather as if I’ve missed summer. But no question that the beginning of September feels like waking up and becoming more active!

    Reply
  19. Woof! Having had end-of-summer deadlines for several years, I spend the dog days of summer writing like crazy. Generally with a cat or two within view. (And frequently within petting distance, as now.) Working hard, I feel rather as if I’ve missed summer. But no question that the beginning of September feels like waking up and becoming more active!

    Reply
  20. Woof! Having had end-of-summer deadlines for several years, I spend the dog days of summer writing like crazy. Generally with a cat or two within view. (And frequently within petting distance, as now.) Working hard, I feel rather as if I’ve missed summer. But no question that the beginning of September feels like waking up and becoming more active!

    Reply
  21. Your mention of sexual abstinence during the dog days of summer made me laugh. My brother-in-law used to sing a naughty little ditty about “When the weather’s hot and sticky, that’s no time for dunkin Dicky. When the frost is on the punkin, that’s the time for Dicky dunkin.” For some reason, that stuck (no pun intended) with me. Other mentions of dog days were in one of my favorite books, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. One was a reference to it being so hot, the town dogs would lie in the dirt of the road in a patch of shade and another, of course, was to the rabid dog that Atticus had to shoot.

    Reply
  22. Your mention of sexual abstinence during the dog days of summer made me laugh. My brother-in-law used to sing a naughty little ditty about “When the weather’s hot and sticky, that’s no time for dunkin Dicky. When the frost is on the punkin, that’s the time for Dicky dunkin.” For some reason, that stuck (no pun intended) with me. Other mentions of dog days were in one of my favorite books, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. One was a reference to it being so hot, the town dogs would lie in the dirt of the road in a patch of shade and another, of course, was to the rabid dog that Atticus had to shoot.

    Reply
  23. Your mention of sexual abstinence during the dog days of summer made me laugh. My brother-in-law used to sing a naughty little ditty about “When the weather’s hot and sticky, that’s no time for dunkin Dicky. When the frost is on the punkin, that’s the time for Dicky dunkin.” For some reason, that stuck (no pun intended) with me. Other mentions of dog days were in one of my favorite books, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. One was a reference to it being so hot, the town dogs would lie in the dirt of the road in a patch of shade and another, of course, was to the rabid dog that Atticus had to shoot.

    Reply
  24. Your mention of sexual abstinence during the dog days of summer made me laugh. My brother-in-law used to sing a naughty little ditty about “When the weather’s hot and sticky, that’s no time for dunkin Dicky. When the frost is on the punkin, that’s the time for Dicky dunkin.” For some reason, that stuck (no pun intended) with me. Other mentions of dog days were in one of my favorite books, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. One was a reference to it being so hot, the town dogs would lie in the dirt of the road in a patch of shade and another, of course, was to the rabid dog that Atticus had to shoot.

    Reply
  25. Your mention of sexual abstinence during the dog days of summer made me laugh. My brother-in-law used to sing a naughty little ditty about “When the weather’s hot and sticky, that’s no time for dunkin Dicky. When the frost is on the punkin, that’s the time for Dicky dunkin.” For some reason, that stuck (no pun intended) with me. Other mentions of dog days were in one of my favorite books, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. One was a reference to it being so hot, the town dogs would lie in the dirt of the road in a patch of shade and another, of course, was to the rabid dog that Atticus had to shoot.

    Reply
  26. We had a cool, wet summer this year with stormy weather more days than sun. Somewhat irregular for Calgary, Canada, one of the sunniest cities (it may be -30 Celsius, but by God, the sun will shine!). This summer I snuggled into my house with stacks of books and read and rested. Much like the dogs in the “dog days'”. But now it’s September, and back to the grindstone with a new crop of third graders I must manage to educate before the summer rolls around again. I sort of feel like I missed summer entirely!

    Reply
  27. We had a cool, wet summer this year with stormy weather more days than sun. Somewhat irregular for Calgary, Canada, one of the sunniest cities (it may be -30 Celsius, but by God, the sun will shine!). This summer I snuggled into my house with stacks of books and read and rested. Much like the dogs in the “dog days'”. But now it’s September, and back to the grindstone with a new crop of third graders I must manage to educate before the summer rolls around again. I sort of feel like I missed summer entirely!

    Reply
  28. We had a cool, wet summer this year with stormy weather more days than sun. Somewhat irregular for Calgary, Canada, one of the sunniest cities (it may be -30 Celsius, but by God, the sun will shine!). This summer I snuggled into my house with stacks of books and read and rested. Much like the dogs in the “dog days'”. But now it’s September, and back to the grindstone with a new crop of third graders I must manage to educate before the summer rolls around again. I sort of feel like I missed summer entirely!

    Reply
  29. We had a cool, wet summer this year with stormy weather more days than sun. Somewhat irregular for Calgary, Canada, one of the sunniest cities (it may be -30 Celsius, but by God, the sun will shine!). This summer I snuggled into my house with stacks of books and read and rested. Much like the dogs in the “dog days'”. But now it’s September, and back to the grindstone with a new crop of third graders I must manage to educate before the summer rolls around again. I sort of feel like I missed summer entirely!

    Reply
  30. We had a cool, wet summer this year with stormy weather more days than sun. Somewhat irregular for Calgary, Canada, one of the sunniest cities (it may be -30 Celsius, but by God, the sun will shine!). This summer I snuggled into my house with stacks of books and read and rested. Much like the dogs in the “dog days'”. But now it’s September, and back to the grindstone with a new crop of third graders I must manage to educate before the summer rolls around again. I sort of feel like I missed summer entirely!

    Reply
  31. Being in the writer’s cave does feel like missing out on a huge chunk of time, doesn’t it, Mary Jo! It seems a bit unfair to see September as a time for waking up and becoming more active when you have been so busy over the summer, yet there is a different feel in the air!

    Reply
  32. Being in the writer’s cave does feel like missing out on a huge chunk of time, doesn’t it, Mary Jo! It seems a bit unfair to see September as a time for waking up and becoming more active when you have been so busy over the summer, yet there is a different feel in the air!

    Reply
  33. Being in the writer’s cave does feel like missing out on a huge chunk of time, doesn’t it, Mary Jo! It seems a bit unfair to see September as a time for waking up and becoming more active when you have been so busy over the summer, yet there is a different feel in the air!

    Reply
  34. Being in the writer’s cave does feel like missing out on a huge chunk of time, doesn’t it, Mary Jo! It seems a bit unfair to see September as a time for waking up and becoming more active when you have been so busy over the summer, yet there is a different feel in the air!

    Reply
  35. Being in the writer’s cave does feel like missing out on a huge chunk of time, doesn’t it, Mary Jo! It seems a bit unfair to see September as a time for waking up and becoming more active when you have been so busy over the summer, yet there is a different feel in the air!

    Reply
  36. Hi Jeanette! That’s fascinating about the ditty! I’ve never heard anything like that and yet there is a clear connection to the dog days! I’d forgotten about the reference in To Kill a Mockingbird. Very interesting. I remember something similar in Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffmann. It makes the reader feel hot and exhausted just to read it.

    Reply
  37. Hi Jeanette! That’s fascinating about the ditty! I’ve never heard anything like that and yet there is a clear connection to the dog days! I’d forgotten about the reference in To Kill a Mockingbird. Very interesting. I remember something similar in Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffmann. It makes the reader feel hot and exhausted just to read it.

    Reply
  38. Hi Jeanette! That’s fascinating about the ditty! I’ve never heard anything like that and yet there is a clear connection to the dog days! I’d forgotten about the reference in To Kill a Mockingbird. Very interesting. I remember something similar in Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffmann. It makes the reader feel hot and exhausted just to read it.

    Reply
  39. Hi Jeanette! That’s fascinating about the ditty! I’ve never heard anything like that and yet there is a clear connection to the dog days! I’d forgotten about the reference in To Kill a Mockingbird. Very interesting. I remember something similar in Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffmann. It makes the reader feel hot and exhausted just to read it.

    Reply
  40. Hi Jeanette! That’s fascinating about the ditty! I’ve never heard anything like that and yet there is a clear connection to the dog days! I’d forgotten about the reference in To Kill a Mockingbird. Very interesting. I remember something similar in Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffmann. It makes the reader feel hot and exhausted just to read it.

    Reply

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