Dog Days, is an odd term isn’t it? When I was a young boy, I wondered why there were Dog Days, but no Cat Days. I was so troubled by the question that I decided to write to President Kennedy about it. I never did receive a reply from the Oval Office. Maybe the people who handled JFK’s correspondence thought it was a prank. Who knows?
Since there was no Executive answer to my inquiry, I asked my teacher about Dog Days. He accompanied me to the school library and helped me search the card catalogue (remember those?). We found a couple of references. One was in the encyclopedia, and another was a mention in a science textbook intended for older kids.
Dog Days had its beginnings in the sky. The ancient Greeks apparently used the term when Sirius, the “dog star” appeared to rise just before the Sun did, in the summer. The ancient priests knew of the constellation Sirius as Orion’s dog. Sirius, the Star is located in the dog’s nose. Many ancient Greeks observed that the summer of the year could bring serious fevers, disasters, and wars.
If a person reads through ancient literature, one can find many references to Dog Days. In The Illiad, there is mention of “Orion’s Dog rising”. Sirius was associated with war and disease. In later years, the Romans adopted the legend of Sirius and adapted it to their own culture.
Through the years, many people in the Northern Hemisphere have believed that Dog Days were so named because canines are sluggish through the hottest days of the year. They fail to remember that most other animals, and humans are also sluggish in the heat, as well. If you extend that thinking, one realizes that Dog Days occur in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is wintertime.
Perhaps some people think Dog Days were named after the retail sales events of summertime. In many towns, merchants move racks and tables onto the sidewalks in front of their stores in order to sell unpopular merchandise, “dogs”, very cheaply.
Oftentimes people can obtain very nice things at Dog Days sales. It was maybe 1995, when I bought a very accurate wristwatch from a downtown jewelry store and paid a small fraction of its suggested retail price. I still wear that watch sometimes.
Meantime, I never did find out why there are no Cat Days, comparable to Dog Days,. There are only contemporary ad hoc events by and for cat fanciers.
The Blue Jay of Happiness likes this one from comedian Lewis Black: “I believe that summer is our time. A time for the people, and that no politician should be allowed to speak to us during the summer. They can start talking again after Labor Day.”