The Dog Days of Summer and Seamus, the Shadow Dog

The Dog Days of Summer and Seamus, the Shadow Dog

Published On: 07-30-2013 08:39pm

Comments: 23 - Hits: 0

Category: History of . . .

With the monsoon season finally settling in here in the Borderlands area of Texas, New Mexico and Mexico, the Dog Days of Summer are in full swing with a bit cooler temperatures (mid-90's) and more humidity.  Afternoon thunderstorms have been bringing much needed rain to the land, although some have been extremely torrential.  But it's exciting to see rain again since we have been a terrible drought and are waaaaaaay behind in the 9 inches we normally get a year.  But, oh my gosh, how quickly the plants respond to any moisture!  What was once a drab, brown and gray arroyo behind our house is now bursting out in green and the sage bushes are resplendent in purple.  It's so good to see!

What I saw outside our upstairs porch last Wednesday during a torrential afternoon thunderstorm with high winds that dumped over 2" of rain in less than an hour.  Lots of flooding in El Paso and many downed trees.

What I normally see out on the back porch, although the arroyo is MUCH greener now than normal (: 

Since my business name is Shadow Dog Designs, I'd like to share a brief history of how the Dog Days of Summer got its name.  And some of you might already know Seamus, our own Shadow Dog, but I'd like to share a bit more about the big goofus at the end of the post.  

Canis Major, the Big Dog - photo courtesy of Star Splitters

So, how did the term "Dog Days of Summer" come about?  Depending on latitude and longitude, the Dog Days usually start the beginning of July and end the beginning of September in the Northern Hemisphere and between early January to early March in the Southern Hemisphere.  Most people believe the phrase "dog days" developed by observing domestic dogs, such as our Seamus, laying around in shady areas during hot, humid days.  Another old myth, first attributed to Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist, stated that rabid dogs are supposed to be more common during this time of the year because the heat drives them mad. 

Dog Days of Summer - picture courtesy of Chabot Space and Science Center

The term "Dog Days" (dies caniculares) was coined by the ancient Romans.  In days before modern lights and smog, the stars were extremely bright, the brightest being Sirius in the constellation Canis Major (Big Dog).  Sirius was so bright that the Romans thought the Earth received additional year round heat from it.  During the summer months, Cans Major rises and sets with the sun.  Because of this, the Romans believed the long stretch of hot, humid weather was made worse by the Dog Star radiating its extra heat with the sun.  Since plagues and other problems abounded in Rome and other places during hot weather where people lived and worked in close contact (not to mention the problems of sanitation!), a brown dog was sacrificed to try to appease the rage of Sirius at the beginning of the Dog Days.  The sacrifices didn't work . . .    

Sirius, the Dog Star - and Sammy, the Star Dog - photo by Bob King

The Dog Days were also believed to be an evil time in other cultures.  The ancient Egyptians used Sirius (called "Sothis" by them, named after a destructive goddess) as a "watchdog" for the start of the annual flooding of the Nile River.  The ancient Greeks were the ones who actually named the star Sirius after "seirios", meaning "scorching".  When the Greeks plotted out the constellations, Sirius became the companion dog of the hunter Orion.  Many writers in Medieval Europe described the Dog Days as a time of heat, death, crop failure and famine.  As late as 1813, the "Clavis Calendarium", published by John Brady, declared the Dog Days where "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour . . . dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid causing man to burning fevers, hysterics and phrensies".  And there is a saying that developed in India during English Colonial days, "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun . . . " 

"A Little Dog in the Sky" print of an original by Bethy of bethywilliams

Aaaahhhhh . . . the Dog Days.  I am so glad to live in the time of modern refrigerated air and good hygiene.  And am so happy to share a life with our Shadow Dog.  Seamus does indeed get languid during the Dog Days of summer but he is definitely not prone to "phrensies" (unless the Evil Cat Next Door treks across our backyard or a skunk ends up in a trash can).

And, speaking of Seamus . . . 

This photo was taken April 22, 2012, the day we adopted him from the El Paso Humane Society.  He was only about 10 weeks old and a stray.  Who could resist???

Seamus preparing to pounce on an insect.  He still has a great fondness for harassing insects.

But . . . MOM!!!!

Seamus grew up fast.  I can't believe that this picture was taken only 4 months after adopting him.

The stair landing is one of his favorite places to lay down and keep an eye on things - mainly because it overlooks the kitchen.  If I drop something on the floor while cooking, he's there in a flash  (:  

Seamus watching the snow fall across the arroyo, something that doesn't happen very often - the snow that is.  Seamus loves to stand at the back wall and watch what's going on in his domain.

We were watching a brilliant sunset from our second story porch where everything was washed with a pink color, including Seamus.   

We had no idea when we adopted Seamus, what a sweet, goofy, smart, absolutely hilarious dog he would turn out to be . . . although he has a VERY protective streak, especially when it comes to me.  We often have thought about adopting another dog so he has a companion, but since he goes to doggy daycare to romp and play with his buddies 3 days a week for 4 1/2 hours in the morning, goes with us to restaurants that allow dogs on the patio, take him for long, rambling walks, etc., he really doesn't seem to mind being an only dog.  Being an only dog is pretty much all he has known since the last original Shadow Dog, Mesa (my avi), unexpectedly died about 5 weeks after he came to live with us.  Plus, he enjoys all the extra attention he receives and his place on the bed at my feet each night (with his stuffed yellow monkey, I might add).  What a good, good boy!

Seamus just a few days ago, taking a rest after playing with his red ball.  He has some great conversations with the ball as he is slinging it about (:  

This post kind of took several different turns from what I originally had planned, but sometimes you just have to let the Muses go where they will - LOL!  I hope you enjoyed the short history of the Dog Days of summer and meeting our sweetly handsome four season dog, Seamus.

As always, you will make my day by leaving a comment!  Peace and joy and THANKS!

My contact information:

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Reader's Comments

By zoomgraphik on 08/15/2013 @ 10:16pm

Seamus is quite a character the muddy photos .... Love your blog ,I should write like that for the magazine but NO....not that good, well no, I stink at it (BELLY LAUGH)

By craftingmemories on 08/06/2013 @ 04:55pm

Beautiful Seamus. My baby girl is very protective of me but now that she has gotten older I am more protective of her but let her think she is protecting me!

By ShadowDogDesigns on 08/02/2013 @ 02:54pm

Thank you, everyone, for all the wonderful comments. Am glad you got to know our sweet Seamus a little better (:

By DesertCreations on 08/02/2013 @ 01:26am

Wonderful as always and I love getting to know more about the wonderful Seamus :)

By JewelryArtByDawn on 08/01/2013 @ 03:54am

Enjoyed learning the history of dog days and loved 'meeting' Seamus. He is a handsome boy indeed and his taking up duties as kitchen sentry is just too funny!

By PolkadotOrchid on 08/01/2013 @ 02:46am

I never knew that about the 'Dog Days of Summer'. I'm always impressed by the amount of research you put into your posts! Thanks for teaching me something new today!

By Guest on 07/31/2013 @ 09:21pm

It's so good to see this post, Catherine, I really enjoyed reading it and especially seeing pics of Seamus! I hope you are both keeping cool now (we've had a cool spell for a week or so here and are loving it!) You know how I prefer Fall! Seamus is unbelievably adorable! Kisses to your Shadow Dog from me and my pack! Val

By Berrysweetstuff on 07/31/2013 @ 07:57pm

A nice read and Seamus is a cutie. =)

By Guest on 07/31/2013 @ 03:53pm

Another great blog post! Enjoyed the history, and of course, the dog story book!

By Guest on 07/31/2013 @ 02:35pm

Really nice read before I have my own grass phrensie on the mower and seeing Seamus go from Canis minor to Canis major! Oo

By PutmanLakeDesigns on 07/31/2013 @ 01:17pm

Interesting to read about the dog days of summer. Loved seeing your Seamus! We need more real dog people!! One of my dogs loves to look out windows at the world out there. He will stand, sit, or lie to just look out....

By KanweieneaKreations on 07/31/2013 @ 12:30pm

Oh my... Seamus is soooo cute!!!! Love the product photos they really seem to show his personality too! Love the look in his eyes!

By luvncrafts on 07/31/2013 @ 12:22pm

Interesting history read. And Seamus is a cute dog, looks like a fun dog too!

By ChristieCottage on 07/31/2013 @ 11:31am

Seamus is a beautiful fella! <><

By PebblesatmyFeet on 07/31/2013 @ 01:23am

I grew up in Pennsylvania, and definitely knew about dog days...with no canines involved! fortunately, or perhaps by design, I have escaped the dog days of summer in the places I have lived since Pennsylvania. the sailing years in the Pcific northwest kept turtlenecks at the ready all year long, and now here at high altitude 80 degrees is a hot day, and generally dry. Now that there is a canine in my life, the days of doggie fun also extend year fund. our Sophie is a snow dog first, but she'll do the scratchy grass phrensies every summer day. Lovely post, thanks for sharing.

By EweniqueEssentials on 07/31/2013 @ 12:50am

I enjoyed reading your Dog Day ramblings, which led to describing your sweet dog and the happiness he brings to your life. Just as the much needed rain brings color and refreshment to the desert, and the bright star Sirius lights up the night sky, Seamus adds life and color and light to your days. Loved the photos!

By Guest on 07/31/2013 @ 12:10am

He is so beautiful, Catherine! I always love seeing pictures of him. I think he and Tessa are a lot alike. Not sure if they'd get along, though, since she likes to dominate all males. With other females, she's just fine. With the males, she paws the top of their head, trying to get them to bow. I don't think that would go over well with Seamus - lol!

By CardsbyLiBe on 07/30/2013 @ 11:43pm

I just love this post Catherine. I love Seamus and especially the picture of him observing the snow. My dog Winston is definitely practicing the dog days of summer by lounging in the back yard where the shade is. Thanks for all the fascinating history and I really enjoyed the direction the muses took you :) Lisa

By craftsofthepast on 07/30/2013 @ 11:22pm

What a delightful dog story! Gonna share this one for sure! Anna

By ShadowDogDesigns on 07/30/2013 @ 10:30pm

Seamus would love to share the grass phrensies with Blu, Julie (: He just recently discovered that pleasure and phrensies whenever he can! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. And cookies for Blu, as well!

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