Dog days

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Jul 31, 2020

They call this time of year the dog days of summer. Not because it's hot enough to make you dog-tired and so thirsty your tongue hangs out like a dog's. Nor because dogs have any special affinity for summer or warm weather.

No, it's because this is the time when Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky (where you can see it in the Northern Hemisphere between December and March) rises just before the sun. Sirius is also known as "the dog star," because it is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog. When Sirius shines (unseen by us) during the day, we are said to be in "the dog days," thought by ancient people to be a time of fever, according to Wikipedia.

Our dogs are unaware of such matters, or so it seems. When we stood on the back porch raptly gazing at Comet NEOWISE in the northwest, they were, to all appearances, unmoved by the beauty of this rare visitor. There are some phenomena, however, that provoke more of a reaction from the canines than from us.

Cushla, the German Shepherd, has big, sensitive ears and is known to become anxious when there are fireworks or thunder. Even if the thunder is 20 miles away and her people can't hear it. She gets very clingy, following us around, trying to hide under a chair or the computer desk or behind the toilet. If you've never seen a German Shepherd try to get behind a toilet, let me tell you, it's a pitiful sight.

Even when the weather is calm, Cushla gets upset if there's a persistent noise like a smoke alarm peeping because its battery needs changing or the wind banging a shutter against the wall. When she starts gluing herself to our sides, we know there's something she can hear that is out of range for us. You feel bad for her, because she's so distressed, but there's nothing you can do, because mostly you can't hear what's upsetting her.

At the other end of the scale — noises made by the dogs themselves, which are more bothersome to us than to them — both of them believe it is their appointed mission to keep the yard free of chipmunks and squirrels. When these small, furry mammals get on the bird feeder, or come to eat the seed on the ground that the birds have dropped, they set up a racket that ought to be reserved for a Martian invasion. Rosie, the cockapoo, we can let out to chase the interloper away, but Cushla has to stay in, as the neighbors are not fond of visits from her.

Unfortunately, the two dogs can't be together, because Cushla does not play well with other dogs and would attack Rosie (we know this from experience). So, when Rosie is loose inside, Cushla must be either outdoors in her pen or shut in the den. When Cushla is loose, Rosie must be either outside or in her crate. Needless to say, we spend a fair amount of time switching dogs. To anyone else it would probably look like an awful lot of rigmarole to go through on a daily basis. To us, it's just part of the routine of taking care of them.

Maureen likes to say that Cushla likes me best, which is true only in the limited sense that I feed the dogs most of the time, and so both associate me with dinnertime. And this summer I've been eating a lot of lunches on our back porch, which means Cushla has company in the fenced backyard. She prefers to have company when she plays with the logs and rocks that are her outdoor toys, and has glommed onto my eating lunch with her out back as another routine. So when it's not so nice outside — cool or rainy — she seems not to understand why we're not going out at lunchtime.

Of course, we both love both dogs, and vice versa. But we do play favorites a bit: Cushla comes in for special affection from Maureen, and Rosie is my petted girl. In their continual efforts to get our attention, get out of confinement at the expense of the other dog and generally rule the puppy pile, having one of us slightly favor each of them keeps things more or less even.

Our fur friends are wonderful company, and give us a lot of affection, a very good thing in this time of increased isolation. You could say that, for us, it's always the dog days.

Sarah Reynolds is editor of The Republican Journal.


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