The dog days of summer. We hear it every year around the end of July through the month of August. But, what does it mean? Turns out, the reference dates back to the Greeks and Romans and Sirius, the dog star in the Canis Major, meaning large dog, constellation. Sirius is the brightest star in the northern hemisphere, and said to rise before or at the same time as the sun, and apparently was seen during this time period in 700 BC. According to one of the resources I read, we no longer see it during the summer because of earth tilts, and orbits and such.
Caesar Augustus coined the phrase, the dog days of summer, thought to be an evil time of the year when the seas would boil, wine would sour, and dogs would go crazy. Why did dogs go crazy? Maybe because it was too hot – there were few places to cool themselves. Dogs have few sweat glands, unlike their human counterparts, and most are covered by fur. The sweat glands that do function somewhat to regulate temperature are in the paws and pads. Panting, as we know, is the most obvious way our pups cool themselves. Heat and humidity makes us all a little crazy, don’t you think?
As I have gotten older, I don’t tolerate heat as well. That was tested this past week when the dog days of summer were outside, as well as inside, my little corner of the world. My husband was in another state attending a training for work. The dogs and I were home for the week, left to our own devices. About two hours after I had dropped my husband at the airport, I sliced my finger open while cutting up a watermelon deeply enough my trained nursing eye thought it likely needed a stitch, but I am a stubborn sort when it comes to obtaining medical care. Obviously, that has nothing to do with heat, however, it seemed to set the tone for the following few days.
Sometime during the first night, the air conditioner quit working. I woke to find that it was 77 degrees in the house at 5:30am. According to the weatherman, we were in for a hot week. Daytime temperatures were expected to be near or at 100 degrees most of the week – enter the dog days of summer. Consulting my husband by phone, I was instructed how to reset the damnable thing, and it worked, kind of – for most of the day and part of the night. The next morning, same thing. I reset the unit and it ran for about 90 minutes. I reset it again – and it ran for another 90 minutes. Thrice I reset with the same result. My husband, trying to help from a million miles away, or so it seemed, called the neighbor and asked if he could look at the unit. The neighbor, a very kind man, came over and spent well over an hour taking apart and putting the wretched air conditioner back together – all the while sweat dripping from his brow and soaking his clothing. The dog days of summer. He got it going, but not for long.
The temperature continued to rise outside and in the house. As the second day without air conditioning began to fade into evening, and the valiant efforts by our neighbor failed, the temperature outside changed little. I jumped in the car and went to the local Family Dollar to purchase more fans to get us through the night until morning when I could call a repairman. At least we could keep some air moving while we attempted to sleep. Heat seems to trigger seizures in Chardonnay, our oldest female Yorkie, so I tried to keep her cool by wetting her down with cool water and cloths. Between times, I continued to work from my home office. Incidentally, my finger continued to bleed every time I bent it as the cut was near a joint. Good times.
The sun rose, the repairman arrived, and after finishing his various checks, determined the unit seemed to be working well. $100 for a service call. Ninety minutes later – you guessed it. The air conditioner had quit again. Another call to my husband, and a call to the repairman who concluded the motor was faulty. No kidding. It was barely noon, but he could get back to install a new motor by days end if a motor was available. The temperature in the house had crept up to 85 degrees. Cool cloths and baths continued for Chardonnay while the other dogs sprawled on the floor in front of fans cooling their tummies as best they could.
Around 4:30p that evening, the repairman returned and replaced the motor. $635 more. It had been a costly, not to mention hellishly hot, day. By the time he was done and the air conditioner was fired up again, the inside temperature was 87 degrees. Running full blast, it took several hours for the temperature to finally drop into a tolerable range. Overnight, it continued to cool, and by the time the dogs and I awoke the next morning, the inside temperature was a blessed 66 degrees. The dog days of summer. Fortunately, I still had a refrigerator, so at least the wine didn’t sour…..