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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Mad Dogs & Englishmen by Rose Anderson

Ugh. It's hot where I live. I'm a natural redhead so I take pains to limit my exposure to harmful UV exposure. Being slathered up with sunscreen when the heat index is high is comparable to butter-basting a turkey in the oven.
"Dog days of summer" describes the hot, sultry period between early July and early September. I generally like my seasons in fours, but in truth, I can totally do without summer. I have no use for the "dog days" heat-wise, but who doesn't like dog days trivia?

Mad Dogs & Englishmen

In the late 19th century, Rudyard Kipling famously made this comment of his colonial India: Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon day sun.
The first time I read that quote, I immediately assumed it meant rabid dogs in Kipling's India roamed the streets midday. It made sense. I could easily envision hot, lolling-tongued dogs panting in the shade, and Victorian Englishmen over-dressed in their white linen suits and assorted layers, all feeling the heat in that land of equatorial steam. Who knows? Kipling may have meant every word of his statement literally. Or he may have drawn a social parallel between two forms of perceived madness: legitimate and just plain nutty.

Things are Gettin' Sirius

It's interesting to note that Sirius the Dog Star rises and sets with the sun during the hottest months of summer. Could this be the origin of dog days? Find the Dog Star in the constellation Canis Major, a.k.a. the Greater Dog. Depending on which constellation dot-to-dot you’re looking at, the star could mark the eye, the heart, or the tip of the nose. It's also the brightest star visible from anywhere on earth.

The name Sirius comes from the Greek, meaning searing or scorching. Greek mythology has several myths with Sirius playing a role, and most say the dog is female. To some, Sirius is Orion’s dog. Early Greek astronomers saw Sirius dashing across the sky in pursuit of the hare under Orion’s feet (the constellation Lepus). To others, she’s the watchdog of the heavens who stands guard at the bridge of the Milky Way.

Sirius’ celestial dog association has been solidly consistent throughout the classical world. Many cultures have Sirius stories. In remote China, the Dog Star was seen as a heavenly wolf.


In a legend from India, Sirius is the dog Svana that belongs to Prince Yudhistira. As the story goes, the prince gathered his brothers and his dog and set out to find the kingdom of heaven. It was a long and arduous journey. One by one, the four brothers dropped by the wayside, but Svana trudged onward by the prince's side. The pair eventually came to the gates of heaven. Lord Indra, the gatekeeper, denied the dog entrance. Flabbergasted, Prince Yudhistira told Lord Indra that he could not, would not, forsake his faithful friend and that he would rather not enter himself if that’s the way it was. It was exactly what Lord Indra wanted to hear. He welcomed both through the gates.

In Norse mythology, Sirius isn't a dog. The star is Loki’s Brand or Torch. It figures prominently in Ragnarok.

To the Ancient Egyptians, Sirius was the revered Nile Star or Star of Isis. Many Ancient Egyptian deities were associated with it and for good reason. By anticipating the month when Sirius rose with morning sun, the Egyptians knew the Nile river would soon be flooding its banks. When it did, the delta would get a fresh layer of silt for Egyptian crops and everyone would eat well. When you live on the edge of a desert, there's no doubt that this particular gift from the gods was an important one.

In the summer months, Sirius sits behind the sun when seen from earth’s northern hemisphere and appears in the east before sunrise. Ancient mystery teachings considered Sirius a sun behind the sun, and therefore, the true source of our sun’s potency. They believed Sirius and the sun worked together to cause hot weather. Just about any weather map will show they're certainly conspiring now.

Aside from sharing your ice cream, this is what summer dogs really want to do. Me too.
Stay cool!


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Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes across genres under the pen name Madeline Archer. She lives with her family and small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in the rolling glacial hills of the upper Midwest.

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Jane Leopold Quinn said...

OMG! Those sliding dogs are hilarious. I could watch them all day.

Anyway, thanks for the dog days lessons. I love the way so many civilizations interpreted their world, the skies and the land. So many similarities too.

And for the record, I'm not good with this heat either.

Rose Anderson said...

Thanks, Jane. That's my go-to if I need a smile video.

Paris said...

I love pet videos! The dogs are hilarious and remind me of the office puppy in her younger days. Really enjoyed the post with all of its wonderful info:)

jean hart stewart said...

Good and clever column. I enjoyed it.

Gemma Juliana said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your post about Sirius, Rose. Great research! And as for those two clown-dogs, I want to jump out of my Texas frying pan and into the snow with them. Awesome! Thanks for the entertainment and enlightenment.

Melissa Keir said...

What fun information Rose. I take my dogs out and remind them that they need to get to the grass quickly, because the patio is warm. They are so cute that they do it but they only want to go out to do their business and get back inside where the temp is cooler.

I love summer but that's because I have air conditioning for sleeping. I need it with the two dogs sleeping on me!

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