Sunday, September 25, 2022

One dog’s day in the sun

Daily Inter Lake | August 7, 2022 12:00 AM

Our son texted us a photo last week during that heat spell of his Basenji dog lying in his arms on the sofa and sacked out on his back, paws limp, legs splayed out and spotted underside exposed for all the world to see. Copper had just come in from sunbathing — a thing that just comes naturally to dogs — so he was a sleepy, happy pup. Quite a secure one too, since most dogs typically aren’t comfortable with lying on their back because it leaves them vulnerable.

I texted back “Dog days of summer,” which then piqued my curiosity as to where that phrase originated.

For 2022, the Farmer’s Almanac has assigned the dog days of summer to the 40 days beginning July 3 and continuing to Aug. 11. While considered the hottest days of the year in the northern hemisphere, the “dog days of summer” phrase wasn’t coined to explain why dogs like to laze on the porch on hot summer days.

Its origin is based in astronomy. The star Sirius, the brightest star in Earth’s night sky — also known as the Dog Star — lies in the dog-shaped constellation Canis Major (greater dog). The ancient Greeks and Romans noticed the brilliant star rise and set in conjunction with the sun during the hottest days of the year and so named the star Sirius, which in Greek means either “scorcher” or “glowing,” depending on your research. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, they also believed the star's close proximity to Earth caused the extreme heat.

In actuality, the reason the dog days’ weather is so sultry is due to the tilt of the earth, giving the sun a chance to hit us at a more direct angle and for a longer period of time.

Canis Major represents the larger of the constellation Orion’s two hunting dogs following him in the night sky in Greek mythology; the other being Canis Minor.

Sirius, which is almost twice as big and more than 25 times as bright as the sun, also has a small companion star known as the Pup, actually a white dwarf star.

We were lucky to dogsit Copper for several days during that hot weather. And though we’d sit in the shade on the porch, Copper preferred to stretch out in a sunny spot, occasionally rising to lap up some cool water from his bowl, before returning to his spot, content to chill out in the sunshine.

Now that he’s 5 1/2 years old, he’s not as full of puppy exuberance. Whenever he sleeps over he snoozes in his bagel bed at the foot of our bed, even as I’m up and at ‘em getting ready for work. Sometimes he’ll saunter into the kitchen after me, give a yawn and one of his long, full body stretches we like to call “long-doggin’ it,” before mosying back to bagel bed.

While Sirius may be the most famous dog in the celestial world, those of us who know Copper think he’s pretty stellar too … and a bright star in his own right.

Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 406-758-4440 or

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