Dog days wear you down to a nub

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 14, 2004

Alabama summers are brutal. It seems to get hotter here than anywhere else I have ever been.

Even though the temperatures may not be as hot it still feels warmer.

Anyone who has ever lived here can tell you this is a completely different type of heat.

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There aren't many places in America you can walk outside and immediately break a sweat. In most places you would have to engage in some kind of physical activity first.

But no matter how brutal it is we can't beat it. We are simply forced to deal with it.

Right now we are right in the middle of the highest temperatures of the year…the dog days.

Often just the mention of dog days will cause an Alabamian to shudder. Especially if they work outside.

This time of year the temperatures rocket to triple digits. The heat index, which Jerry Clower used to say was just another way for scientists to make us uncomfortable, can even reach 110 degrees or more on these days. The dog days are truly a rough time of year.

I have always wondered why we would name such a terrible time of year after man's best friend.

I used to believe we called them the "dog days" because by the end of the day you were "dog tired."

I was informed over the weekend that my guess had been incorrect.

The name "dog days" traces its name back to early human history.

In ancient times, various people around the world drew images that we know as constellations by drawing lines from one star to another.

There were images of a variety of animals from bulls to bears to fish.

One such constellation was Canis Major, which appeared to be dogs. The brightest star in this group was Sirius (the big dog) which also happened to be the brightest star this time of year.

The star was so bright ancient Romans thought it produced extra heat when it was at its brightest.

During the period of July 3 to Aug. 11 Sirius is in conjunction with the sun. It rises and sets when the sun rises and sets. The ancients believed the star added heat to the sun and created a stretch of hot sultry weather.

Because of this they called the period the dog days of summer.

This story blew my mind. I had never imagined the name could have been that old. I would never have thought the name originated in another country either.

When I researched the name I assumed I would find the answer from some old farm tale. I could not have been more wrong.

I also struck out in a big way with my theory of being "dog tired."

I guess it just goes to show there can be a lot of history behind even some of the simplest sayings and terms.

This story has made me want to look deeper into such terms as "stone sober" or "madder than a wet hen."

Who knows what kind of origin these terms have?

Rick Couch may be reached at

383-9302, ext. 132 or

via email at rick.