The dog days of summer

By Mike Baker

You know, I didn’t truly understand what the term “the dog days of summer” meant until this past weekend.

It’s funny – it’s a term I’ve heard, and even used myself on occasion before when describing those hot, sticky days in July. You know the ones I’m talking about – when no matter what you do, where you go, you just cannot escape the indisputable heat from above.

This topic came up in conversation on Sunday while I was walking in Glebe Park. I’ve tried to make a point of getting out more this summer, and I had been long promising to take in the many sights on offer at the Haliburton Sculpture Forest. So, after a morning of writing, away I went for some fresh air.

Now, to provide some context, I had better be up front and honest and say that, as far as my hiking ability goes, I’m capable of putting one front in front of another and remaining upright. What I can’t guarantee, however, is that I can do that for a prolonged period of time. For those that aren’t aware, I’m a fairly large man. It doesn’t take a genius to ascertain what yours truly, plus hot weather, plus any level of activity equates to.

Needless to say, I found myself several nice patches of grass to park myself on over the course of the afternoon. On one of those occasions, I encountered a new friend – Brian.

Striding by me with his best friend in tow – a cute beagle named Axel – Brian checked in to make sure I was OK. In truth, I was enjoying a little rest, looking up at the canopy above. I assured him that I was fine, just a little weary from the walking. And the heat.

“Ahhh, the dog days of summer,” Brian said, smiling down at me.

I’m not sure what compelled me to ask this time, especially since I was no stranger to the phrase, and I don’t know why I thought Brian would know the answer. Maybe I wasn’t really thinking much at all. Anyway, I wondered out loud how that saying came about.

It turns out there’s actually a science behind it. The dog days of summer refer to a specific period of time – from July 3 to Aug. 11 this year – when the sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth and a part of the constellation Canis Major, otherwise known as the Greater Dog.

I was bewildered that Brian knew that off the top of his head. So much so that I got to my feet and, without really thinking, followed him for the next 40 or so minutes around the park, chatting about a whole manner of things. It was a nice way for me to spend an afternoon.

Just being out and around people again is a gift that we should not take for granted. I’m looking forward to spending more days out in the community, encountering people like Brian, and learning more trivial pieces of information that I can share with each and every one of you when the opportunity calls for it.