Those ‘dog days’ of summer

Published 2:54 pm Wednesday, June 24, 2009

If you’ve got pets, be mindful of their needs this summer. Animals get hotter faster than we non-fur-bearing critters, and need more care and attention in these “dog” days of summer. [Trivia question: Why are they called “the dog days”? I’ll give you the answer later.]

Provide plenty of cool water for your pets and ample shade. Never leave them in a hot car or truck, even with the windows down, for more than a few minutes. The interior temperature of a vehicle climbs quickly and can be hazardous after 15 minutes on hot days like those we’ve been having.

Lucille Carpenter at the Demopolis Animal Shelter has her hands full, caring for the animals staying at the shelter during this wave of 100-plus-degree heat, and she knows how animals are often neglected during these hot summer days. Stories abound of dogs and cats left in cars “for a few minutes” only to have them die from heatstroke or other heat-related illnesses.

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Consider this: If you had to wear a fur coat all the time, you would not want to be stuck outside when the heat index is off the scale. Do what you can to make sure your pet stays cool and comfortable.

Back to the “dog days” question. Back in ancient times, the dog days were originally the days when Sirius, the “Dog Star,” rose and set with the sun. (Sirius — pronounced like “serious” — forms the nose in the constellation Canis Major, or Orion’s big hunting dog. It is also the name of the Chicago Bulls’ intro music from Michael Jordan’s era, played by The Alan Parsons Project. Serious!)

People in those times thought that the heat from both stars caused the weather to get unbearably hot, even sacrificing dogs as the “dog days” began to appease the rage of the Dog Star, believing it to be the source of the hot, sultry weather.

Don’t sacrifice your pets to the heat. A few minutes of care will go a long way towards the comfort of your pet.