MAD DOG: The Dog Days of Summer Are Sirius Stuff

There's no question the Dog Days of summer are upon us. That's the time of the year when the thermometer hits triple digits, there's so much humidity in the air that you get in the shower to dry off, and the power company sends you daily thank-you notes because your air conditioning is making the electric meter spin faster than the Tilt-a-Whirl with a speed freak at the controls.Another way to tell, besides the fact that the Dog Days show up every year between mid-July and the end of August along with the fleas, ticks and mosquitoes, is by watching the weather forecast. In their never-ending quest to make you feel as uncomfortable as possible, meteorologistsnin homage to the Marquis de Saden created the heat index. This counterpart to the wind chill factor (temperature times wind speed divided by the number of layers of mitten needed to prevent frostbite) is supposedly how hot it feels as opposed to how hot it actually is. Kind of the virtual temperature. The minute they break out this agony yardstick you can bet there's only one real description for the weather: totally uncalled for.The Dog Days were named by the ancient Romans, who noticed that the dog star Sirius rises and sets with the sun during the summer months. Interestingly, the word Sirius comes from the Greek Seirios, which means burning, or hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk. The Romans figured that the combination of the star and the sun is what made it so incredibly hot and humid. Now, of course, we know that since Sirius is 8.6 light-years awaynor twice as long as the line to get into Space Mountain on a typical summer daynit has no effect on the heat build-up, which is actually caused by a hot air mass trapped over Washington, DC as a result of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee (motto: Who better to know about affairs?) talking itself to death as it investigates alleged campaign finance abuses.But more important than why the Dog Days exist is the fact that they cause people to go, well, a little wacko. Children get cranky and bored, teenagers move into the mall for weeks at a time, and whole families have been known to migrate towards any body of water larger than a coffee pot like lemmings to the ocean. And don't think pets are exempt. Every day brings another warning to make sure your dog has enough water to get through the heat without dehydrating. Right, like the heat makes them forget where the toilet is.This concern is nothing new. Scientists say people have been watching out for dogs for about 135,000 years, which is about how long it's been since Hollywood made a decent summer movie. Until recently they thought dogs had been domesticated for a mere 14,000 years, but by taking DNA samples from 140 domestic dogs and cross referencing it with that of 162 wolves they discovered that blood samples found at the scene of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman's murder was capable of boring all of America. Just kidding. Actually they discovered that a couple of years ago during O.J.'s first trial.But scientists aren't always this frivolous with their research, especially when it comes to dogs. Having nothing better to do with their great big piles of government grant money, they've been looking into answering the age-old question of why dogs lick themselves, and it's not "because they can," so get that silly smile off your face, okay?A pharmacologist at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London (motto: We never heard of him either but it was the only name left) recently announced that dog spit helps promote healing. Really. Apparently when a dog's saliva combines with its skin it creates nitric oxide which has an antimicrobial effect. Interestingly, this works just as well with human spit as dog spit, which is a good thing or a whole new industry would have cropped up harvesting Great Dane drool.While scientists in England are working to help dogs, others in New Zealand are trying to run them off. Andrew Rakich, a graduate student in physics, developed a spray that smells so bad it scares off dogs. Replicating the chemicals emitted by a skunkntechnically called "stinky stuff" the new product has been approved by the SPCA, which has traditionally been interested in being nice to animals, not repelling them.That's why it's heartening to learn about a Detroit company called Oink-Oink, Inc. which likes dogs. They make delicious, nutritious doggie treats called Oinkers, which are roasted pig ears. And they're popular. They claim they sell more than 2 million Oinkers a month, which not only means there are a lot of happy dogs running around, but that over a million new pigs every month are cupping their hoofs to their head asking, "Eh? What did you say?"Apparently dogs like these things. Then again dogs like to roll around in other animal's excrement and have been known to eat their own vomit. Oinkers come in a variety of flavorsnincluding cool mint, spicy pizza, nacho cheese and French vanillanso there's a flavor for every dog. And for those Jewish and Muslim dogs, Oink-Oink also makes Moo Ears which arenyes, roasted cow ears.So the next time you're sitting around sweltering and griping about the Dog Days of Summer, be thankfulnyou could be a real dog, licking your wounds, running from faux skunk spray, and chewing on a freshly roasted pig ear. Even worse, you could be the earless pig or cow.

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