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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Livin’ Those Dog Days of Summer

“A Sirius Illumination”

In almost every part of the world, significant yearly shifts occur among the balances in nature and society. Happening around the span of July 3rd to August 15th, these days have historically been referred to as the “Dog Days of Summer”. Many different meanings have been attributed to the origins of this phrase, but all of them come back to a similar theme. Finding out where this meaning came from, means looking at the connections between the stars, the earth, and us.

References in literature dating back to the ancient Greeks, the main source to understanding and recognizing the “Dog Days of Summer” lies with Sirius. I know I have all the Harry Potter fans’ attention; but, unfortunately, Sirius isn’t important to summer because we’re forming a wizard army with a Prisoner from Azkaban…but, go ahead and “Aparecium” the astrological knowledge to the other famous Sirius—the one named for the brightest rising star in the summer night sky. Noted by ancient astronomers and poets around the world for its intense illumination, this star became the main focal point to prepare for the impending season this star routinely brought. Homer, Hesiod, Alcaeus, Aratus, and so many more, make references to the effects of Sirius in their writings and stories.

Canis Major. Photo from allthesky.com

The star’s arrival was always a summer precursor to environmental woes, shining a light on the warning of the drastic rise in temperature, drought, fever, sudden thunderstorms/flooding, lethargy, and overall bad luck. Representing the longest days of the year, dogged summer days experienced in Oklahoma can have a heat index that rises to temperature highs, where “frying-eggs-on-your-driveway type-of-hot” is an actual thing. Husbandman’s Practice, a British publication from the 18th century, referred to these days of the year as quite an unpleasant time—especially for fair-weathered Britain—noting, “The heat of the sun is so violent that men’s bodies at midnight sweat as at midday…” Being overly hot isn’t the only reason for this phrase, but it’s certainly the most common quality attributed to this time of year.

The Summer/Canine Connection

First, let’s circle back to the rising of Sirius. Every year, this star rises in the sky, directly following the Orion constellation. Sirius’ repetitive, almost loyal, trailing behind this constellation was a trait reminiscent of our domesticated canine companions—the dog. There’s a reason dogs developed the titular role of “man’s best friend”, and the meaning behind this phrase is precedent in the reliability of Sirius following closely behind Orion.

 Although, reports of dogs having a tendency “to go mad” during this time have been recorded as one of the meanings, this state of increased aggression is mostly attributed to the biological responses a dog goes through, when encountered with the extreme elements the time every year. Tendencies toward aggression, or dogs being more likely to attack, might be correlated to the way dogs are incapable of coping with these extreme environmental factors, such as high heat and lack of food. Sick, hungry, dehydrated, and suffering heat exhaustion—it’s no wonder, any creature would act out of character under these conditions.

Vickie Grantz, the operator of the Enid SPCA, explains, “Dogs don’t have pores like we do, like humans do; so, they don’t sweat. They can’t release any of their body heat through sweat, so it’s much more difficult for them to stay cool. This is why it’s so easy for a dog to overheat in the summertime. It creates an effect in the dog, similar to that in humans, known as heat exhaustion.” Especially in the hot summer months, and particularly in Oklahoma, you should be aware of your dog’s condition on intensely hot days. If they ever show signs of being overheated, take steps to remedy the problem immediately. To be on the lookout for heat exhaustion in your pet, be wary of glazed eyes, excessive panting, lethargy, trouble getting up or walking, rapid heart rate, vomiting, warm to touch, or excessively drooling a white, frothy substance [called Hypersalivation]. These are all examples of a dog suffering from heat exhaustion, and a pet that needs your help!

Photo by Jonathan Slater on Unsplash

Vet Assistant Kim Johnson knows how to spot heat exhaustion, and she has good advice for anyone who needs to safely help their pet cool down. If you find yourself faced with an overheated dog, the key is to slowly bring their temperature down, and not rush it too fast. Speeding up the process of lowering their body temperature too quickly can cause shock. “Place a cool, wet towel over your dog. DO NOT USE ICE, but a cool wet towel. If you can, help them drink some water. Most dogs that have heat exhaustion won’t drink, so even if you can’t get them to drink normally, just put a few drops on the tongue. Slowly lower their temperature, and get to a vet as quickly as you can.”

Getting your animal to a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment is crucial, but these steps will help you begin the process of normalizing your dog to a safe and healthy temperature.

Vickie also implores pet owners to remember to protect their pup’s paws from the heat of the hot summer sidewalks. When traveling out and about on a leash, your dog is walking and going where you go. The difference is, you most likely have shoes on your feet! The pads on the bottom of their paws are just as sensitive to the scorching cement as the bottom of our feet; but, they don’t have any barrier to protect them. Neglecting to be aware of how their paws will be affected on a walk, where the outside temperature exceeds 100 degrees, could lead to potential health risks or painful burns for your dog’s paws. “If you can’t put the back of your hand on the sidewalk, and leave it there for 5-10 seconds, then imagine what your dog is feeling. It can be so painful for them, so please don’t put them through that,” she states.

If your dog or cat needs to be regularly groomed, to help stay a little bit cooler in the summer, consider the Enid SPCA’s grooming service! They offer great deals on all the standard grooming options; and, while you’re there, you can see the amazing remodel done to the facility! The dog cages have received all new flooring by Copperhead Coatings, new paint on the walls, and new dog doors on the cages. After receiving the donation from a local philanthropist for half the funds needed for all the intended upgrades, Park Avenue Thrift matched the funds through their grant program, helping the SPCA get their project immediately underway. Not only does the facility look new and fresh, the stalls are all full of loving dogs that need to be adopted! If you’re interested in fostering or adopting a pet, Vickie and all of the amazing workers at the SPCA will be happy to assist you every step of the way.

Traveling with your pet in the summer can be a fun way to experience new sights and adventures. Just as you need to prepare yourself for a trip, you also need to be aware of the needs your animal will have along the way. Vickie suggests investing in some small containers for the road, to allow your dog to drink water on breaks and eat their meals routinely. “Collapsible bowls are so cool, and we have them for sale here. They fold flat when you don’t need them. So, they’re easy to travel with. Then they pop up to form a bowl, when it’s time for a water break. Having access to food and water is important for your dog to feel safe and comfortable, so these bowls are perfect for summer travel with dogs.” Be sure your pet is getting enough water along the journey, and never leave your pet in a car unattended over the summer! The interior temperature of your car heats up very quickly in the summer, reaching temperatures north of 170 degrees Fahrenheit. This can create an oven effect in your vehicle, putting your pet’s life at risk. If you’ve seen the video of cookies baking in the front windshield of a car, then you realize just how hot it can truly get in there when the vehicle is not turned on. We may think our dogs are sugar-sweet but don’t treat them like cookie dough! If cookies can bake in a hot car, so can your dog. Heat exhaustion can happen, and it happens quickly.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Dwight Olson, Owner, and Veterinarian at Olson Animal Hospital at 1553 N. Grand has been caring for animals of all kinds during his career in Enid. “There’s nothing like the relationship with your dog,” he says in his office on a hot day in June. “Dogs do add so much value to your life, but it takes a responsible owner to care for a dog properly. If you plan to travel to certain states, they may require a health certificate or document for your dog, to ensure your pet is healthy and current on all shots and vaccinations,” Dr. Olson expresses. “There are environmental impact concerns, that can drastically affect the ease of transporting animals across state lines.” He warns that some places may require you to prove your pet is currently healthy, and not carrying any diseases that could affect other local wildlife in different geographic locations.

A Dog by Any Other Breed Would Still Love as Sweet

Human relationships can sometimes be difficult to navigate, but the bond shared with your pet is unlike any other you’ll ever experience. Every furry-palmed handshake and wet-nosed kiss reminds you of the devotional love waiting for you every day when you care for an animal. It’s not because we have drinks with our dog every Saturday night before we go dancing in our newest clubwear…or, because we spa together, brunching regularly on the last Sunday of every month…No—Dogs don’t care about spas or skincare, unless it means a good belly scratch or two; and, pet-friendly nightclubs aren’t a thing…yet. Albeit, most dogs would be quite thrilled by the notion of constant bacon flowing from those Sunday brunches…that is still not the reason for the domestic bliss that has formed between us and our furry house-dwelling buddies. This partnership, branding the dog as “man’s best friend”, is existent for one simple reason—unabashed loyalty.

The relationship between one local bachelor/dog duo was a life-changing factor for both involved. The puppy being rescued ended up offering more for his owner than his owner could have ever imagined. Friends come and go throughout life, but the bond shared between a man and his dog will always warm the toughest hearts, and wag the most tails.

Austin White began working security for a local retirement village a couple of years ago. From the beginning, he enjoyed the job he was doing every day, and he was excited about getting to know the residents that lived in the facility he was keeping safe and secure. There was one resident he quickly developed a relationship with, but he never expected to end up adopting him! This particular resident of Golden Oaks was named Sarge, and he was the Doberman Pincher puppy of a Veteran living down the hall from the security desk Austin monitored daily. Noticing the way Sarge began to take a liking to him since he walked by Sarge’s owner’s apartment every day, Austin started walking closer each time he passed by. Inching closer and closer with each passing day, he began to find reasons to walk by the porch where Sarge was always sitting, just so he could say “Hi”, to his new buddy.

Sarge

As Sarge began to grow into a rather large puppy, his owner was concerned about his overall well-being. Everyone at the retirement village loved Sarge, but his energetic nature was beginning to evolve as his size grew, and he was no longer the small puppy on the porch. His paws were the size of his head, and his legs were the same length as his whole body was long. A huge growth spurt meant Sarge was about to start requiring a bit more physical exertion from his owner, and the working-dog mentality inherent in his nature was eager to start doing the job. Although his current owner was exceptionally loving towards Sarge, the fact was, his dog needed someone that could offer both love and physical exercise. Being an old, retired veteran, the options were a bit limited. He was already living in the only retirement facility that allowed residents to have animals. Everyone was already around his age, so adopting another resident didn’t make sense. That’s when Austin agreed to help find the perfect home for Sarge, outside of the facility.

An inquiry was quickly made for the AKC-registered purebred dog, soon after posting the ad; but, Austin says he knew it would be difficult to find the “right home” for Sarge. Chuckling as he looks back on the experience of re-homing Sarge, Austin said, “I was honestly trying to find him a home—the right home—and adopt him out to someone else. I knew halfway through the first adoption interview when I was doing a home-check, I knew that wasn’t the place for him. I immediately left, and I had this feeling like I wouldn’t be able to let him go very easily. On the way home, with Sarge sitting in my backseat, he suddenly let out a sigh, then he put his head on my shoulder, resting as I drove us back home…” Austin goes on to recall the emotions he felt when realizing, in that moment, he was never going to find a new home for Sarge. He had bonded so deeply with this dog, growing to love Sarge. From then on, Austin knew there was only one option to ensure Sarge received the care he needed, the exercise he craved, the love he reciprocated, but, most importantly, for Austin, the home-life Sarge deserved. He was having a life-changing epiphany on that drive home, as Sarge’s wet nose lay across his shoulder—Sarge was already his best bud, and the only place that was truly a fit for him, was at home with Austin. Rescued at 10 months old, Sarge began a new life, consisting of long walks, road trips, swimming in the lake, going to the dog park/pet store, learning dozens of new tricks, playing fetch, and running up and down the driving range (chasing after squirrels).

Aside from acquiring Sarge full-time, Austin relays how much he has personally changed due to Sarge becoming a fixture in his life. The impact of adopting one dog created a whole new life for Austin. “Having Sarge has made me…he’s made me a better person, I think. I’m happier now, and I don’t get as angry about things like I used to. I feel he’s somehow softened me up. He showed me real, unconditional love, and I haven’t looked back since. I’d truly do anything for him; and, really, I know he’d do the same for me.” Sarge illuminated Austin’s heart, leading to the “furever” home built between the two of them.  The years have passed; Sarge has turned three, but the loyalty he has for Austin remains unchanged. Next year, Sarge will be four, and I’m sure he’ll still be on the heels of Austin’s every move—just as Sirius follows Orion into those spicy summer months. When the heat of summer is as closely bonded to the day, as man is to his furry best friend, you know you’ve finally entered the “Dog Days of Summer.”

Abby Grey
Abby Greyhttps://www.abbygreyimagery.com
Having started a fascination with photography, writing, & art during my youth, these interests quickly developed into a life-long passion after spending multiple years working with Pamela Gilbreath on the Waller Junior High yearbook staff. The expertise acquired during those formative years from a skilled artist helped curate my lust for a creative future--eventually blossoming into a prospective career during my college years. After completing specialized training and study in Portrait/Editorial Photography and Creative Writing with my degree in the Arts, I launched my professional career as a correspondent in August 2016 for numerous local publications, as well as attaining the role of Project Coordinator, Lead Photographer, & Writer for Ekids Magazine.

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