The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.
Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting
It’s summer. And it’s hot. And I can’t seem to find my writing groove. Where did the term dog days of summer come from? I poked around the internet and found this:
Many people believe the phrase “dog days of summer” stems from the fact that dogs tend to be a bit on the lazy side during the hottest days of summer. Of course, who can blame them? With that much fur, dogs that exercise during the hot days of summer can overheat easily.
However, the phrase doesn’t stem from lazy dogs lying around on hot and humid days. Instead, to find the answer, we only need to look to the summer sky.
The ancient Romans called the hottest, most humid days of summer “diēs caniculārēs” or “dog days.” The name came about because they associated the hottest days of summer with the star Sirius. Sirius was known as the “Dog Star” because it was the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius also happens to be the brightest star in the night sky.
Sirius is so bright that the ancient Romans thought it radiated extra heat toward Earth. During the summer, when Sirius rises and sets with the Sun, they thought Sirius added heat to the Sun’s heat to cause hotter summer temperatures.
But here on Main Street, we like to write about a different sort of heat–the warmth of a kiss, the flush of falling in love. But we also like dogs, and many of our books include our furry friends.
If you’re a writer and you have a book with a furry friend (it doesn’t have to be a dog) leave us a buy-link in the comments. If you want to include a 300 word or less excerpt where your furry friend plays a staring role, that would be great, too.
Here’s an excerpt from my yet-to-be-published, The Billionaire’s Beagle.
“What do you know about beagles?” Grandfather steepled his fingers and gazed at Wes.
Wes’s thoughts scrambled. “They sniff out drugs at airports?”
“Yes. They have a powerful sense of smell.”
If that were true, Wes wondered how Betty, a fart factory, could stand being around herself.
“But there is so much more to them. Did you know beagles can be traced back to Ancient Greece? And it’s thought that in the 11th century, William the Conqueror brought the Talbot hound to Britain. The Talbot is the ancestor of the modern-day beagle which can run prey to ground. They’re hunting dogs, meant to roam free and wild.” Grandfather cocked his head. “Men are not meant to run free and wild. The animal-man is an enemy to God.”
What did that even mean? Was he referring to the work of Zoologist Desmond Morris who argued man was not a fallen angel, but a risen ape?
Grandfather must have read his mind because he answered the unspoken question. “My greatest wish is to see you settle down and shoulder responsibility. Get a wife! Father children! Teach them to love and serve God.”
Huh. Wes guessed that his grandfather hadn’t read Morris’s The Naked Ape. Which was disappointing since he would have liked to talk about it with him.
“But since I can’t force you to marry,” Grandfather continued, “I’m giving you my dog.” He wagged his finger in front of Wes’s face. “You two need each other.”
“I’m sure Betty would disagree.”
“She doesn’t have a choice!” Grandfather barked. “And neither do you! I’m going to Hacienda Hot Springs. It’s a healing and recovery center. My doctors think it best. Betty can’t come. They don’t allow pets.” His tone of voice told Wes that his grandfather had tried to persuade the hospital otherwise. “This, of course, is a short-term arrangement.”
“I hope so,” Wes breathed out. “For Betty’s sake,” he tacked on. “I’m sure she’ll miss you.”
“I don’t need to tell you that if anything should happen to Betty while she’s in your care, you will be immediately disinherited.”
If you’d like to be an early for The Billionaire’s Beagle, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put beta-reader in the subject line.