The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the “Dog Star” because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog); this linkage first appeared in the Greek poem Phaenomena by Aratus (~310-260 BC) while Sirius’s association with summer heat is found in an earlier Greek poem, Works and Days by Hesiod in ~700 BC. Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky. The term “Dog Days” was used earlier by the Greeks (see, e.g., Aristotle’s Physics, 199a2)
The Dog Days originally were the time of the year when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as the sun (heliacal rising, in Conjunction (astronomy) with), which is no longer true, owing to precession of the equinoxes.
Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813.
Are those the days when I am not sure what is ailing me? I am sad, weak, down, tired, can’t get going and somehow it seems the whole world is ganging up on me. If someone says something nice I feel they just want to put honey around my mouth. A stubborn donkey is growing and bucking up within myself and wants to kick the kind person… If someone says “come on, cheer up…” or even worse, “you have no reason to feel that way” I know they don’t know what they are talking about. Can’t I just feel bad without a reasonable reason? Just let me be miserable. Leave me alone. Maybe that’s what I need, ‘lone-time’ to find my centre again, to balance my emotions.
Have you ever thought about how tough it is to always pretend everything is all right? We keep smiling, we do what we have to do or think what we have to do, give polite answers or the expected answers. In reality we would like to scream or throw even some of our best china against the wall. Before my back gave me trouble I would grab the vacuum cleaner and give it a real good workout. Just a couple of years ago I would spend hours in the garden, listen to the silence and let myself suffer through sometimes agonizing back pain without being able to stop before the job I had started was done. Mind over matter? What matter? The physical pain or the pain you can’t put a finger on? The pain accumulated during a lifetime without ever having had a chance to clear the air? Because there are things you just don’t talk about. You don’t want to trouble others with your troubles because they have their own troubles.
Okay. The really well-meaning people tell you to have counselling. I tried it. Pay for the pair of ears that will listen to you. Sometimes you get asked intelligent questions but mostly they wallow in your misery, stir it up like pea soup, push it around and explain it from this side and the other and, by acknowledging it, they multiply it. In the end you start to believe life has dealt you some bad cards. In your heart of hearts you know it is not true, that that wasn’t the problem in the first place. Run while you can! But if you keep going back and enjoy listening to these smart people, after all you want your money’s worth, – in the end you start believing it. You like the new truth? It makes you feel ‘poor me’ but it feels good? You don’t realize that by dwelling on it you get worse but the worse is that you start seeing it as the ‘true truth’. Some truth! Brain-washing! And by telling other people about your (new) truth you unwittingly hurt the people that may love you most and you push them away.
No, counselling wasn’t for me. And psycho pills were not either. Why would the first one make me feel so bad that I had to throw up? Oh no, – I never took another. There was no way that I would let anyone, or anything, alter my brain waves. I told myself to take the bull by the horns, face my demons and acknowledge them. Take stock. What was it that made me feel so miserable? Why the loss of energy and getting tired of not being able to defend myself against what, – other people’s truth? Things? Circumstances? Take charge of your life, I told myself.
You know what I just did? I broke a lot of china. I was venting. I talked about all the things that don’t work, did not work for me. I remember part of a joke: A zebra came to God and asked if it was black with white stripes or white with black stripes. God looked at it and said “That depends entirely on how you see yourself.”
Let’s get back to the very beginning of this outburst. So how do I see myself? Some days are better than others and things seem clearer. But as there is dark and light, bright and dull, up and down, dry and wet, day and night, good and bad, happiness and sadness, so your outlook changes. My way was to keep busy. Did I ever realize that I might have exhausted my store of energy? No. I felt responsible to “keep going” like the rabbit on the battery. I forgot one important thing: Work and play, activity and rest, laughing and crying. There was nothing to laugh about? Too many of those “dog days”?
The antidote: Get a dog. It ties you down? You have to walk it, get up earlier, lose your freedom? You don’t even realize what you would gain: unconditional love and lots of it, an incredibly understanding of your troubles. It looks at you and transmits feelings without words. By owning and being responsible for a dog you may even extend your life.
Second best? Go visit a friend who has dogs. These creatures just know how to lift your mood, get your mind off anything that may ail you. They love you, they want you and they play with you and before you know it they have delivered the medicine you didn’t even know existed: “Doggie Medicine”.