Chattanooga Now Naturalist's Note: The dog star, the brightest in the night sky

Chattanooga Now Naturalist's Note: The dog star, the brightest in the night sky

July 1st, 2018 by Sunny Montgomery in Get Out - Features

Photo by Jennifer Woods

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

This time of year, Red, my silver-faced dachshund-mix, prefers to nap on the cool kitchen tile rather than at the foot of my bed. There he sleeps the day away, amid lengthening sunbeams that illuminate streams of dust as slow-moving as the afternoon.

Yes, the dog days of summer are upon us — an expression that, in fact, has nothing to do with old dogs lying around in the heat. It actually refers to the brightest star in the night sky: Sirius, the "dog star," which is part of the Canis Major constellation and which rises with the sun from early July to mid-August.

The ancient Greeks believed that the midsummer sultriness was caused by that star and the sun sharing the same sky. They also believed that when the dog star disappeared from the night sky, it foreshadowed fever, stagnation and lethargy.

Red would probably agree. At age 15, he doesn't handle the heat like he used to. He'd rather be indoors than on the trail. He insists that we keep our walks short. The sight of his leash no longer excites him — but watermelon still does.

From his spot on the floor, he watches intently as I push my blade through the thick fruit. His tail thumps once. His tongue lolls out the side of his mouth.

I give him all the watermelon he wants. It is my way of telling him that the dog days won't last forever. Before long, Sirius will return to the heavens. Then, it will shine brighter than ever.

Sunny Montgomery

Sunny Montgomery

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Sunny Montgomery

Get Out Digital Editor

Want the latest in Chattanooga outdoors news? Subscribe to our digital newsletter here.