A couple of weeks ago, one hot afternoon in the dog days of summer, I was walking my dog Sarge. We were about 1/2 or 3/4 of the way home. I dunno. Maybe it was 7/8ths of the way. Or 15/16th. Anyway, in the interest of not splitting hairs, suffice it to say we were close to home and Sarge still hadn’t pooped. The immortal words of Dave Barry spring to mind here: “The objective is not so much to walk your dog, as it is to empty him.” Despite that we were walking along a stretch where he (Sarge) doesn’t usually poop, I said, “Sarge. Poo-poo dog.” I swear I’m not making that up. That’s what I said to him. It drives my wife nuts because Sarge is NOT a cute little puppy. He’s a115-pound, 15 month-old galoot of a Bernese Mountain Dog. She doesn’t think I should talk baby talk to him. She’s probably right.
Nevertheless, Sarge instantly stopped dead in his tracks and obliged me, triggering a deluge of questions in my mind. If Sarge had to go, why didn’t he go sooner? Was it just a coincidence, being that he usually poops before we go home and we were almost home, Zeno’s Paradox or not? Does he have some kind of “poop on command” subroutine that kicks in? Was he distracted, trying to work out the number of microseconds remaining until his supper? Was he thinking: “What in the hell is that RuPaul-looking thing in the Featured Image?” Maybe he was wondering where the phrase “dog days of summer” comes from. So many unanswered questions.
I’ll get to the dog days of summer bit in a minute but let’s deal with the thing in the Featured Image, complete with its protuberant illicium.
First of all, I was under the impression that pretty much every mammal on earth can swim and was for sure that all dogs can swim. Apparently this isn’t true. All dogs will make a paddling motion if they find themselves in water but without a life jacket the outcome isn’t always optimal, The list of dogs that can’t or are barely able to swim includes Bassett Hounds, Boxers, Pugs, Dachshunds and Shih Tzus. A big head, short snout, stubby legs, or a barrel chest doth not a swimming canine make.
Bernese Mountain Dogs, aka Berners, are pretty front-heavy, burly dogs so you’d think maybe they would be in the running for a Darwin Award when it comes to water. The verdict on that is mixed. An informal poll of 35 Bernese Mountain Dog owners revealed the following:
7 Owners (20%)
Berner hates swimming and most forms of water. Even bath time is a huge issue. Despite training, it just refuses to go near water or get wet.
● 12 Owners (34%)
Berner will get its paws wet at the very most
● 10 Owners (28%)
Berner will paddle and go up to its chest, but rarely goes out of depth
● 6 Owners (17%)
Berner loves swimming and most forms of water/getting wet
Sarge falls into the 34% of Berners who draw the line at putting their toes in the water. After all, the breed originated in Switzerland, living on farms, pulling carts, guarding livestock, yodelling, sniffing dead badgers and suchlike. Water activities weren’t in their daily routine. But there’s always hope.
In my research about what critters can/can’t swim I was aghast to learn that owls can’t swim. Neither can the rhinocerous. The hollow quills on porcupines keep them afloat but they can’t swim a stroke. The little buggers can sure climb though. There are even some fish that can barely swim, including the red-lipped Batfish, a fish so hideous you will want to stab yourself in the eyeballs with a fork if you see one.
Q: Can it bite?
A: No, but it will crawl up and poke you right in the ankle with its protruding illicium if you so much as look at it sideways.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah: the dog days of summer.
The Greeks, Egyptians and Romans noted that the star, Sirius, rose early along with the Sun during the hottest part of their summer: a roughly 40-day period spanning early July to early August.
Sirius, aka the “Dog Star,” is part of the constellation Canis Majoris and is the second brightest star in the sky. One day, during a pan-Mediterranean/North African Astronomy conference it was decided that those 40 or so days of summer should henceforth be known as the “dog days”. The ancient astronomers also reasoned that the combined radiance of the Sun and Sirius was what was making the weather so danged hot for that six weeks or so. Full marks to them for coming up with a good theory.
For the Egyptians, the floods that rejuvenated the soil around the Nile River started about the same time as Sirius began its stint of early morning rising each summer. So the Egyptians were pretty stoked about Sirius.
I had two friends named Ken and John whom I worked with at my first job after Grad School. We cooked up this notion to build a pantograph-style boat hoist driven by a hydraulic piston and actually succeeded in making a prototype.
We thought maybe we would form a company and were kicking around some names. Ken, who was into astronomy, said,”How about ‘Dogstar Enterprises’? Motto: We’re Serious.” The three of us immediately fell on the floor laughing our guts out for about five minutes. I guess you probably had to be there. Anyway, along with the Egyptians, we too, were pretty stoked about Sirius.
Sadly, the Greeks, were definitely NOT stoked about Sirius even though he was Orion’s hunting buddy, for what it’s worth.. To the Greeks, the “dog days” were regarded as a time that could bring fevers, catastrophe and generally crazy behavior. People, and their dogs, were advised to lay low, stay cool, go swimming, be cautious and levelheaded, keep thinking about Geometry and Philosophy and just wait for Fall to arrive.
That seems like sound advice to me but apparently the folks at the InMotion company, in Shenzhen, China, didn’t buy it. They grabbed caution, picked it up by its scruff and threw it right out the window, directly into a 60 mph headwind. They have been beavering away for years, building ever-more-powerful electric unicycles to keep people from getting bored during the dog days. Their latest iteration, the V13 Challenger can do 60 mph on pavement without even blinking and its unloaded, wheel-lift speed is almost 90 mph. Now if that isn’t crazy behavior, I don’t know what is.
Sign me up. I can’t wait to plop my backside down on to a V13. And I will. As soon as my new suit arrives.
Next post: Garden hermits