The dog days of summer is a phrase not used often anymore; however, the term goes back a millennium. The animals at K-9 Airlift’s Rescue Barn in Huffman, particularly during the heat of August, don’t seem too impressed with this information.
The ‘dog days’ of summer present various problems for many of the Rescue Barn animals, and in particular those with underlying problems due to age or illness.
According to online references, the term refers to the time period when Sirius (the dog star and the brightest star in the sky except for the sun) is in the same part of the sky as the sun in the northern hemisphere. Sirius and the sun actually appear to rise at the same time. The exact time period varies from region to region, but it begins after the summer solstice and ends in late August or early September.
The Rescue Barn is run by David and Lynne Jennings and populated by a diverse group of farm and domestic animals who faced imminent death at the time of their rescue.
At the Rescue Barn, the ‘dog days’ of summer affect animals in much the same way as humans.
“Here at the Rescue Barn, the animals instinctively know what to do,” Lynne explained. “They are active in the morning eating grass and grain early and by midday, they are laid up in the shade trying to keep the flies at bay and letting food digest.”
Rabbits are a good example of animals needing extra attention during the heat of dog days. “They have on fur coats, so we recycle juice bottles, freeze water in them and put the ice bottles in with the rabbits. The bunnies lay across the bottles for bunny air conditioners,” Lynne explained.” “There are fans at each end of the barn for airflow.”
Other cool-down activities at the barn during ‘dog days’ include shearing the sheep. More importantly, Frank, the resident hog, gets a cool spray from the water hose daily. The chickens are treated to canned corn and creamed corn ice cube popsicles!
Lynne recently reminisced about the dog days from her upbringing that describes memorable effects of heat during this time period.
“Where I grew up on a farm in Appalachia, that term brought to mind those hot still days spent picking fruit and vegetables before the deer or wild creatures got to them,” she recalled. “Days were spent shelling beans, canning and putting up hay. It was the hottest part of the summer when water in the creek became stagnant and Mom stopped letting us swim.”
“Underneath the smell of fresh mowed grass was the earthy smell of vegetation decay, when it seemed like the planet was shedding a layer of skin,” Lynne recalled. “At that time of year, it was important to eat an early breakfast, a light evening meal, drink lots of water and get a good night’s sleep. Pollen and dust in the air kicked up allergies and hit our immune systems hard resulting in sore throats, vertigo, coughing, lethargy and a general sense of malaise. A vile tasting cod liver oil tonic seemed to lift the heaviness that settled on the body but the fishy aftertaste was a tough trade off.”