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EDITORIAL: Dog days

The Greeks — and later the Romans — referred to the hottest time of summer as the dog days. The Romans associated the sultry times with the “Dog Star,” Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major in the night sky.

In ancient Rome, the dog days extended roughly from July 24 to Aug. 24. Many European cultures and the Farmer’s Almanac place the dog days a little earlier, between July 3 and Aug. 11.

In addition to the stellar connection, the term connotes a lazy, hazy season when we humans and our canine companions occupy ourselves with keeping cool, staying hydrated, playing and relaxing more than other times of the year.

The reference to dog days continues to this day across countries and cultures, even though Sirius no longer rises at the same time as the sunrise because of the precession of the equinoxes.

By any measure, the dog days are upon us — and they are a reminder that it’s past time to register or re-register your dog with the town clerk. Dogs are required to be licensed by the time they are six months old. A valid rabies certificate is required. The cost is $8 if your dog has been spayed or neutered, $19 if he or she has not. The deadline for dog licenses was July 1 — there is a $1 per month late fee. And, there’s a $75 fine if your dog gets nabbed without a license.

The dog days are also a fine time to take a look at our four-legged friends from their point of view for a change, rather than ours.

Our relationship with our dogs runs deep. We welcome them into our homes and families. We arguably have as much in common as we do that sets us apart, particularly a need to be loved, a drive for self-preservation, and strong feelings and emotions.

We tend to anthropomorphize our dogs and ascribe our point of view on them rather than seeing things through their eyes (or perceiving the world through their noses). We can improve our relationship and understand our pets better if we make an effort to take in our surroundings as they do.

Although we predominantly interpret the world with our eyesight, dogs make sense of things first and foremost based on their extraordinary sense of smell, which is as much as 10,000 times more sensitive than a human’s, depending on the breed. Although a dog’s brain is one-tenth the size of a human’s, the part that controls smell is 40 times larger in a dog. If that burger on the grill smells good to you, imagine how crazy it’s driving Fido — no wonder he “begs” at the table.

For a change, instead of taking our dogs on a walk on our terms — pulling them along to fit our schedules and desires — it’s an enlightening exercise to allow them to stop and smell the roses, the hydrants and even what other dogs have left behind. For them, it’s like reading the newspaper — it’s how they catch up on what’s happening in the neighborhood.

To better understand our pets and improve our relationship with them it helps to take the perspective that we’re not better but different and put ourselves into their paws. Looking at things from the dog’s point of view gives a whole new meaning to the dog days.

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