To go back a few centuries, ancient Romans noticed that the Dog Star, Sirius, rose at almost the same time as the sun in the summer months. They believed this caused a double whammy of scorching rays, resulting in the “dog days” of summer. Dog days were a time of evil, when earthly dogs went mad, wine spoiled, people became hysterical and oceans boiled. It was apparently a time not only of evil, but also hyperbole.
The Dog Star, prominent in the constellation Canis Major (Greater Dog), is the brightest star in the night sky. If you are familiar with Orion’s belt, just draw a visual line directly to the left and you can’t miss it. Sirius is 8.6 light years away from earth and the sun is about 8 “light minutes” (.000015 light years) away, so I doubt the Dog Star ever caused significant temperature increases. Nonetheless, we seem to be stuck with the “dog day” expression.
I live with two dogs, and while they don’t go mad in the summer, they do pant a lot. One way to beat the heat on a dog day afternoon is make it a true “dog day” and head over to the huge off-leash dog park at the Pt. Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond. It’s much cooler on the coast, and not only that, you can get your furry friends a refreshing cup of Frosty Paws dog ice cream at Mudpuppy’s Sit and Stay Café on your way out of the park. If you aren’t familiar with Frosty Paws, it’s a frozen lactose-free and sugar-free treat – the perfect way to wrap up your dog day outing.
If you’re not up for a ride to Pt. Isabel, you can make your own stay-at-home version of doggie ice cream. Blend together a 32-oz carton of plain Greek yogurt (Greek yogurt is lower in lactose than milk or regular yogurt and tolerated well by most dogs, but check with your vet if you’re not sure) and a couple tablespoons of peanut butter. Whirl in a mashed banana or two if you like. Freeze in several little paper cups or an ice cube tray for smaller dogs. Once they are firm, pop them out of whatever mold you made them in and get ready for a happy canine.
Another cool and easy-to-make frozen treat is a tasty chicken “pupsicle.” Version 1: Freeze small pieces of cooked chicken breast and sodium-free chicken broth in paper cups or ice cube trays for 2-3 hours. Let them sit out for a minute or two, remove from the molds and serve. Version 2: Take a Kong toy and tape off the small hole. Fill the Kong with sodium-free chicken broth, stand it upright and freeze the whole thing. Once it’s frozen, remove the tape and let your dog enjoy it in a nice shady spot, licking out the broth as it melts (this one is good for a loooong time).
And, just so you humans don’t feel left out, here is a fun treat for you and your favorite kids to enjoy with or without your pets -- ice cream in a bag. For each serving, put 1T sugar, ½ c. half-and-half and ¼ t. vanilla extract in a small plastic bag. Close it up and put the little bag into a larger plastic bag with ½ cup of rock salt (aka ice cream salt; available at most grocery stores next to the regular salt) and a bunch of ice. Put on your gloves and shake for five minutes. Add sprinkles and enjoy.
We’re sure to have plenty of dog days ahead of us. Stay cool!
Reach Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org