Lisa's Voice

The Dark Side of the Dog Star

mad dog

“Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog”

In this last week of the Dog Days of summer, I say let’s take another look at why these days are “dog.” I already mentioned what’s so “major” about Canis Major; the constellation dominates the sky this time of year, and it uses the brightest star in the sky, the dog star Sirius, for the dog’s nose. Naturally.

Summer, though, can bring evil. In the Iliad, Homer wrote of the dog star, “brightest of stars in the dark of night. Orion’s dog, men call it, glittering brightly yet boding ill, bringing fever to wretched mortals.” The Nile rises. The Nile floods. Fevers come and burn your loved ones away.

In the warmth and the wet, contagion festers in dogs and man, driving them mad. Frothing mad. Rabies. Cholera. Malaria. And another fever with a pretty name, Ebola. The dog star is the brightest in the sky, brighter than most planets, and situated at the mouth, from which death and madness pour.

On the so-called “dark continent,” people still die by the thousands of rabies, which they usually get from dogs. Each year, when Sirius rises, so does death. So. The end of Dog Days may bring cool air, dry skies, dry ground, and relief–relief, at least, from some things for us wretched mortals.

Mad Dog in a Coffee House

Mad Dog in a Coffee House

And we Sirens are plotting some relief for you, too. This Sunday, to mark the end of Dog Days, we bring you tales of people and beasts. Come read, come imagine, come be with us. And don’t worry: our website is certified aseptic.


Men in the Middle Ages fighting a rabid dog.

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