Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A New Twist on The Dog Days of Summer

What exactly are The Dog Days of Summer? According to the dictionary and various other sources they are the sultry part of summer, mid-July to mid-August, when the Dog Star Sirius rises at the same time as the sun. The ancients believed the Dog Star partnered with the sun to intensify the heat sent to Earth. Further descriptions of The Dog Days of Summer characterize it as a period of lethargy, inactivity or indolence, a time of madness in dogs.

Days of intense heat? You bet, judging by the triple digit temperatures that currently engulf the country. But I can also relate to the rest of the definition as illustrated by the following piece, a true story, I wrote a while ago:

That Summer Saturday began innocently enough. The clear, pleasant morning gave no indication of what was to follow as I took a cup of coffee and stepped out on the back deck.

It had been a busy week with many hours spent preparing and planting the plot of backyard land that would become my garden. I had tilled the soil and placed new seeds in the holes I’d dug then gently covered them with just the right amount of dirt. The plants I’d started a month before in the house were next, spaced just so to allow them ample room to grow.

“Better put something out there to keep out the rabbits,” my husband suggested as the green shoots and young leaves began to flourish.

In my heart, I knew he was right. Drastic measures are sometimes necessary to combat this unscrupulous menace. Substances such as dried blood are sprinkled along the garden edge as a deterrent. Scarecrows decked out in Dad’s patch riddled jeans, Mother’s frayed paint shirt and Aunt Margaret’s once favorite straw hat, stand in silent vigil with a common goal to stop the crafty foliage robbers in their tracks.

Ah, but for me things were different. I had no need for such elaborate defenses. Patrolling my carefully tilled garden patch was my own man’s best friend and all around good dog, Jason. Born of mixed heritage, Airedale and Hound among them, he had the best traits of hunter and herder. Jason wouldn’t stand for an intrusion of his turf. I had a weapon no rabbit in its right mind would dare to challenge.

As I proudly surveyed the beginnings of my garden that day something beige at one corner caught my eye. I looked closer and my worst fear became a reality. A rabbit! In my garden! Contentedly chomping on my sprouts! With ravenous abandon no less, and absolutely no regard for the sweat and toil that went into producing them.

Leaping to my feet, I called out for Jason. Surely by instinct he would know what to do. After a number of bellows from me, he appeared from around one corner of the house looking slightly perturbed at being so rudely summoned.

“There’s a rabbit in the garden! There’s a rabbit in the garden!”

I’m not sure if I sounded more like Paul Revere or Chicken Little. I could tell by the dog’s expression that he couldn’t decide either, and really didn’t care.

Apparently convinced that he would have no peace until he at least investigated, Jason came cautiously forward. Falling into step behind him, I remained in hot pursuit, arms flailing wildly as I hollered, “Sic ‘em!” with all the confidence of a general in command of a top-notch platoon.

Jason strolled to the middle of the yard, looked first at me behind him, then at the rabbit in front of him and made a valiant attempt to slip into the house. Being quickly thwarted in that maneuver when I pivoted to block his way, he calmly sat down to contemplate his next move.

“Get ‘em!” I ordered. Arms around his chest, I picked up the reluctant dog and aimed him toward the enemy.

Casting me a self-righteous, no rest for the weary glance, he dutifully meandered forward. Reaching a particularly sunny patch, he suppressed a yawn and lowered himself to a prone position. Ready to strike, I thought, until he rolled slowly to one side and settled his head comfortably on the soft grass.

Seeing that my ally had as much as gone over to the other side, I took it upon myself to bark and growl at the offending rodent. My taking control of the situation seemed to suit Jason just fine as he closed his eyes to catch a nap.

And the rabbit? He left quietly after eating his fill. Or maybe he was just tired of all the commotion.

Lethargy, inactivity and indolence extraordinaire that was Jason. We now know he believed very strongly in The Dog Days of Summer. Think about it. Given the example cited above, I’d say during The Dog Days of Summer, my dog wasn’t mad, he was pretty darned smart. In that vein, I’ve since given up gardening and now choose to feed the rabbits, squirrels and birds that come around. In keeping with the canine theme here, you could say old dog, new tricks and all that.

As I mentioned, most of this post consists of a formerly written, but not published, manuscript. I certainly have plenty of those. The one here actually sold, by the way. I received the check and everything, but for whatever reason it was never used.

Some of my other ‘unsolds’ are now up as free reads on my Writing Blog and The Wild Rose Press, which publishes my work, has three of my short stories as Free Reads as well. These can also be accessed through my blog. If you’re so inclined, enjoy.


Nothing wrong with getting something for nothing huh?
Just ask that rabbit.

Note: Sadly, I have no pictures of Jason in a computerized format, but the little guy up top looks a lot like he did.


Jannine Gallant said...

Awww, Margo, Jason sounds very sweet. His "live and let live" attitude is perfect for the dog days of summer. I'm afraid Ginger doesn't have the same tolerance for squirrels. She stands at the bottom of the tree and barks at them. Yep, that's going to lure them down. LOL

Margo Hoornstra said...


Jason sure was a sweetie. Ginger just wants to play, right?

Lucy Naylor Kubash said...

Jason sounds like my kind of dog. Live and let live. Zeke, on the other hand, lives to chase away squirrels, gophers and anything else that ventures into the backyard. He is the mighty hunter, lol! And Foo is his cheerleader.
I'll check out the stories on your blog.

Diane Burton said...

I've had dogs like Jason. Couldn't be bother to chase rabbits from the garden. Thanks for sharing that story.

Margo Hoornstra said...


Jason had his moments, but he was pretty special. Yeah, what is it with dogs and squirrels? They seem taunt the dogs when they are walking on a leash. Cheer on, Foo Foo.