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Kendrick-Holmes: What exactly are the dog days of summer – and how do we know we’re in them?
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Kendrick-Holmes: What exactly are the dog days of summer – and how do we know we’re in them?

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Ah, it’s the dog days of summer!

How do we know this? Well, if you’re into astronomy, which I wasn’t until just a few minutes ago, you know that the dog days refer to the time that the sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky and also known as the Dog Star because it’s part of the constellation Canis Major, the Greater Dog.

(Thanks, Farmer’s Almanac!)

The Dog Star rises and sets with the sun during the summer and will be at its brightest on Friday, July 23, when it’s in almost perfect alignment with the sun. The Romans believed that the Dog Star actually gave off heat and was the reason that summer is so hot, and so they called this time of year dog days.

The actual Dog Days of Summer begin 20 days before Friday’s alignment and end 20 days after it, lasting from July 3 to Aug. 11 of every year.

So, if you’re like me and thought “dog days” was a down-home colloquialism that started when a farmer wiped his brow and said, “It’s too hot even for the dogs,” or something like that, you can now wow your friends by talking about the ancient Romans and pointing to the Dog Star (after of course, surreptitiously consulting one of many videos on YouTube that show you how to point to the Dog Star).

Another way to tell it’s the Dog Days of Summer, besides consulting a calendar or looking up in the night sky after watching a YouTube video, is to look at this newspaper, either in print or online.

On Monday, the 12th day of Dog Days, an Opelika man caught a 5-foot snake that he thought was a water moccasin, and we took his word for it until about a thousand alert readers saw the photo and told us it was a watersnake, which led us to check with an actual herpetologist who confirmed that, yes, our readers do know an awful lot about snakes.

Allow me to pause here and share my personal philosophy that any 5-foot snake in the water is indeed a water moccasin because I’m not waiting long enough to properly identify it.

After all, it’s better to mistake a watersnake for a cottonmouth than to mistake a cottonmouth for a watersnake, am I right?

Also on Monday, we broke the news that the real reason the Auburn Fire Department beat the Opelika Fire Department in this year’s Burger Wars eating relay was because Auburn’s 120-pound Julianna McCracken devoured a gigantic cake to defeat Opelika’s 220-pound Bubba Sorenson in the final leg.

Anyway, those are the kinds of stories we find ourselves writing during the Dog Days of Summer.

That’s because, let’s face it, around here we’re all just buying time until football season starts.

Do you realize that exactly five weeks from Friday, the midpoint of the Dog Days, we’ll be at Bulldog Stadium watching Opelika High battle Auburn High?

And eight days after that we’ll be in Jordan-Hare Stadium watching Auburn University kick off the Bryan Harsin era against Akron. Sure, Auburn has had sexier opening day matchups than this one against the Zips, but how cool will it be to have a full stadium and tailgating and crowds flocking about Toomer’s Corner?

Very cool.

Until then, enjoy the Dog Days as best you can, and try to avoid catching 5-foot watersnakes or getting in an eating contest with a 120-pound firefighter.

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. Email him at dkendrick-holmes@oanow.com

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