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Health, Ethics, and Genetics:
The unending human fascination with novelty is seemingly unhindered by ethics all over the dog breeding world.  Not only are there countless examples of breeders and leaders turning a blind […]

Dogs Defined by Disease

The unending human fascination with novelty is seemingly unhindered by ethics all over the dog breeding world.  Not only are there countless examples of breeders and leaders turning a blind […]

My dogs make it through the 4th of July with the selective use of Melatonin and a ThunderShirt. I suggest you use them too if you have noise phobic dogs. […]

Melatonin + ThunderShirt = Better 4th for Your Fearful Dog

My dogs make it through the 4th of July with the selective use of Melatonin and a ThunderShirt. I suggest you use them too if you have noise phobic dogs. […]

Life With Dogs, whose business model is exploiting animal suffering by aggregating and plagiarizing dog stories that are emotionally manipulative, has come out harshly against dog breeders over a bogus […]

Life With Dogs Attacks Dog Breeders

Life With Dogs, whose business model is exploiting animal suffering by aggregating and plagiarizing dog stories that are emotionally manipulative, has come out harshly against dog breeders over a bogus […]

If you missed RealSports with Bryant Gumble’s report on the ethics of breeding AKC dogs last night on HBO, fear not! Border-Wars worked with the producers over the last several […]

Watch RealSports “Unnatural Selection” on AKC Dogs

If you missed RealSports with Bryant Gumble’s report on the ethics of breeding AKC dogs last night on HBO, fear not! Border-Wars worked with the producers over the last several […]

Be sure to catch HBO’S Real Sports with Bryant Gumble tonight as they are doing a segment on the health and ethics of pedigree dog breeding for which Border-Wars was […]

HBO Asks if Dog Breeding is a “Real Sport”

Be sure to catch HBO’S Real Sports with Bryant Gumble tonight as they are doing a segment on the health and ethics of pedigree dog breeding for which Border-Wars was […]

Dog breeds are not separate species. Still, the majority of the dog fancy behaves and enforces breeding rules as if they were. Having what could be the most extant genetic […]

Minimum Viable Population: 5,000 Adults

Dog breeds are not separate species. Still, the majority of the dog fancy behaves and enforces breeding rules as if they were. Having what could be the most extant genetic […]

Latest Dispatches:
21

Shelters kill. So why call them Shelters?

This topic is depressing. Here's Gemma being cute.

This topic is depressing. Here’s Gemma being cute.

shel·ter
noun
1. a place giving protection from bad weather or danger.
2. a place providing food and accommodation for the homeless.
3. an animal sanctuary.
4. a shielded condition; protection.

Shelters kill dogs and cats. So why do we call them shelters when they don’t offer actual shelter?

Do you know what we call places where we keep unwanted things for picking over by strangers until they are regularly thrown away? Garbage Cans. And do you know what we call places we send the old and infirm to die because we can’t handle it ourselves? Hospice. And do you know what we call places where we send our offspring when we can no longer take care of them in hopes a new family will raise them? Orphanages.

I find it rather unfortunate that we’ve combined these four concepts into one institution for dogs and cats. It really does not make much sense to merge a homeless shelter with an orphanage with a hospice with a garbage dump. All the priorities are different.

In humans, no one would support treating orphans like garbage or treating the homeless like terminal cases. Garbage has lost its utility, its potential. Orphans must be cared for to become independent. Terminal cases are guided with love into death and the homeless are guided with love back to self sufficiency. These are all very different tasks.

When you “rescue” an animal from the shelter, who are you rescuing it from? That’s right… the shelter. Not the location, the THREAT. It is the SHELTER which is the threat to the animal. THEY are the one who put a death sentence on that animal and it is THEM you are “rescuing” the animal from.

Much of the AR hysteria dwells on blaming breeders and owners for putting dogs in shelters, but it is not breeders or owners or anyone else but the shelters who put the death sentence on those animals.

Why don’t we “rescue” children from orphanages? Maybe because they don’t slaughter kids if they aren’t picked up after 72 hours. Likewise, grandma isn’t given a countdown when she enters hospice to die fast or get the shot. And we don’t gas our homeless, at worst we return them to the streets.

We can dig deep in to all the reasons and major causative factors for why people leave their children in orphanages or foster care, why adults end up homeless or chronically on the streets. And we can wring our fists at why people throw away things which we believe still have value. But first I think we need to ask why we think the same institution is necessary and sufficient to handle all these cases well.

Breeders don’t kill dogs, they create them. Owners don’t kill dogs, they care for them. Only shelters make it their business to routinely kill dogs. Don’t blame breeders, don’t blame owners. They were told that shelters provide shelter. When you get self righteous over buying a used dog, which you aggrandize yourself with the title of rescuer of a rescued dog that needed rescuing, recall that the only danger that dog faced was from the “shelter.”

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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4

Dog Culture is Religion and Politics

Enough dogma, throw the disc.

Enough dogma, throw the disc.

It’s an often reiterated rule of etiquette to never discuss religion or politics in polite company.  And this is why etiquette is for pussies.

See, “religion and politics” are essentially stand-ins for weltanschuuang – a larger world view that incorporates philosophy, values, and ethics.  The big IMPORTANT things in life unless you’ve tuned out and decided to just get by and let other people do your heavy lifting for you.

The dog world is inherently religious and political and thus any meaningful discussion of the culture is bound to be controversial.

It’s asinine that the most fundamental aspects of culture are off the table “in polite company” and it makes etiquette into a shallow, superficial, fake experience, albeit one that preserves the status quo.  If you can’t work through ethics and values and philosophy what’s the point of everything else?

The obvious reason that such topics are taboo is because they are controversial and most people are not particularly willing to change their stance, especially with the activation energy of a dinner party or meeting with people you frankly don’t care deeply about otherwise.  It usually requires a much more significant event like a death or epiphany to move someone to really question and alter their views in a rapid fashion or the long slow process of erosion of a belief over time against the realities of life.

Thus “just don’t talk about it” is a conflict avoidance mechanism for etiquette doyennes to play fun-police and say NO ARGUMENTS! and keep people happy and the wine in the glasses instead of splashed in faces.

The thing is that this conflict avoidance makes sense when we out-source and up-source the big questions to other people.  The sheep let the shepherd make the choices and worry about the smaller questions of where am I going to eat and poop today.  There’s also an inherent insecurity involved with most world views where having others believe what you believe and act how you act is an evolutionary advantage so when you find yourself in conflict, you change them, they change you, or you get out. Some missionaries employ the tactic to overcome someone’s extant world-view, but by far the most popular strategy is to use family pressure over children and spouses and indoctrination of blank slates via upbringing and control of the schools. It’s no small coincidence that most people adhere to the religion they were born into or married into.

Taking risks and learning things first-hand is hard and can lead to failure so it’s a risk-averse strategy to let others experiment, let others stick their necks out and stay with the herd because it’s easier and safe, even though it’s pretty mindless.

And human culture has positively reinforced this behavior.  Religions and Political Parties are like turn-key weltanschuuang for you to just swallow whole, and both are also highly indoctrinated into youth by their parents and peers right along with language and fashion and a variety of communal behaviors.  And even with their massive and inherent contradictions and flaws almost all social systems enforce the rules on everyone with strict punishments for anyone who doesn’t play the game the “right” way.

Dog culture, the primary focus of this manifesto, is all about Religion and Politics and this is why any discussion about ethics, efficacy, values, faults, and change are inherently impolite.  Registries are hierarchical political organizations that delegate power downward through breed clubs and exercise their power through intellectual property and barriers to entry. They “own” the breeds and issue limited member certificates to distinguish “us” vs. “them.”

The social political structure is also informally enforced by breed matrons and patrons who are typically the most connected breeders to the breed club and the registry and position themselves as “mentors” to select few new breeders and position themselves against most others.  Who gets to use whose stud dog and who selects the judge for which specialty and whose dogs that judge favors are all sorts of social-political drama-inducing behaviors that are entrenched in the culture.

The culture is also religious in the sense that there are just so many elements of the philosophy that must be taken on faith, as they are not science or evidence based — and would not naturally reemerge if they were forgotten, and are thus handed down by indoctrination like all faith-based systems.  The breed standards are part of this ad hoc religion as well as breeding methods like certain inbreeding schemes or sire selection criteria.  So too are puppy rearing techniques and placement behaviors.

If there were an easy, universally effective, and uncontroversial way to tell people they’re wrong or even find the Truth on even a single issue; there would be one government, one belief system, and scientific consensus on every issue.

Failing that, making sausage is going to look messy. There’s just no other way about it. Pick what strategy you want, but they all have their strengths and weaknesses and even the most brilliant and motivated people have yet to find the one-true-way to convince people of some greater truth.

In fact, most of the best methods to win minds are logical fallacies, conspiratorial, manipulative, and used to convince people of falsehoods. Or you don’t try and change minds and just preach to the choir, reinforce extant biases, and cheer-lead instead of lead.

So if you actually want to tackle extant culture head on, it gets messy. It’s part of the process really. It’s not primarily about changing minds and winning hearts, liars do a much better job of that. It’s not about waxing romantic about history or pretending that your little corner of the culture is just superior as-is and above reproach. To me it’s about speaking truth and recognizing things that will be validated not by popularity but by authenticity.

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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2

Spoils of the Dog War

platonic_border_collie

The small elite group of conformation breeders are Platonists; they believe that the substantive reality of Border Collies is only a reflection of a higher truth, and their activity is the key to divining that perfect essence. The small elite group of trial breeders also believes that there is a higher truth to the Border Collie, that their activity is the key to approaching that truth, and that their philosophy stands above and to the exclusion of all others. But they are not Platonists, as their search is accomplished on a field, not in the mind. The ideal Border Collie is discerned by function, not by a proposed ideal form.

This new Plato seemed familiar to common-sensical Victorians. What do we mean when we use the word “table” if not a real object which resembles more or less well the ideal “table”? Aren’t our real-world tables imperfect examples (“Platonic shadows”) of the ideal?
And living, breathing dog — are they not slightly imperfect versions of the ideal foxhoud or greyhound, setter or collie?
– Donal McCaig, The Dog Wars p185

The AKC Border Collie Breed Standard is tantamount to a bible. It describes the ideal, the platonic, and the perfect. It is the good book that should be followed and mere mortals can’t hope to change what is written. Border Collie conformation faithful are left to interpret the whims of the demi-god judges as they lay out judgment without any sort of feedback or critique; understanding why events happen the way they do is like trying to divine the will of god.

Dog fanciers and their creature, the AKC, really do believe that what is most valuable about any dog can be judged in the show ring, that the show ring is the sole legitimate purpose and reward of all dog breeding. They even believe, against all evidence, that the show ring “improves” breeds.
-Donald McCaig, The Dog Wars p153

The priesthood are those people who are attached to the registry because the dogma of the registry is their dogma, regardless of the practicalities of what other things the registry does. The Third Estate doesn’t have a single platonic breed standard nor a single unified activity. And for what is has in enthusiasm, it lacks in lock-step uniformity and an easy to recite mantra. It is that lack of uniformity that makes the Third Estate easy to dismiss by the koolaid drinking elite within the AKC and ABCA.

The priesthood of the ABCA are the top trialers and their jock-sniffers who are interested and active in the governance and politics and the priesthood of the AKC are conformation showers and their groupies who are likewise active in the governance and politics. Conformation and Trialing are the moral centers, the raison d’etre and the loss-leaders of the two registries.

The priesthood is only capable of surviving because of the large and largely ignorant masses–who use the services of the registries without knowing or caring about what happens in the inner sanctum–pay the bills. The AKC loses big money putting on dog shows and the ABCA admits that without the the majority of their dogs being registered to the hoi polloi pet buyers they’d be financially unable to carry on their mission.

border_collie_blessed
Despite the rhetoric being about the “future of the breed” … the war is really over people, not dogs. The trialers will always be able to breed dogs to suit their herding needs and the show people will always be able to breed pretty dogs. The “breed” is not at stake with either of those groups because they have and always will have the power to breed what they want.

To the First Estate, the Border Collie breed is what it does: a dog that herds sheep with eye. To the Second Estate, the Border Collie breed is what it looks like. The former are Existentialists of function, the later Platonists of form. The First Estate probably wouldn’t care what the other three estates did with their dogs as long as they didn’t call them Border Collies when those dogs aren’t bred specifically for the purpose of herding sheep with eye.

But the First Estate lost the battle over exclusive rights to the name “Border Collie” (who knew there’d come a time when you’d have to trademark the name of a dog breed to ensure artistic control?), and they don’t seem satisfied renaming their dogs to the original and older classification of “working sheepdog.” If the trialists couldn’t own “Border Collie” outright, then they’d have to compete in the open and free market for market-share of the breed. That’s tough since, as Donald McCaig says in this The Dog Wars:

Americans have accepted the dog show credo: “a dog is what it looks like.”
– p53

Americans are thus Platonists instead of Existentialists when it comes to their dogs. This poses a problem to the First and Third Estates who ostensibly desire function over form, and when they do desire form, it is to serve function; e.g., shepherds in the hot dusty Southwest have emphasized a smooth coated dog more appropriate for that environment and flyball breeders have emphasized their dogs’ speed making for thinner and lighter animals with a sleek appearance.

border_collie_trademark

Although trialers and conformationists will always be able to breed dogs to meet their needs, they won’t be guaranteed to sell the cast offs to the pet market without competition. Thus, it’s the large and un-indoctrinated pet market that is the real spoils of the Border Collie War. They are the crude grease that allows the smaller and more sophisticated parts to function.

Registries are at their core simply record keepers of dog sex. That’s it. But that isn’t where the first two Estates stop. To them, simply handing out pedigrees is like the world’s great religions simply handing out genealogies. Religions don’t stop there, they launch campaigns to expand membership, to out-breed the competition, to nitpick who gets to play in their sandbox and who doesn’t. And they establish elaborate bureaucracies and get mired in internal power struggles.

In addition to genealogies, they hand out Bibles and Korans and Torahs, and they exploit elements in those documents to get the masses to turn over their trust, their time, and things of value. Their purview is more than simple facts and objective standards;they deal in morality and ethics and metaphysics. But that’s not how they measure success. They measure success by the number of converts. We have more warm bodies than you.

So despite talking a good game in the churches and mosques and synagogues hoping that their wisdom will shine through and draw in the crowds, history tells us that the most successful religious campaigns happen at the tips of spears, and not the allegorical Spear Longinus. Very real and very contemporary spears of forced conversion and coercion.

It was with one such spear that many members of the Third Estate of Border Collies were marched from the ABCA camp into the AKC camp, never to return again.

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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26

Dogs Defined by Disease

A sample of dog breeds that are defined by disease.

The unending human fascination with novelty is seemingly unhindered by ethics all over the dog breeding world.  Not only are there countless examples of breeders and leaders turning a blind eye toward inbred disease, out-dated appreciation of population structure and genetics and under-appreciative of health and longevity, there are more than a few dog breeds which are built around disease as their defining trait.  There’s no easy fix for these dog breeds because they are defined by dysfunction and to fix them and bring them to health requires the breed to cease to exist in the form it does now.

We can’t just remove the gene that causes the defining trait — even though it carries with it a disorder, a disease, or some dysfunction — because it is universal and defines what it means to be a member of that breed.  Breeders consider it necessary.

These traits are generally not things that any other breeder who considers themselves ethical would want in their breed should it not exist there already, just as any humane breeder would want to remove those same diseases in their breed if they appeared spontaneously.

There are breeds that are plagued with disease that are not defined by them, such as High Uric Acid in Dalmatians.  If breeders could snap their fingers and remove it, most surely would.  Likewise, Border Collies are in no way benefited by epilepsy or collie eye anomaly even those problems are marked in the breed.  No breeders want them in our breed.  We want them gone.

Sadly, there are too many dog breeds where dysfunction and disease are written in to the breed standard.  No advancement in science will help these breeds, no DNA test will improve their future, because no one in those breeds want those diseases gone.  Some breeders are so enamored with these diseases, they cull the puppies which are born unaffected!

Such disorders are sine qua non to the identity of the breed.  If they didn’t exist, the breed would not exist.  Unlike High Uric Acid or Hip Dysplasia or Canine Epilepsy or any of a hundred other endemic diseases in our breeds, removing a defining disease will require breed standards to be rewritten and minds to be changed instead of health and genetic testing with breeders who are already set against increasing or maintaining disease in their dogs.  The major obstacle is political, not genetic.

Here’s a sample of defining diseases and the breeds they are inextricably linked to:

Chondrodystrophy
Abnormal cartilage growth causing short legs:
Basset Hound, Beagle, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshund, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Scottish Terrier

Dermoid Sinus
A neural tube defect inextricable from the “ridge:”
Rhodesian Ridgeback, Thai Ridgeback

Micromelic Achondroplasia
Abnormal cartilage growth causing short legs and trunk:
Bulldog, Corgi, some Jack Russell Terriers, Pekingese, miniature Poodle, Shar Pei, Shih Tzu, Skye Terrier, Swedish Vallhund

Polydactyly
Extra digits on the foot:
Beauceron, Briard, Great Pyrenees,  Norwegian Lundehund

Pituitary (Ateliotic) Dwarfism
Boston Terrier, Chihuahua, Miniature Dachshund, Italian Greyhound, Maltese, Minature Pinscher, Minature Spaniel, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Pug, Shih Tzu, Toy Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier

Congenital Alopecia
Inherited baldness:
American Hairless Terrier,  Chinese Crested Dog, Inca Orchid Hairless Dog, Mexican Hairless Dog, Peruvian Inca Orchid

Color Mutant Alopecia
Hair loss and breakage seen in “Blue” and “Fawn” coat colored dogs: 
Blue Lacys

Brachycephalic Achondroplasia
Boston Terrier, Boxer, Brussels Griffon, Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Japanese Chin, Pekingese, Pug, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier

Periodic Fever Syndrome
Fever, swelling, and Amyloidosis inextricable from the skin folds:
Shar Pei


Congenital Anurousity
Lacking a tail; associated defects of the spine and anus.
(Non-C189G mutation) Boston Terrier, English Bulldog, Miniature Schnauzer;

(C189G mutation) Australian Shepherd, Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, Braque du Bourbonnais, Brittany Spaniel, Croatian Sheepdog, Mudi, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Pyrenean Shepherd, Braque Francais, Schipperke, Spanish Water Dog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Although some of these conditions are minor in their severity and unlikely to cause major prolonged suffering, it’s still rather dubious that breeders in these breeds are so fixated on these dysfunctions being defining and demanded traits.

Other conditions are so severe that they demand we ask if they are defining of not only the breeds but of Torture Breeding.  Is novelty and aesthetics in these cases really worth the suffering caused?  Is mere tradition enough of an excuse to justify the continued breeding of these dogs?

I continue the discussion of these more severe defining diseases under the “sine qua non disease” category under “health and genetics.”

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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8

Dog Days of Summer

The “dog days” are the stretch of time in midsummer when the combined heat and humidity make the afternoons unbearable and send humans and dogs alike seeking shelter in cool shade or the forgetfulness of a sultry siesta.

The dog days gestalt is an ancient concept in Western culture dating back at least to the Iliad, the oldest work of Western literature (~800 BC).  Homer uses an allusion to the dog star Sirius no less than three times to describe the sun’s rays off brilliant bronze armor, evoking not only the brightest star but also the concomitant ill fortune and death that is also associated with the summer sauna.

Mastiff head, Thessaly coin, 450 BC

And aging Priam was the first to see him
sparkling on the plain, bright as that star
in autumn rising, whose unclouded rays
shine out amid a throng of stars at dusk–
the one they call Orion’s dog, most brilliant,
yes, but baleful as a sign: it brings
great fever to frail men. So pure and bright
the bronze gear blazed upon him as he ran.

Virgil would parrot Homer 800 years later in his Aeneid:

“… even as when in the clear night comets glow blood-red in the baneful wise; or even as fiery Sirius, that bearer of drought and pestilence to feeble mortals, rises and saddens the sky with baleful light.”

The Greeks gave us the constellation Kyôn, meaning dog, which is one of the most ancient of words across all language.  The brightest star in the constellation and in the entire sky they named Seirios, meaning scorching; colloquially the star was known as Kyôn Aster, literally the dog-star.  The Romans would call the constellation Canis Major, the greater dog, and the star Sirius was referred to as Canicula meaning little dog.  They called the dog days dies caniculares meaning days of the little dogs, recognizing both Sirius and Canis Minor’s brightest star Procyon (meaning ‘before the dog’ seeing as it would rise in the sky before Sirius) as the two dog stars of summer.

Beware the Dog, from Pompeii

In ancient times, the Dog Star would return to the sky after a 70 day absence just before the annual flooding of the Nile in late July.  Because of Sirius’ brightness and proximity to the Sun during its return–what we call a star’s heliacal rising–the ancients believed that it added its heat to that of the sun creating the hotter weather.

This event was so central to the Egyptian culture that they timed their year on the cycle of this star which they called Sothis and deified as the goddess Sopdet; they also designed their mummification process to match this 70 day observance.  This calendar is called both the Sothic cycle and the Canicular period, and it gave the Egyptians a sidereal year that matches the one we use today almost exactly at 365.25 days per year.

The Egyptian timing of their new year survives in the Greek name for the winds which descend upon  the Mediterranean coinciding with the dog days.  The Etesian winds (from the Greek for year), are an annual phenomenon which the fishermen referred to as the “meltem” short for mal temps meaning bad times.  The strength of the winds caused hazardous conditions for the small craft, but on land they brought welcome relief to the stagnant conditions characteristic of the dog days.

The Etesiae blow after the summer solstice and the rising of the dog-star: not at the time when the sun is closest nor when it is distant; and they blow by day and cease at night. The reason is that when the sun is near it dries up the earth before evaporation has taken place, but when it has receded a little its heat and the evaporation are present in the right proportion; so the ice melts and the earth, dried by its own heat and that of the sun, smokes and vapours.

- Aristotle, Meteorology  350 B.C.

Aristotle also mentions the dog days in both Physics and Metaphysics.

We do not ascribe to chance or mere coincidence the frequency of rain in winter, but frequent rain in summer we do; nor heat in the dog-days, but only if we have it in winter.

If in the dog-days there is wintry and cold weather, we say this is an accident, but not if there is sultry heat, because the latter is always or for the most part so, but not the former.

Dog and Star petroglyph, Utah

As the classical derivation of the name faded, the common folk embellished the days with their own interpretations.  Common wisdom said that the days would make women more passionate and men more feverish, and dogs themselves would succumb more easily to rabies, lethargy, and madness.  People under the influence of Sirius were called “star struck,” “dogging,” or “dog tired” and we retain these uses today.

Dogs, of all animals, were thought most affected by the annual reappearance of Sirius. Dogs were believed to suffer at this time of year and their panting was an indication of internal desiccation and excessive dryness.  When this occurred, dogs were in danger of becoming rabid and their saliva poisonous.  Humans could then become rabid and die from a dog bite.

-  Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky, J.B. Holberg

The association of the dog star is not uniquely Western, hinting at an even more ancient cultural association.  The ancient Chinese called Sirius Tian Lang for “heavenly wolf” and associated it with the bridge between heaven and hell.  Their interpretation mirrors the ancient Egyptian as the soul must be weighed and perfected before passage is allowed.

Clay dog from Nineveh, c. 645 BC

The ancient Babylonians referred to Sirius as ‘Kak-shisha translated “the Dog that Leads” and alternately “a star of the south.”   Later Mesopotamian cuneiform call the star Kal-bu “the dog” and Kakab-lik-u the “Star of the Dog.”  The Assyrians called it “Dog of the Sun,”  The ancient Akkadians named it “Dog Star of the Sun,” and the Phoenicians dubbed it Hannabeah “the one who barks.”

There are also numerous and intriguing associations of Sirius with dogs and wolves from throughout North America. To the Alaskan Inuit of the Bering Straits, Sirius is the “Moon Dog.”  When the moon comes near Sirius, high winds will follow.  Among the Tohono O’odham of the southwestern deserts, Sirius is the dog that follows mountain sheep, a description that was shared with the Seri who lived to the south along the Gulf of California, in Mexico.

To the Blackfoot of the north-western Great Plains the star was “dog-face.”  Among the Cherokee, whose ancestral home was the central Appalachian Mountain region, Sirius and Antares are the dog stars that guard the ends of the “path of souls,” the Milky Way.  Sirius, in the winter sky, guards the eastern end, while Antares, in the summer sky, guards the western end.  A departing soul must carry enough food to placate both dogs and pass beyond, or spend eternity wandering the “path of souls.”

Alternatively, the Pawnee of Nebraska have an elaborate and well-developed mythology tied to the heavens.  The Skidi (or Wolf) band of the Pawnee call Sirius the “Wolf Star” and the “White Star.”  According to Skidi cosmology, Sirius brought death into the world and would escort deceased tribal members along the “spirit pathway” (the Milky Way) to the place of the dead in the south.  During times of a sacrificial ceremony, a tribal representative of the White Star would sit in the southwest corner of the lodge to watch over the ill-fated sacrificial maiden.  Among other Pawnee, Sirius was the Coyote Star, the trickster.  The Northern Osage, of the south-central United States, regarded Sirius as the “Wolf that hangs by the side of Heaven.”

- ibid

It should not be surprising that our cultural ties with dogs are so ingrained and universal. Sadly, cuddling up to one of them when the weather is like this only reminds me of the more sweltering connotations of this time of year.  That doesn’t stop me though, they’re too cute to kick off the bed.

Happy Dog Days!

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Comments and disagreements are welcome, but be sure to read the Comment Policy. If this post made you think and you'd like to read more like it, consider a donation to my 4 Border Collies' Treat and Toy Fund. They'll be glad you did. You can subscribe to the feed or enter your e-mail in the field on the left to receive notice of new content. You can also like BorderWars on Facebook for more frequent musings and curiosities.
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