July 3

Dog Days of Summer


“…the star which men call Orion’s Hound, and whose beams blaze forth in time of harvest…he yet bodes ill for mortals, for he brings fire and fever in his train…”

— Homer, The Iliad (tr. Samuel Butler)


Kirsten used to volunteer with her local animal shelter, helping on weekends with their program to control wild and stray cats.  They would trap the animals, then spay or neuter them before releasing them back into the wild.

They were beautiful animals, like all cats.  But these were unused to human company, and would make terrible pets.  The best anybody could do was help to control their population.

Despite the shelter’s best efforts, it sometimes seemed like an overwhelming problem.  Stray cats roamed the streets of some city neighborhoods, strutting as if they owned the place, knocking over trashcans, hissing at children, heat-howling late into the night.  Kirsten sometimes thought that, if the population kept growing, those cats might actually take over the cities.

She needn’t have worried. A larger animal soon stepped in and took care of the feline population.

The dogs howled louder at night, knocked over more garbage, growled through sharp teeth more menacing than a back-bristled feline hiss.  The dogs were harder to trap, and their numbers seemed to increase more rapidly.  Once they’d eaten most of the stray cats, they hungered for larger game.

They travelled in packs.  Their paws clawed at screen doors, scratched at windows.  They smelled food inside houses, and drool and foam dripped from their mouths.

The weather has grown warm.  Heat lightning crackles through the air, and Kirsten feels feverish and afraid.  She nails boards over windows and doors, trapping herself within the house.  It is too dangerous to go outside.

The Dog Days of Summer have begun.