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Posted: August 17, 2006

Spousal Caregiving

'Dog Days' Humor (and a Bit of Astrology) for Caregivers

Bill Andrew

Now that we are in the dog days of summer, I thought a little humor would be appropriate to get us out of the lethargy that seems to permeate this time of the year.  Doesn't the summer of 2006 seem to be one of the hottest that you and your loved one have experienced?  It does to me, and I live in Florida where we are used to this kind of heat in the summer.


We all know that the “dog days of summer” occur during the hottest and muggiest part of the season. "Dog days” can be defined as 1) the period between early July and early September when the hot sultry weather of summer usually occurs in the northern hemisphere, and 2) a period of stagnation or inactivity.


But where does the term come from? Why do we call the hot, sultry days of summer dog days?  


Here’s what I found during an online search: In ancient times, when the night sky was not obscured by artificial lights and smog, different groups of peoples in different parts of the world drew images in the sky by “connecting the dots” of stars. The images drawn were dependent upon the culture.  The Chinese saw different images than the Native Americans, who saw different pictures than the Europeans. These star pictures are now called constellations, and the constellations that are now mapped out in the sky come from our European ancestors.

They saw images of bears, (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor), twins, (Gemini), a bull, (Taurus), and others, including dogs, (Canis Major and Canis Minor).

The brightest of the stars in Canis Major (the big dog) is Sirius, which also happens to be the brightest star in the night sky. In fact, it is so bright that the ancient Romans thought that the earth received heat from it. Look for it in the southern sky (viewed from northern latitudes) during January.

In the summer, however, Sirius, the “dog star,” rises and sets with the sun. During late July, Sirius is in conjunction with the sun, and the ancients believed that its heat added to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of hot and sultry weather. They named this period of time, from 20 days before the conjunction to 20 days after, “dog days” after the Dog Star.

The conjunction of Sirius with the sun varies somewhat with latitude. And the “precession of the equinoxes” (a gradual drifting of the constellations over time) means that the constellations today are not in exactly the same place in the sky as they were in ancient Rome. Today, "dog days" occur during the period between July 3 and August 11. Although it is certainly the warmest period of the summer, the heat is not due to the added radiation from a far-away star, regardless of its brightness. No, the heat of summer is a direct result of the earth's tilt.

Now that we all know why we call this time of the summer "dog days," let’s move on to some humor to relieve that lethargy, dullness, inactivity, stagnation, and oppression caused by the heat and humidity!

This humor is not intended to target any specific religious denomination or sect. – after all, it has been said that "God loves a good joke!" Here goes:

  • Don't let your worries get the best of you; remember, Moses started out as a "basket case!"
  • Some people are kind, polite, considerate, and sweet-spirited until you try to sit in "their" pews!
  • Many folks want to serve God -- but only as "advisors!"
  • It is easier to preach 10 sermons than it is to live one! (Amen to that!)
  • The good Lord didn't create anything without a purpose -- except maybe mosquitoes!
  • When you get to your wit's end, you will find that God lives there!
  • People really are funny -- they want the front of the bus, the middle of the road, and the back of the church!
  • Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation bangs on your front door forever!
  • Quit griping about your church.  If it was perfect, you couldn't belong.
  • If your church wants a better pastor, it only needs to pray for the one it has!
  • God Himself does not propose to judge a man until he is dead.  So why should you or I?
  • Some minds are like concrete -- thoroughly mixed up and permanently set!
  • Peace starts with a smile!

Did you and your loved one laugh or at least chuckle at the above one-liners?  Was there a "smidgen" of truth in some of these one-liners? Did any of these cause you to think about your life as a spousal caregiver?  How about other people with whom you come into contact?  I know that each of these jokes caused me to stop and think about my life as a caregiver.  They also caused me to stop and think about my friends and other folks who are part of our lives -- and how they influence me and how I influence them.

We all need humor in our lives to relieve the stress of the caregiving that we do.  Hopefully, if some of the above has done that for you, then you have "made my day!"   See, I’m smiling. Are you?

If you would like to share your reactions to this column, or any of your spousal caregiving experiences, with our readers, please email me at  May God continue to bless you on your spousal caregiving journey. 


"Total absence of humor renders life impossible."

Colette (1873-1954)

Bill Andrew identifies himself as a former “nutritionally-empowered Alzheimer’s caregiver” who attributes the slow-down in progression of Alzheimer’s disease in his wife, Carol – and the growth of his own personal emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual capability and strength to provide quality 24/7 care for her in their own home – to the targeted nutritional supplements they both took on a daily basis. Carol went to her Heavenly reward on June 9, 2008 – Bill continues on to advocate for family caregivers. Contact Bill with your caregiving questions and comments via email at

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