Did You Know?

Do you know where the term “dog says of summer” originated? Sam and Elsa here. When mom said we could do a post about the Dog Days of Summer, it set our tails-a-waggin’. Something about dogs?…oh heck yes! Put us in, coach.

Follow the belt of Orion to find Sam and Elsa’s Star Sirius. Credit: Starry Night Software

Typically those hot, sultry days in summer are referred to as “dog days” or “dog days of summer.” Visible from anywhere on Earth, Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major otherwise known as the Greater Dog. Dog? Hmm, why they didn’t just call it Sam and Elsa’s star is still a mystery to us. Perhaps it’s due in part to the ancient history we learned. Right now you see ‘our star’ as it ascends in the east before dawn on late summer mornings. The simple answer is because the hottest/most humid days of summer are associated with Sirius (aka the “Dog Star”) because it was the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major.

Now for some astronomic history…first from the Egyptians. The period following the heliacal rise (that period of less than a year when it had not been visible) of Sirius when the constellation becomes visible just above the eastern horizon before sunrise generally arrives around July 19th and ends around the last week of August. This timeframe roughly corresponded with the annual flooding of the Nile River.

Not to be outdone on all things Sirius, ancient Romans believed it radiated extra heat toward the Earth. During the summer when Sirius rises and sets with the Sun, they were convinced the added, additional heat to the Sun’s heat caused hotter summer temperatures.

For the ancient Romans, the dog days of summer period was from about July 24 to around August 24. Over time, the constellations have drifted somewhat and today, The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the dog days of summer to be from July 3 until August 11.

Although “dog days” are usually the hottest of the summer, they really don’t have anything to do with either dogs or the star Sirius. Actually it is Earth’s tilt that explains why these days tend to be the hottest during summer.

The Earth’s tilt this time of year causes the sun’s light to hit the Northern Hemisphere at a more direct angle and, accordingly for a longer period of time throughout the day. This means longer, hotter days during the summer. While Sirius is the brightest proper star in the night sky, it still is 8.7 light-years (8.23×1013 km) away and effectively has no effect on Earth’s weather or temperature.

Yet the effects of summer heat and rainfall patterns are real and variations occur by latitude and location according to many factors. Although London is farther north, Calgary has a milder climate from the presence of the sea and the warm Gulf Stream current. One medical institution has reported a connection between Finland’s dog days and an increased risk of infection in deep surgery wounds, though that research is unverified.

So there you have it as to some of the why’s and the what for’s about the dog days of summer. All that  abbreviated history aside, us Knuckleheads tend to be lazy during these pizza-oven hot days (mid 90’s for the past few days). We enjoy early morning walks, and laze about working on our napping form as demonstrated by Sunday’s ‘howliday,’ National Dog Day.  Mostly we are  over these dog days and are excitedly awaiting for Indian Summer to arrive. How have your dog days been?

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Did You Know? The Difference Between Certified Naturally Grown vs. Organic

As many of you probably know, I’m interested in providing natural treatments and care for myself and the dogs so I often look for organic designated items when shopping. There are some fruits I won’t buy unless they are organic, like raspberries or strawberries. But did you know there are differences in the difference between certified naturally grown versus organic? 

Recently I toured the “Certified Naturally “Grown” Homestead Organics hemp farm, the local producer of Black Dog Botanical CBD oil, which will be offered on our Sam’s K9 Kreations page (despite the ongoing challenges in getting the PayPal plugin to work properly…grr…but I digress). As Gabe, owner of Homestead and Black Dog Botanicals showed me their CNG operation and greenhouse, he explained the differences between certified naturally grown versus organic of which I was unaware.

So what is Certified Naturally Grown (CNG)? It’s a grassroots-led alternative for small-scale farmers who distribute products at local venues like farmers markets, community supported agriculture subscriptions (known as CSA’s), restaurants and grocery stores with local produce initiatives as well as shoppers trying to reduce their environmental impact by choosing locally grown products compared with the USDA’s National Organic Program. With CNG, farmers audit one another for sustainable practices.  Certified Naturally Grown is neither costly nor overburdened with bureaucracy which permits small farmers to devote their energies to farming, rather than to proving themselves to strangers via a mountain of forms. Using a “participatory guarantee system” model where inspections are typically carried out by other farmers, ensures a sharing and community approach to CNG standards. [Source: Naturallygrown.org]

Though a Certified Naturally Grown farm leaves less of a paper trail than a Certified Organic one, all CNG records are openly available online. Growers clearly state their growing practices and attest they have abided by all of the CNG regulations (which are essentially the same as certified organic).  So what’s the difference? Besides price and time, the auditors are other farmers and are allowed offer advice as they walk the fields, talk to the grower, and evaluate the farm (USDA verifiers, on the other hand, are not allowed to offer any suggestions during an audit). To avoid conflict of interest problems, you are not allowed to audit the farmer who audited you. In addition, every year, CNG randomly selects farms for pesticide residue testing, at no cost to the farmer. [Source: Organic Authority]

Organic farming works in harmony with nature rather than against it. This involves using a variety of techniques to achieve good crop yields without harming the natural environment or the people who live and work in it (i.e. recycled and composted crop wastes and animal manures, proper soil cultivation at the right time, crop rotation, use of green manures and legumes, mulching, controlling pests, diseases and weeds without chemicals and careful use of water resources).

Many large farms seek the USDA organic certification status as a savvy and ethical business move. However, it’s not enough to simply claim “organic.” You must make sure that your product carries the certified USDA Organic Seal.

The USDA National Organic Standard Seal not only shows your ongoing commitment to a healthy planet but assures consumers and buyers that your product meets stringent USDA organic certification requirements making your products more marketable and profitable. The process for obtaining an organic certificate is not an easy one and requires plowing through loads of bureaucracy. The designation doesn’t expire unless you voluntary surrender your certification or if your certification is suspended or revoked by a certifying agent, the State Organic Program’s governing State official, or the Administrator for violation of the Act or NOP regulations. USDA organic certification is an ongoing process that requires dedication. Getting certified means making a long-term commitment to the organic process and may take years in advance in order to become certified organic ad you must comply years in advance in some cases. National Organic Program standards state that organic crops must be grown on land that has been free from prohibited pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers for three years preceding growth. Becoming certified organic means considering your entire operational procedure, not just the end product. [Source: https://www.thebalancesmb.com]

When shopping at a farmer’s market, grocery store or online, the question to ask is not “Is your product organic?” but “Are you certified naturally grown?” There is a difference that definitely means you’re supporting local farmers which is better for the earth overall.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Did You Know? June 5, 2018 Edition

The Ranch is starting a new periodic feature called “Did You Know?” beginning today. I plan to take various issues or weirdness and share info about it. Today’s entry proved to be a bit of a doozy but one you too may have experienced.

You know that gurgling sound that comes from your dog’s stomach? Did you know it’s got an actual name? “Borborygmi.” Nope, that’s not a typo, borborygmi, pronounced [bawr-buhrig-mahy]. What the dog?! Yeah, I know. I was blown away too. If anyone can explain why science has to get all ‘scientific-y sounding’ with its descriptions, I’d love to hear it. 

Anyway, Sam recently experienced some unusually loud stomach gurgling. I mean REALLY loud. So I did what many fur-mom’s do…I consulted Dr. Google while waiting for the vet to call back. Not one to put blind faith in ‘Net misinformation hyperbole, I figured I’d do a bit of research and the kindly Doc did provide lots of rabbit holes to dive into where I rather quickly found some reliable sources. Dogs, cats and even us uprights experience ‘borborygmi.’

The simple  definition is intestinal agitation caused by moving gas. Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place? So let’s dig a bit deeper into this weird scientific phenomena. So it’s apparently normal for there to be gas in the intestinal tract and it’s also normal for the intestines to engage in motility…the condition whereby intestinal contents move around, thus audible intestinal gurgling is pretty normal.

According to Dogster, “abnormally loud intestinal noises occur when the intestines contain abnormally large quantities of gas, or when the intestines experience abnormally increased activity. Both of these phenomena often occur simultaneously.” Super loud (as in, you can hear it from across the room) is not normal but does not necessarily mean a crisis is brewing. Stomach grumbling may indicate something is off or, your pet could be hungry. Empty intestines in dogs may start to exhibit activity in response to anticipated feeding, thus the audible intestinal noises, or “tummy grumbling” may occur. Serving a meal usually takes care of that since the intestines of hungry animals do not contain significant quantities of food and thus have a higher ratio of gas to solids. Okay,so far  this sounds legit.

In Sam’s case, he acted normal (well, as normal as he is capable of acting). He displayed no other symptoms indicating there was a problem (i.e. lethargy, fever, stuff like that). But then he began experiencing some diarrhea. Not good but I figured a couple of days of bland rice and pumpkin meals should clear up the upset. Sadly, it didn’t clear up and I feared dehydration so off to the vet we went.

I wasn’t able to get into my regular TV star vet any time soon but they were able to refer me to another clinic close by. They asked whether Sam “had perhaps partaken in some sort of digestion indiscretion” (a diplomatic way of saying your dog may have gotten into the trash or had eaten some novel food or worse…goose poop…really? who admits to that). Nope, nothing like that had occurred, so they decided Sam was suffering from a minor gastro-bug after ruling out intestinal parasites, IBD, or foreign bodies (which would be Elsa’s speciality).

Long story short (ironic since we’re probably 600+ words in but I digress)…a couple of doses of Metronidazole for inflammation and an antibiotic for the bug, brought Sam back to normal poops while simultaneously clearing up those loud gurgling sounds. Other than expecting specially prepared meals after recovering (sheesh talk about one spoiled baby), he’s back to his usual knuckleheadedness.

So the next time your pooch’s stomach is gurgling figure out if he’s just hungry or suffering from borborygmi. Your family will think you’re trying to land a fat contract on Animal Planet but if he eats with his normal enthusiasm and the noises stop, the problem is solved. If like Sam it was accompanied with diarrhea, put your TV career on hold and check with your vet to rule out other issues.

I’m better now. So where’s the Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce?

Live, love, bark! 🐾