Fall is on its way soon, but the hot days of August are reminding us we are just now leaving the dog days of summer.
“Dog days” are often associated with the hottest days of the year, a time when dogs are lazing around in the hot summer sun, but that isn’t the origin.
The phrase actually comes from one dog, in particular, the big bright dog star, Sirius. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major. Dog days are when he is most prominent in the night sky. In the northern hemisphere, this tends to be early July to mid-August.
As we say goodbye to these summer months and the dog days, here are 15 very random and geeky facts about some super-powered and faithful dogs, including Canis Major.
1. Canis Major and Canis Minor are Orion the Hunters’ two faithful dogs, although Orion himself is most visible in the late fall and winter. There are different stories as to these dogs’ origins, but the Greater Dog (Canis Major) is often associated with “Laelaps,” a very important dog in Greek mythology who at one time even guarded the baby Zeus. Laelaps is known for super speed and agility. Nothing can outrun him.
2. How did Laelaps get in the sky? In some versions, this dog who could catch anything was inherited by the hunter Cephalus. In the hunter’s town of Thebes, a fox so fast it couldn’t be caught was raiding hen houses. Since the dog who could catch anything was set after the fox who couldn’t be caught, Zeus put an end to the problem by turning both Laelaps and the fox into stone and placing the dog in the sky in honor of his super speed.
3. Some say Canis Minor is the speedy fox, but there is also another much sadder story. Canis Minor may have been named “Maera.” Maera belonged to Icarus, who was murdered in a drunken haze by some shepherds. Maera was so saddened by this it went to find Icarus’s daughter and the pair ended their own lives in grief. Maera was placed in the sky in honor of its loyalty, and the small constellation is forever howling in grief. At least it has Laelaps for company. Both dogs can get some exercise, as just under Canis Major’s feet is the constellation Lepus, a rabbit.
4. The dog star, Sirius, was the inspiration for the shape-shifting wizard Sirius Black from the Harry Potter series and his Animangus form, (nicknamed Padfoot) a large black scruffy dog. His dark presence could easily be mistaken for the harbinger of death, a grim, as in the book he is described to be the size of a bear, significantly bigger than the average mutt.
5. A couple of super-powered dogs who seem to be taking a super long time to hit theatres are Krypto the Superdog and Ace the Bat-Hound. This pair will be voiced by Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart respectively in the upcoming computer-animated film DC League of Super-Pets. Originally scheduled for May of 2021, the film has been pushed back a full year to May of 2022. Distributed by Warner Bros, the animation will be done by an appropriately named visual and digital effects studio, Animal Logic.
6. Krypto, Superman’s dog, and is often shown as a plain white dog of no particular breed, likely a Labrador mix. Like Superman, he has super strength, super speed, heat vision, the power of flight, and enhanced intelligence. He made his first appearance in 1955 in Adventure Comics. He has appeared in several comics and cartoon versions, including his own short-lived animated series for the Cartoon Network, Krypto the Superdog.
7. Krypto’s big live-action debut was in the second season of Titans in 2019. He was found by Superboy as a test subject of the evil genetic engineering lab Cadmus Laboratories. This super pet is so powerful, he has to have three different real dogs portray him in the show “Wrigley,” “Digby” and “Lacey.”
8. Fans of the show Smallville could argue a live-action Krypto first appeared ten years earlier in the episode “Krypto.” A teen Lois and Clark find the poor doggy, who was a test subject of Luther Corp. The test temporarily gave the dog superstrength, and Clark at first wanted to name him “Krypto.” He later, at Lois’s urging, named him Shelby.
9. Ace the Bat-Hound also first blasted on the comic book scene in 1955, when he helped Batman and Robin locate his kidnapped owner. Long story short, the dog, a German Shepherd, was given to the Dynamic Duo after the mystery was solved. Since he had a distinct star-shaped marking on his forehead, he needed to protect his identity when fighting crime and was bestowed with his own bat-family-worthy mask.
10. Ace has been depicted by several breeds of dog over the years, but has no natural superpowers, except for one time Bat-Mite temporarily gave him some. Thankfully, being Bruce Wayne’s pet, he has his own set of gadgets that give him super abilities built into his collar, such as a grappling hook and Batarang. He also has a gifted sniffer and high intellect, making him a worthy doggy detective.
11. In the world of Marvel Comics, one of the biggest (literally) super-powered dogs is Lockjaw, the gigantic bulldog belonging to the Royal Family in the Inhumans series. He debuted ten years after the DC doggies, in a Fantastic Four story in 1965, and has the special ability of teleportation up to thousands of miles. He can also trace a scent across different dimensions. Lockjaw even looked cool in the unsuccessful 2017 live-action television adaption of Inhumans. He’s a very big boy, as Marvel fandom wiki estimates he is more than 1,200 pounds and has superstrength allowing him to carry up to 3,600 pounds on his back.
12. Like Krypto in the DC Universe, Lockjaw leads his own set of super-pets, the Pet Avengers, but there is only one other dog in the bunch, Ms. Lion, a fluffy little white dog belonging to Peter Parker’s Aunt May. He has no powers on his own, but due to the power of the Mind Gem (long story), he and all Pet Avengers share a telepathic link.
13. Other than the ability to talk and enjoy copious amounts of food, Hanna-Barbera’s loveable Scooby-Doo isn’t what you would call superpowered. However, Scooby was given Scooby Snacks enhanced with nanotechnology formula in the 2006 Boomerang series Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! that granted him (temporarily) a myriad of powers from invisibility to super strength and speed to turning into a giant blimp.
14. One of Scooby’s dog pals, the robotic Dynomutt the Dog Wonder, does have his share of cyborg powers. He was first created in the mid-’70s for the Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour, and he and hero Blue Falcon were a parody of Batman and Robin. Unlike Robin, Dynomutt’s abilities and gadgets seem to be endless, from limb manipulation to using mental transmitters. Unfortunately, his intellect isn’t endless and he often malfunctions.
15. One super dog whose freedom is very important to comic fans is Marvel’s telepathic Cosmo the Space Dog. Cosmo was inspired by the real-life dog hero used in the Russian space program, Laika. Cosmo was a Soviet test subject who has several very powerful psychic abilities and first appeared in the comic Nova in 2008. He is part of Knowhere’s law enforcement, the Knowhere Corps. He has often teamed up with Guardians of the Galaxy, appearing in both movies, on animated series, and in comics. He has been seen as a prisoner of the Collector, but thankfully always gets free. Most recently, however, he was freed by T’Challa, who became Star-Lord in an alternate universe in the series animated series What If…? and now travels with him.
Of course, we all know that whether or not they can fly, read minds, or have superhuman (or canine) strength, a well-loved dog is still super. If we treat them right, we too can be their heroes.