The novelty of summer is long gone…and the sunburns are no longer funny.  It’s still hot outside in a manner that resembles a wool blanket…and the pool water has the feel of bath water.  Football is underway but they’re still playing games that mean nothing.  August this year gives us five weekends…and the local baseball team is trying to find itself for a September Surge.  Welcome to the Dog Days of Summer…

The Dog Days of Summer originally referred to the hottest days of the year in the Roman Empire, when the dog star Sirius (of the constellation Canus) was in ascension.  The actual dates of the Dog Days has the exactness of college football polling:  July 24 to August 24 in Ancient Rome, July 6-August 17 in The Book of Common Prayer (1522) and July 3-August 11 in the Old Farmer’s Almanac.  So in theory I’m sneaking the Dog Day reference in just before it’s socially unacceptable…thank goodness the white pants I’m wearing are still cool through Labor Day.  Time to celebrate dogs of all types and a Nationals team that may be having its day eventually.

National Nightmare Over– to be able to say that so close to August 9th was something special too.  After losing six straight to NL West contenders San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Nats were able to go 4-2 against bottom-feeders  Colorado and Milwaukee.  While one would have hoped for sweeps in both cases, it was kinda nice to see this team win consecutive games for the first time since July 30th and win back to back series for the first time since June.  Now they have to make up 5 games in the NL East and catch the New York Mets over the next 39 games.  While they play six games against their division foe, the other remaining games are slightly in the Mets favor.  Thirty of the Mets other 33 games are against clubs with losing records…compared to 27 of 33 for the Nats.  The Mets do go on the road more (21 games as opposed to 15 for the Nats) and are ten games under .500 away from Citi Field.  But all the scoreboard watching means nothing if the Nationals can’t take 2 of 3 in each series with the NL’s underbelly…and they probably need a sweep or two in there somewhere.  One nightmare ends, giving way to sleepless nights.

Dynamic Dogs I– I grew up without a dog in the house but my grandparents had a succession of pugs from about 1970 through 2006.  Full line of succession:  Charlie Brown–Samantha–Muffin–Miss Emma–Polly–Nelson–Jetson–Watson (the line lives on with my late uncles kids).  In a manner that was fun at the time (they’ve got two dogs now!) but now kinda uncomfortable (did the aging pug know what was happening when its heir apparent was drafted), each dog coexisted briefly with the next generation (kind of like Cousy playing with Russell who played with Havilicek who played with Cowens who played with Bird) What’s great about pugs is that they’re small and plucky, so kids can deal with them and not be petrified.  Also–if the screen door at the Cape hits them in the face, who’s to know?

Last Week’s Heroes– 2015 has not been kind to Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman.  Both have spent plenty of time on the disabled list;  and when they’ve been healthy each has had stretches of hitting under .200.  Manager Matt Williams’ masterstroke of moving Werth to the leadoff spot jumpstarted what was a stagnant offense (12 runs in the previous 6 games)–as the leftfielder hit. 320 while scoring 5 runs and driving in 3 more from the top of the order.  Zimmerman (still on a pace to drive in 96 runs over 162 games played) hit .261 last week while notching 10 walks.  If both can continue to stir from their summer slumber, this offense could do more than simply wake up before season ends.

Dynamic Dogs II– two other pets from my childhood that bring smiles to my face are Jenny and Phoebe.  My Uncle Jeff’s dog Jenny (a Brittany I believe) had a nice propensity for jumping into marshes and running into skunks.  My Uncle Henry’s dog Phoebe (Doberman Lab mix) would get into scuffles with my Grandmother’s pugs to the amusement of the kids and the horror of the adults.  She also used to chase UPS trucks…to the amusement of Federal Express.

Last Week’s Humbled– rough starts for Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer kept the Nats from sweeping the Rockies and Brewers.  Both have pitched well this year before recent stumbles:  Scherzer was once 10-7 with an ERA amongst the leaders  (he’s 1-3 since the All Star Break with an ERA north of 5) and allowed 3 runs over 6 innings Thursday.  Gio was the Boy of Summer (5-0 with an ERA of 1.47 over 8 summer starts between June 21 and August 10) before posting an 11.73 ERA over his last two outings.  If the Nats are going to catch the Mets (if the NL East leaders go 20-19 they need to play .641 ball), they can’t be relying on a rookie and a guy who’s been on the disabled list twice.

Dynamic Dogs III– they say a dog is a man’s best friend…and two of my good friends have had incredible dogs I’ve had a chance to get to know.  Molly was a golden lab my friend Jim owned…and on multiple times I’d be over at his place only to be assaulted by the dog.  One year they sent me a Christmas card with Molly on the cover–and I only recognized her after holding the card one inch away from my face.  Harley is another friend’s King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Tri-Color that went over and above the call of duty last fall…returning a thrown frisbee to my buddy’s girlfriend.  The frisbee read “Will you marry me?”.  She said yes…and Harley is officially Wing Dog of the Year for 2014.  Harley gets to bring a plus one to the ceremony…

Game to Watch– Tuesday Stephen Strasburg (7-6, 4.22 ERA) pitches against San Diego’s James Shields (9-5, 3.74).  Since coming off the DL, Strasburg has won 2 of 3 starts while posting an ERA of 1.35 and notching 25 strikeouts to 2 walks.  Grab some popcorn…

Dynamic Dogs IV– I have owned three dogs in my life.  Ringo was a dachshund and Martini was a poodle;  sadly both had the staying power of a Kardashian marriage due to allergic reactions.  Reggie was a schnauzer/poodle my wife and I got from a rescue shelter that was fed people food (not by me who was the hard-liner).  Reg was abused by a former owner and was blind in one eye while also having seizures a few times a week.  He couldn’t do a lot but lay down– which was perfect for someone recovering from multiple surgeries.  Reggie’s heart was much larger than his body…and he was a tremendous comfort in a less than ideal time.  Outside of the times he repeatedly relieved himself on the living room rug.

Game to Miss– Thursday Gio Gonzalez tries to turn around what’s been a rough recent run against the Padres Andrew Cashner (who’s had a rough 2015 at 5-12 with an ERA of 4.03.  Take a nice run on the Custis Trail…or visit the Georgetown Waterfront before it becomes too late in the year (the neck-chain wearing posers usually take August off, so you’re safe).  Enjoy the half price oysters at Tony & Joe’s from 4 to 7 pm.