Celebrate the Dog Days of Summer

Are you doggone tired of hot weather? Cool down with our August exhibit, which celebrates the history of Worthington's canine friends.

Each summer in July and August, temperatures hit their peak and a lazy dog's life seems an appealing option until cooler weather arrives. Calling these hot days "dog days" originated in ancient Greek and Roman times, when scholars noticed the star Sirius, the dog star, rising with the sun not long after the summer solstice. Although Sirius doesn't rise and set with the sun until mid-August now because of shifts in the sky over time, we still call our hottest days of summer the dog days.

Dogs themselves have been a part of the lives of Worthington residents in all seasons since the early days of its settlement. Canine companions were included in early family portraits and snapshots, just as they are today. The Welling family's 1898 formal portrait includes the family dog, Shep, standing beside the boy on the left side of the picture. The more casual 1910 picture of the Snouffer boys on an Olentangy River fishing expedition shows them accompanied by their trusty companion, Fritz. Dogs appear in many of the pictures taken at the Brown Fruit Farm from the 1920s through the 1950s, including pictures with farm workers, with members of the Brown family and riding along on the "Grasshopper," the stripped-down Model A truck used for orchard work.

The life of a Worthington dog could mean hard work, as seen in the 1977 photo of a dog in the driver's seat of the Worthington Animal Control vehicle and in the 2015 pictures of Shadow the police dog working with Worthington officers. McGruff the Crime Dog has made an appearance at several Worthington Division of Police National Night Out celebrations. You might say these pictures show that some dogs are best friends to Worthington police officers!

Interactions between dogs and the police in Worthington have not always been happy ones, however. Articles in the Worthington News from the mid-1920s through the 1940s describe dogs attacking sheep on local farms and tearing up town gardens, and expound on the problem of "dogs at large" in Worthington. A 1937 editorial by News editor Leonard Insley, who was also the mayor of Worthington at the time, called for residents to chain their dogs or walk them on a leash, noting he'd received many complaints from villagers about loose dogs destroying property, upsetting garbage cans, making paths through lawns and damaging flower beds. A serious concern well into the 20th century was the risk of rabid dogs attacking people and farm animals. As Insley noted, city ordinances did forbid "owners and harborers of dogs to allow them to run at large."

News articles in the 1990s and later detail the use of drug-sniffing dogs in Worthington schools, pilot dog programs, day care for dogs and dogs used for pet therapy among senior citizens.

In 2000, Worthington was host to its first annual Pooch Parade. The parade was sponsored by Worthington coffeehouse Scottie MacBean and organized by its owner Robert Haas. The festivities started with a blessing of the dogs by several religious leaders. Then the dogs, many with hats or costumes and all with their people on leashes, paraded down High Street. There was a "Dine with Your Dog" barbecue in the lot behind Scottie MacBean (no hot dogs were served, but dog treats and veggie burgers were available). Vendors and animal rescue organizations operated booths during the festivities and dogs were available for adoption. The Pooch Parade was a big success with about 800 dogs and 2,500 of their people present in 2000; about 2,250 dogs and 7,000 people participated in the 2001 activities. The annual event was such a local favorite that a square in the first row of the 2003 Worthington Bicentennial legacy quilt depicts the parade.

The Pooch Parade was cancelled in 2006, at least partly because businesses in downtown Worthington complained the Saturday event resulted in fewer customers on the important weekend shopping day. The newly named Pooch Parade and Fido Fest restarted in 2010 under the sponsorship of WOOF, the Worthington Organized Off-Leash Friends. Under WOOF's leadership, the event raised money for an exciting new initiative in Worthington: the Godown Road Dog Park.

The dog park, which opened on July 14, 2012, is a joint venture by WOOF and the cities of Worthington and Columbus. The park comprises 10 acres with a one-acre small-dog area and a 4½ acre large-dog area. Many area dogs and their owners enjoy regular visits to the park for exercise and social contact.

Clearly, dogs, for good or bad, have been a part of Worthington's history and still are important to many residents today. In fact, in Worthington, one might say that the dog days occur not only in summer, but also in fall, winter and spring!