Have you ever wondered where the phrase ‘sick as a dog’ comes from?
What do you do with the dogs when you’re as sick as one?
Searching the internet for clues, I found many guesses, most unconvincing. From “dogs are always getting sick” (huh?) to “dogs carried the plague” (then why not ‘sick as a rat’?) TheFreeDictionary claims “This simile was first recorded in 1705. Why a dog should be viewed as particularly sick remains unclear.”
That’s what I was still wondering.
Then I stumbled upon a compelling explanation in an Oxford English Dictionary article that tracks the evolution of our (human) relationship with dogs as it is reflected by the use of the word ‘dog’ in (European) language. Long story short: before the 18th century, a dog’s life was really tough. Dogs were usually spoken of in context of misery. And if a dog was sick, it was pretty dang miserable. Ergo, if you’re ‘sick as a dog’ then you’re pretty dang sick and miserable.
Luckily for all of us, dogs started being considered as pets around the mid-1700’s and more so in the 19th and 20th centuries. During those times, ‘dog’ went from being referred to in a miserable context to one of caring and comfort.
Walking Dogs When You’re ‘Sick as a Dog’?
In any case, I’ve been ‘sick as a dog’ lately. There’s a bad case of a head-chest cold going around and it lasts multiple weeks. And I got it.
Dogs seem pretty good at masking their woes, but I’m not. I wallow in it, moaning and groaning and generally feeling sorry for myself.
I also felt sorry for my puppers because I couldn’t take them on their normal walks. They need daily walks for exercise and mental stimulation. Regardless of weather. Regardless of me.
But what can I do if I can’t walk my dogs?
The first day without a proper walk was OK. They played together outside in the yard, chasing birds from trees and school kids walking by the yard. I played tug-of-war with them from the couch, and hid treats around the house for stimulation. But that wasn’t enough for what turned out to be 12 days of not being able to walk far without hacking up my lungs.
So we took car rides, to yet undiscovered little corners of our county. We’d stop and open the windows near ponds sporting ducks (best thing ever!) And by fields of cows with their calves. Beaches with rolling tides. Kids at playgrounds. We became pretty good stalkers of life. I’d manage to stop and walk them around for just a few minutes before having to sit back down in the warm, dry car. By the time we got home they seemed tired enough to make me think it did some good.
In any case, a car ride is no substitute for a good long dog walk. But when sick as a dog, it’s a stimulating distraction and good enough.