Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/186

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174
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

SOME SUPERSTITIONS OF HYDROPHOBIA.
By CHARLES P. RUSSELL, M. D.

THE reign of Sirius is over, and the dread of hydrophobia has ceased to agitate the public mind. At this auspicious season of the year we may approach the subject with cool premeditation, and deal with it in our own way. No longer do we regard our canine associates with a sort of indefinable apprehension. Our Spitz "Prince" pursues with savage intent the obnoxious house-fly, without exciting any suspicion of "snapping at imaginary objects in the air." His appetite is capricious, and we merely sympathize with him as a fellow-sufferer from dyspepsia. He bites a part where crawls the occult flea, without having to undergo a critical examination for a "point of injury." He retires in dim seclusion under the sofa, and indulges in reverie—disagreeable reminiscences of the past, grim contemplations of the present, and perhaps gloomy anticipations of the future—without having his moroseness misinterpreted. He becomes uneasy and fidgety, even peevish and ugly at times—what then?—like master like dog, he serves to illustrate our human moods. Occasionally he displays toward us an exaggerated degree of affection almost unaccountable in any Prince of mature age; but this is in the early morning, and the odor of his favorite liver ascends from the kitchen; even his blandishments, alas! are sometimes selfish. He is now permitted to run through the street without a muzzle, and to consort with the οὶ πολλοι—"the great unwashed"—of his tribe; which affiliation he thoroughly enjoys, albeit a dog of most aristocratic pedigree—remembering, possibly, that both his descent and theirs are by many naturalists derived from a common and somewhat disreputable ancestor named Wolf. In fact, the dog-days being past, his follies, his faults, all his vagaries, seem natural as ever. How is it, we now ask ourselves, that this faithful servant and friend should have been under such a cloud during all the bright summer? Why, as Mr. Mayo has remarked, should he be regarded at that particular season as being subject to "a sort of dog-lunacy, having the same relation to Sirius that insanity has to the moon—which, indeed, in another sense, is probably true?" The answer may be found in that peculiarity of human nature which clings fast to traditions and superstitions, and will most probably always do so until man ceases to be human. It is the province of science, however, to battle with these familiar foes, and to at least surround with invincible lines the almost impregnable positions in which Time has intrenched them among the credulous and ignorant.

The mysterious influence of the "dog-days" upon the canine race is an opinion of the greatest antiquity, dating back apparently to Annubis, the dog-form of the Egyptian Apollo, whose appearance in the