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Many cultures have historically attached special significance to Sirius, particularly in relation to dogs. Indeed, it is often colloquially called the "Dog Star" as the brightest star of Canis Major, the "Great Dog" constellation. It was also classically depicted as Orion's dog.
The Ancient Greeks also thought that Sirius' emanations could affect dogs adversely, making them behave abnormally in the heat of summer ("Dog Days"--the Romans knew these days as dies caniculares and the star as Canicula, "little dog"). Their excessive panting was thought to place them at risk of desiccation and disease. In extreme cases, a foaming dog may have rabies, which could infect and kill humans who'd been bitten.
Homer, in the Iliad, describes the approach of Achilles toward Troy in those very terms:
Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion's Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity.