Jax, Tink and Canine Standard Time
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
Although Daylight Savings Time ended over three weeks ago, for Jackson and Tinkerbell the time change just happened two weeks ago when my husband and I returned home from two weeks out-of-town.
It has not been an easy transition.
To say that Jax and Tink are creatures of habit is a massive understatement. If all watches and clocks were to malfunction from some sort of electrical pulse, we would know when it was 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. each and every day. Jax and Tink would be certain of that.
Our dog sitter who stays with them when we travel takes amazing care of our dogs, but as a college student she has a much different schedule than I do. She is not always able to get meals and potty breaks in at the exact time that the dogs expect them, so their time with her is on a much more random schedule. It is this way every time she watches them, though, and they do not seem to keep her to their schedule the way they do me. In fact since I get an alert to my phone any time someone disarms our security system, I could see that they were not getting her up before 6 a.m. either before or after Daylight Savings Time ended.
As soon as we returned home, both dogs immediately went back on their Daylight Savings Time schedule. No more “we’re living like a college student’s dogs, eating dinner sometime in the evening and being super chilled out about it!” Nope, it was as if they thought, “Momma is home, back to our strict routine!”
Of course since dogs cannot understand our human time keeping and how we could jump forward or fall back in time, to them, this meant that their biological clocks said that 5 a.m. was the time for them to wake me up for their morning potty break and breakfast. And since they start to get excited about this favorite part of their day at least a half an hour to an hour early, this meant that I felt the first cold nose in my face anytime between 4 and 4:30 a.m.
“No, go lay down, it’s not time yet!” I told Jax on our first morning home. He was sitting upright next to the bed like he always does when it’s time to wake me, his face right in front of mine without actually touching me. As he groaned a doggie groan of displeasure, I repeated, “Go lay down, Jax, it’s not time yet!”
We do this a lot, so I picked up my bottle of Lavender oil, opened the lid and wafted it around the air above me, something both dogs have learned means “It’s not time yet, go back to sleep!”
Jax didn’t budge.
He did another groan/whimper and I stuck my head out and kissed his nose. “I’m going to kiss your nose again if you don’t go lay back down,” I told him. He turned his head to the side to avoid me but didn’t move.
At this point Tinkerbell took matters into her own paws. Much less subtle than her big brother, she leapt onto the bed, stood with all four legs straddling me, and began licking my face and pawing at the covers to pull them off of me. When she became so animated (aka crazy) that she began to nibble my chin, I admitted defeat and got up.
We repeated this for the next week, making slight progress toward the 6 a.m. goal. We finally reached that over Thanksgiving weekend, and we are now working on the evening schedule, too. Now, it’s important to know that I know my dogs and the messages they are giving me, and I can tell when they truly need to go outside versus simply wanting me to get up to start our day. They hold their tails differently or run over to the door instead of sitting by the bed and nudging me or licking me. On days when they truly have a pending potty problem, we are up no matter the time on the human clock.
We have a similar struggle in the evening, too. Currently it is 4:18 p.m., so prior to the end of Daylight Savings Time, we would have been a mere 45 minutes away from Puppy Supper. Except now Daylight Savings Time has ended and they are both staring at me from across the room. I could go ahead and feed them now, but to get them to wait until 6 a.m. to wake me up, Puppy Supper cannot be early or the rumbling of empty stomachs gets them moving far earlier in the morning than this human momma is ready.
Part of me has considered going onto what I call Canine Standard Time, aka The Dog Schedule. I’ve thought through all of the things I could get done by getting up at 4 a.m. in a house full of non-morning people. I would have the house entirely to myself. Coffee could be consumed, blogs could be written, social media posts created, all before the girls headed off to school for the day.
Except then I remember that my brain works best in the evening, that midnight blogs are far more frequent than morning blogs in my self-employed world, and I could easily get a role as an extra in The Walking Dead as I shuffle toward the yard to take the dogs outside each day in my under caffeinated state. I am not the type to be productive at 4 in the morning unless perhaps it is because I am still awake from the night before.
As a lifelong dog owner, I have mastered the art of the “second sleep” a very, very long time ago. While I thought this was something only dog owners and parents of young children embraced, it turns out that sleeping in two different time periods was actually the practice of many of our ancestors from around the world many centuries ago. According to an article in Slumberwise, humans went to go to bed for twelve hours, with an initial period of sleep that lasted three to four hours, followed by a few hours of being awake, and then another period of sleep until morning. In an interesting article on Science Alert, the writers make the point that humans might do better resuming this practice.
So what did people do during these hours of awake time? According to both articles, they read, prayed, thought about their dreams or sometimes worked on creating new humans (you know what I mean). This sounds rather familiar, as I often check my social media or my email or watch a bit of TV in the time between Jax and Tink get me up before dawn and when I go back to sleep for a few hours after their bowels and bladders are emptied and their stomachs are full.
Perhaps Jax and Tink are onto something and I should try to truly embrace having sleep broken up into two parts. Perhaps they have some sort of special wisdom and knowledge of better health and a more refreshed body as a result of getting me up only three or four hours after I go to sleep, keeping me awake for an hour, and then letting me go back to sleep for that second time frame. I mean, I do comment on a regular basis that I wished I had their energy, and dogs are known for splitting up their own sleep times. Or perhaps they are hungry Labradors who like to eat and cannot fathom why I am suddenly making them wait when just a few weeks ago I did what they wanted when they wanted. Either way, we will get through the time change adjustment as we get through all things, with patience and training; just in time for the clocks to leap forward again in the spring.