Spring forward; fall back. Ah, an extra hour of sleep can be a glorious thing.
So, call me a slugabed. Hey, I have an excuse - I have flannel sheets.
Besides, I need my sleep, and sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Just ask a Navy SEAL, or a new mom.
Unfortunately, my dogs apparently did not get the memo I sent them regarding the recent switch from daylight saving time back to standard time.
Walter, Miriam, Shultz and Kevin, our dachshunds, are pre-set at the factory for a 6 a.m. breakfast and 5 p.m. dinner (daylight saving time).
They refuse to reset themselves to the atomic clock and they will not allow a manual override of their preconfigured mealtime settings.
The cats, Wyatt and Virgil, will accept anytime as mealtime, but wholeheartedly agree with the dogs about daylight saving time.
Wyatt: "What's taking them so long? I'm hungry and our bowl's empty."
Virgil: "Why are they still sleeping? You don't think they're dead, do you, 'cause then who's gonna feed us?"
Wyatt: "Hold, on, don't panic listen the big one's snoring. I'll jump on them."
Virgil: "Oh boy! Let ME do it - I'm all limbered up. I've been looking for a good opportunity to do this one move I've been perfecting lately. What do you say?"
Wyatt: "Be my guest. You are the master of the 'vertical splash,' and your 'stinkface' is superb. Those usually get results. If not, we'll get the dogs to chase us downstairs. That never fails."
Indeed. Bleary-eyed, and growling, I am the one standing with the dogs at (now) 5 a.m. waiting for them to grace the world with the contents of their bladders and bowels so we can go inside where it's warm.
Unfortunately, the cold seems to have the effect of tightening all sphincters, which makes our 5 a.m. constitutional much more prolonged and painful than usual, what with the whimpering and violent shivering and such. And the creative cussing. But that's just me.
Sure, the dogs are shivering violently, too, but that doesn't seem to discourage Kevin and Miriam from tracking all the rabbits in the yard and Walter from barking at anyone and their dogs that may be walking in a 2-mile radius of our home.
And then there's Shultz, sniffing every third blade of grass up and down the length of the yard with care and interest before he can perform his "duties" outside. Lord help me when it's raining. It's too painful to discuss.
Point is, like many people, animals prefer a predictable schedule.
One of my clients once said that she felt sometimes like Mr. Rogers - she does the same thing at the same time every day, mostly because her dog insists on it.
If she tries to vary the order of events, her dog becomes agitated and makes it very clear that it is not the way he prefers it.
Interestingly, treatment recommendations for loads of behavior problems involve habituation, aka, making something a habit. This is something we do anyway, perhaps without recognizing it as such.
Example: did you put on deodorant today? Hmm. Did I? Most people have a specific order to their mundane daily tasks. Get up, use the toilet, feed the cat, brush teeth, shower, dress, make coffee, yell at the kids to get a move-on - you get the idea.
If something throws you off in the middle, say, you have to stop and clean up cat vomit, you sometimes forget important stuff.
Interruption of a set routine or changing the order of daily tasks often causes stress, which can have a negative impact on the whole day. Especially if you forgot to put on deodorant.
If you strive to do something at the same time every day, it becomes a habit.
A string of these habitual things done in the same order each day becomes a routine. Our pets know where they fit into this regime, and it gives them comfort. Sticking to a routine can have you suddenly doing things that you may have once thought to be impossible, like housebreaking a dachshund. Habituation is the essence of all good dog training, not to mention the maintenance of people's sanity.
If you insist your dog sits before the leash is snapped on his collar, he will learn to sit. He may be very excited about his walk and have trouble containing his enthusiasm, but he will come to know the drill if you stick with it.
It's the sticking-to-it part of animal training that is the hardest for many people.
With a particularly difficult animal, or a complex task, it is easy to throw in the towel. Wishy-washiness is the killer of effective dog training. This also is true when training kids and husbands, incidentally.
Sticking to a basic daily routine is especially important for pets with some behavioral disorders, such as separation anxiety.
Making life orderly and predictable can relieve mountains of stress for these animals. On the other hand, having a particularly rigid schedule, and then suddenly and significantly varying that schedule can bring about anxiety even in well-adjusted animals.
As an illustration, imagine you are always home by the stroke of 6 p.m. and this goes on for months at a stretch. Then, one day, you are detained at work for an extra two hours. Imagine how upset your loved ones would be if you didn't show up when expected, and they had no idea where you were or when you'd be coming home.
Some people, at the very least, become anxious. Some jump right to calling the police.
Animals with existing anxiety problems tend to panic. Most dogs (being unable to call 911) tend to bark, howl, dig at the door in an attempt to escape their perceived confinement, or chew furniture or other items to alleviate nervous tension.
Here's the thing: when it comes to daily routines and pets, it's important to shoot for the middle.
A too-rigid schedule can cause animals to become very rigid as well, and be intolerant of any change whatsoever. This is a real bummer when, say, free "Cirque du Soliel" tickets (or, for guys like my husband, free ultimate fighting Mixed Martial Arts tickets) are suddenly available.
On the flip side, the absence of any identifiable routine is just as stressful for pets. Not knowing when (or if) you might remember to feed them, walk them or give them attention is far more traumatic to animals than periodic weekends away or setting the clocks back an hour.
Now, I am pretty good at some technical things. I can program a VCR, despite the fact that they are now pretty much obsolete.
I know how to work my DVD player - even hooked it up myself. I can usually resolve minor computer and printing problems if I put my full attention to it. I can even change the paper in the fax machine at work.
The credit card machine requires a PhD in chaos theory, so I haven't mastered that, but then, who has? I can, however, program my microwave adequately without the use of the numeric display, which has been using the Vulcan alphabet for several years, and I never studied Vulcan.
So, will somebody please tell me how to reset my dogs to standard time? These newer models don't come with manuals, and the troubleshooting section of the website is worthless.
Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital.