This Sunday at 2:00 AM here in the US we’ll be moving into that special hell otherwise known as daylight savings time or for those of you who like acronyms, DST. But things will get complicated for those of us trying to figure out the time in Hawaii, most of Arizona and a part of Indiana as those states do not participate in this twice annual nightmare (and I suspect it’s likewise for them trying to figure out what time is it in the DST states). You can call it brilliance or insanity; I just know that Sam’s and my circadian rhythms will be out of kilter for a number of days. And here we were just getting used to actual daylight during our early morning walks. Now it’ll be back to schlepping a hand torch and trying to hold it with thick fat gloves while it is freezing cold, along with the leash and not dropping the house keys in a pile of snow. Along with jacking up my internal clock, Sam’s already ditzy brain will go on full alert loony-bin holiday. When is breakfast again? What time do we go to the hospital? Hey, isn’t it walking time? Aren’t you supposed to be at work now? Why is the sky blue? [ok, so I made that last one up, sue me–see just thinking about one less hour of sleep makes me crabbish and combative] So who concocted this bizarre time continuum twice a year exercise and thought DST would be a good idea nearly a hundred years ago? Turns out maybe some of my relatives-egad!
DST has been around in the US, Canada and many European countries since World War I and was conceived in an effort to conserve fuel necessary for production of electrical power (I had mistakenly thought it was farmers who needed children to help with work around the farm after school). In fact, it was Germany & Austria who began DST on April 30, 1916. Belgium, Denmark France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey and Tasmania, quickly followed with Nova Scotia and Manitoba joining them. Britain joined 3 weeks later on May 21, 1916. In 1917, Australia and Newfoundland began DST. The US didn’t join the festivities until 1918 with the passage of the Act to Preserve Daylight and Provide Standard Time on March 19, 1918 which was observed for 7 months during 1918 & 1919. After the war however, its unpopularity provided the impetus for Congress to repeal it in 1919 and override President Wilson’s veto. DST became a local option with a few states (notably Massachusetts and Rhode Island and a few cities such as NY, Philadelphia and Chicago). During WWII, President Franklin Roosevelt established “War Time” from February 9, 1942 to September 30, 1945. From 1945 to 1966 there was no federal law regarding DST, thereby allowing states and localities to choose when it began and ended-the first mistake in a long line of mistakes on this issue. The resulting confusion to transportation segments of the economy was costly since multiple schedules needed to be published when each state or town began or ended it. President Nixon signed the Emergency Daylight Savings Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973 on January 4, 1974 whereby clocks were set one hour ahead. On October 5, 1974, Congress amended the Act and returned to Standard time on October 27, 1974.
Early on, observance of DST was inconsistent and there was no official agreement as to when clocks would change. Many businesses supported standardization, farmers were opposed to such uniformity and state and local governments were a mixed bag. Transportation and broadcasting industries encouraged standardization but the Interstate Commerce Commission, the national timekeeper, was immobilized and resolution was deadlocked. A transportation industry organization encouraged standardization through the Committee for Time Uniformity who surveyed the nation through telephone operators as to local time observations. The committee sought a supportive story from the New York Times on its front page and having rallied the public’s support, the goal to standardized time was realized once it discovered and revealed that a 35-mile stretch along Route 2 between Moundsville, WV and Steubenville, OH, bus drivers and their passengers endured 7 time changes! I can only imagine the stampede to get onboard with a uniform way to set time at that point. No doubt pitchforks, tar and feathers were involved.
The Uniform Time Act of 1966 was signed into law on April 12, 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson establishing Daylight Savings Time to begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. States could opt out by passing state law. The Uniform Time Act established a pattern across the country and establishing a uniform system for DST (within each time zone) throughout the US and its possessions, exempting only those states whose legislature voted to keep standard time. In 1972, Congress revised the act to provide if a state was in 2 or more time zones, it could exempt the part of the state that was in one time zone while providing that the different time zone portion could observe DST (proving once again that Congress has a long history of screwing things up with legislative meddling). In 1986 the act was further amended to begin on the first Sunday in April and end on the last Sunday of October. The most recent change to the policy was in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 extending DST, beginning in 2007 forward. Circadian hell now begins on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November. Most western European countries begin DST the last Sunday of March and ending on the last Sunday of October. Worldwide observance is all over the map, literally and figuratively so that no one really knows what the hell time it is at any given time or place.
While I can only speak about dogs dealing with DST, I suspect the adjustment period might be equally challenging for cats too. DST can definitely affect all pets, particularly those who are acutely in tune with their owner’s schedules. Routine and consistency are the hallmarks of a dog’s daily life and disruption can be very confusing and/or stressful. Like most living creatures, their internal clocks are tied to natural sunlight though artificial lighting can minimize the effect. ‘Losing’ that one hour of sleep can be most disruptive for feedings. Some proven strategies for dealing with feedings include adjusting schedules in 15-minute increments a few days before DST begins. Another strategy is to not feed or walk dogs at the EXACT same time every day which may help buffer the adjustment period and works well with modern-day hiccups that invariably occur with over regimented schedules. Slight variations keep things a tad unpredictable but easier to handle in the long run. Note to anyone who walks your pets in or near wooded areas, legislation has no effect whatsoever on wildlife so it’s wise to keep aware of their presence in advance on those early morning walks to avoid doing an “stinging eye” Google search on the removal of skunk odor.” Like their human counterparts, dogs may experience a kind of ‘jet lag’ with the artificial change in time that might affect their ability to relieve themselves on the new schedule while they are still working from their internal clocks for several days. Be patient about it and don’t’ punish the dog for accidents—he can’t help it if Congress reset the clocks.
Bottom line, don’t forget to “Spring Forward” this weekend and complain like some of us about what a dumb idea this back and forth artificial time adjustment really is. And while you’re at it, you might as well update the batteries in all the smoke alarms at the same time. 🙂
How does your dog’s react to the advent of DST and how you survive it? What are the differences that any of you cat owners experience and how do you manage it? Is it really possible to ‘manage’ cats?