Ollie and his time clock

Like many countries, we here in the UK are still hanging on to the rather pointless tradition of putting the clocks back in October, then restoring them to their original time in the Spring. This annoying custom means that it is now dark by 5 pm, and I have had to scurry around changing all those timers and watches that don’t automatically correct themselves.

Being a dog, you would think that Ollie has no concept of time. I like to think of him ruled by nature, waking at dawn, and sleeping when it is dark. But that is far from the case. He is a dog ruled by habit. So controlled by his personal routine, and inner ‘dog-clock’, that if he had been human, he would undoubtedly be considered to be on the Autistic Spectrum.

He goes out in the garden first thing. After completing his patrols of the fence, and along the side of the garage, he waits at the top of the patio stairs until one of us (usually Julie) appears in the kitchen to let him in through the back door. He then has breakfast, always a twisty chew thing, that he loves to eat at that time. Once that has been devoured, he follows me around the house, or sleeps, until it is almost midday. At that time, I have a sandwich, and give him some of it, usually the crusts. He also has his midday ‘stick’, a corrugated chew that is supposed to be good for dental health. After that, he dozes until he sees me getting ready for the habitual walk at 2 pm.

His dinner is normally around 5.30, and if it is late, he will keep putting his head on my leg to remind me. After we have eaten, between 7-7.30, he gets a medium-sized liver-flavoured chew, strangely called a ‘Wonky-Chomp’. I say strangely, because it isn’t wonky. He does chomp it though. He will then happily settle for the evening, until his late night trip into the garden, close to 11 pm. The final treat of the day is a hard Bonio, a bone-shaped biscuit, which he always crunches with delight. Some time after that, he might take himself off to his bed in the kitchen, and sleep soundly until morning.

The next day, he does it all again; his own version of ‘Groundhog Day’, that seems to make him happy.

For the first three years that we had him, we marvelled at the way he adapted to the clocks going forward or back. Despite losing or gaining an hour the next day, he stuck rigidly to his schedule, not expecting treats or a walk any earlier, and unconcerned if they were later. He still appeared at midday for his stick, even though it would have only been 11 am, the day before.

But for some reason, his clock has been disrupted this year.

When the clocks went back last weekend, I expected him to perform his usual magic trick of not noticing, and carrying on as normal. But at 11 am on the next day, there he was, asking for his treat, convinced it should really be midday. By 1 pm, he was turning in circles, agitating for his walk, sure in his own mind that it was 2 pm already. And he has continued like that all week, determined to keep his routine the same as before the clocks gained that hour. After three years of appearing to be unconcerned, he has changed his tune.

I would love to be able to ask him why.

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51 thoughts on “Ollie and his time clock

  1. Arizona, just a few miles to the east of Las Vegas, keeps the same time year round. Unfortunately, Nevada residents have to deal with daylight saving time. Since Las Vegas is situated on the western edge of the line that divides Mountain Standard Time (MST) from Pacific Standard Time (PST)—if you walk across nearby Hoover Dam, you change time zones!—we get PST’s “sun time,” meaning that we have short evening daylight hours. This means that in winter, it gets dark awfully early (“clock time”).

    Daylight saving time wreaks havoc on our internal clock. We cope with it because we can intellectualize time, but our body definitely resists the change. I’m sure that animals that establish a daily routine (like Ollie) live by their biological clock, and don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand why the clock doesn’t cooperate. In fact, they probably blame people for not being faithful to the routine they’ve set for them. It’s highly doubtful that they understand the function of time measuring instruments. As to why Ollie is sticking to his “sun time” schedule this year after years of adaptation, it’s anyone’s guess. But maybe the daily routine is more ingrained in him now than ever before.

    Our time change occurs at 2 am on November 6th. As to why the government thinks “falling forward” in November is a good thing, I admit to being in the…dark.

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    1. Your US time zones are obviously far more complicated than our simple twice yearly change, David. At least we have the same time, whether in the north of Scotland, or the tip of Cornwall. This wasn’t always the case of course, and used to cause confusion with railway timetables in the 19th century.
      Like you, I am also ‘in the dark’, usually by 5 pm these days…
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. Delightful! I wonder why it’s different this year for him? Fascinating how dogs are so in tune with what’s going on. And it’s interesting how they really do need routine. My dog gets very depressed and anxious if a routine is broken. ‘Groundhog Day’ is a perfect way to describe a dog’s life.. to humans it would be so repetitive and boring. But to them, it’s their most comfortable, happy way of living. Amazing creatures 🙂

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      1. Hahaha I wonder what he wanted at 11am. Sometimes it’s just a bit of attention or to say hi. My dog does thing funny smile when I get home from work.. she runs to the door with her eyes closed, wagging her tail and showing her teeth (it makes her sneeze). I’m almost certain she’s trying to smile because she’s seen us do it when we’re showing affection!

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        1. Many years ago, when I had a large German Shepherd, I was told not to smile or laugh at it, as showing the teeth to a dog is seen as a warning. I didn’t take any notice of that. Ollie has big jowls, so cannot achieve anything resembling a smile. His indication of mood is judged by the curliness of his tail.
          A tight curl means happy, accompanied by fast stumpy wagging.
          An uncurled tail means that he is either unwell, or aware that he has displeased us in some way.
          He probably wanted a dentistick at 11 am. I made him wait until midday though!

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  3. How peculiar! I wonder if this year the weather being milder has had an effect (for sure it seems to have strange effects on plants and other animals). In Spain, they also changed it the same day although I think in the States it’s the weekend. It’s no real advantage. Perhaps we should just adapt some activities to the natural rhythms instead, but the world at large and activities are a bit autistic, really, and have no flexibility inbuilt…

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    1. It may have been the mild weather, Olga. We still have some dozy bees around, as well as the occasional fly. Perhaps animals are confused by the unusual changes in the seasons. I know I am!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  4. I am fortunate. Arizona and Indiana are the two states in the union which don’t comply with the national decision to either “spring forward” or “fall back”. Bear’s routine hasn’t been altered. He gets fewer treats than, Ollie, though. And his morning walk is from 6-7am. He sleeps for the rest of the day. He goes to bed by himself at 7pm in the bedroom and sleeps thru the night.

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    1. Ollie’s four treats a day are not as bad as they sound. The morning one is very small, as he doesn’t like to eat in the morning. The midday one is for his teeth, and only the later two are real treats. His weight has stayed the same for three years, so he isn’t getting fat, and his teeth are good too.
      I wish we didn’t have the time-shift, Cindy. I am envious of that.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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