Solstice Makes You More Like Your Dog

Honey the Golden Retriever carries a stick.

It’s one of those rare, sunny winter days where the Mom says I’m full of “piss and vinegar.” What do you think she means?

Dogs don’t care that the Maccabees resisted the Greek invasion (although most are fond of latkes). They don’t care about the fat man in the red suit (unless he’s giving out dog treats on picture-taking day).

But they do care about solstice.

And you should too. It makes you more like your dog.

Solstice is Important Everywhere

If you took a list of every commemoration and celebration from around the world and charted them by their dates, you’d find something interesting.

During the summer and winter solstice, you’d see a spike in holidays. You’d also see an uptick around the spring and autumn equinoxes.

Hmmm. What’s happening?

Cultures all around the world have created holidays that coincide with the sun.

It’s getting cold. The nights are longer. What to do? What to do?

How about having a party? Whether it’s called Saturnalia, Yule, or Christmas, humans in most cultures have found a way to make the long nights a bit more fun.

Unfortunately, we’ve become so interested in the traditions we’ve attached to the solar year that we’ve stopped paying attention to the sun.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us. Just like it affects our dogs.

Dogs and Solstice

I see how the sun affects Honey.

As the days grow shorter, she goes to bed earlier and sleeps in longer. On a grey day, she won’t pester me for a walk first thing.

On a rare sunny, winter morning (Ithaca has about as many cloudy days as Seattle, yuck), Honey’s pace and spirits pick up.

During the summer, she’s more active all around.

I’ve noticed similar behaviors with previous dogs, Agatha, Christie, and Shadow.

Most dogs don’t go to work. They don’t attend school. They pay no attention to holidays (except where our behavior affects them).

They’re just free to respond to how the sun makes them feel.

Stonehenge at sunset, near the solstice.

Stonehenge at sunset, near the solstice.

Getting Out of Touch With the Sun

The industrialized world organizes itself around efficiency, not the sun. And certainly not  our bodies.

Even though we might want to sleep more in the winter, our work day still starts at 8 a.m. It’s dark when we return home.

We change the time to create “daylight savings.”

I’ve even looked at my watch and said, “Gee, it’s noon. I guess I should get some lunch” instead of eating when I got hungry. How crazy is that?

Be a Dog For Solstice

Tomorrow is the day I most look forward to. It will be the longest night. And then, the sun will start coming back.

No, I don’t notice right away. But I know something has changed and it’s no longer getting darker and darker.

Our animals respond too, in their bodies.

You can’t hibernate until the days get longer. Or even just sleep in.

You might have baking to do or gifts to wrap that prevent you from going to bed a little early.

But I’d urge you to take a few minutes to sit quietly and watch your animals do the one thing that best responds to the darkness—sleep. And meditate on the sun coming back.

 Happy Solstice, Everyone!

Does the solstice have meaning for you? How about for your animals?

photo credit: Amen-Ra via photopin cc

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  1. I’d never really thought about the solstice and dogs before…And you’re right…I’ve observed the same behavior with Gizmo…He’s much more active on sunny days than cloudy ones, and is content to nap peacefully when it’s grey and rainy

    • I’ve always wanted a life where I could respond more to the conditions around me. I guess that’s one of the things that makes me want to move aboard a sailboat. :)

  2. You’re right, the dogs know they aren’t going out for an evening walk, and they are sleeping more. I’m glad we are on the up swing for longer days.

    • My husband continually threatens to move me South. And, as hard as I find the grey and dark of winter, I can’t imagine life without it. It makes the summer so much more sweet.

      Maybe all I need to do is spend more time napping, like our pups.

      • That’s how I feel about the winter. I lived in Washington state for about 5 years where we had maybe 2 weeks of snow and freezing temps, otherwise winter was pretty much the same as fall and spring. I missed the change in seasons. I missed springtime where I go around the yard checking to see which plants are poking their heads up. While there are times I think I would love to have moderate temps all year, all the snow shoveling and ice chopping, makes me appreciate spring and summer so much more.

  3. Things are different here in the sunbelt, I’ve discovered, since I moved here from NYC. And among the many things I like about Arizona (its crazy politics notwithstanding) is that the state doesn’t go on daylight savings time. So we are really in tune with the direct rhythms of the sun.

    It’s winter here too — it went down into the 30s overnight — but summer is really our winter, the season that’s most extreme and difficult. I having to leave the house early enough — before 6am — so I can walk Frankie before it’s too hot.

    Luckily I discovered I’m a morning person — and now I can get some work done while Frankie sleeps in.

    Happy Solstice to you, too!

    • I could see winter Solstice being a very refreshing time to people who live in the desert.

      And how did your state manage to opt out of DST? Very smart.

      As I was writing, I started wondering about people who live on the equator and don’t experience the large differences in the sun. Does that affect their celebrations?

      Hmm, sounds like I should do some on-site research. :)

  4. It’s a big thing over here knowing we now go forward to the light again (and in Denmark it only darkens 4 PM). Somehow summer solstice surprises me off-guard all the time “What?, getting darker, I just woke up!”. There is only a 1-hour difference with Holland but I never got used to it.
    I noticed on our Norway travels, like you see signs for dentists, laywers and psychologist in Holland, you see equal signs for “Winter depression therapy” in their regions. Light is almost like water and air. Can you imagine sailing on boat that always ventures on the right side of the solstice? :)

  5. Winter solstice has always been an important event for me. I’m a sunshine person and from late September on I have to turn on every light in the house and light candles to function well. I may have been a bear in all my previous lives. My dogs are the same way. Somehow they seem to know when the sun is returning and the world as we love it is coming back to us.

  6. Happy Solstice! I know it effects my chickens. It’s nice, actually, since I have to chaperone their outside time. Standing out in the cold while they scratch isn’t fun, so shorter days make for a little shorter scratch times.

  7. I’m a huge sunshine person so just KNOWING the sun is shining makes me day ever so much better!


    ¸.•*¨*•♪♫♫♪Merry Christmas to you ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥

  8. The Winter Solstice has been my favorite day of the year for a very long time now, because of exactly why you said.

    Consequently the Summer Solstice is my least favorite day of the year. :-)

  9. Rumpy, however, is MORE active in the winter months. Guess it’s the difference in the breeds!

  10. I’ve never taken notice of that before, but I do know how the clock changes affect my animals and I wish they would stop that outdated unnecessary tradition. It messes with both human and dog sleep cycles, and I’m guessing contributes to a lot of our health problems….

    But I’m rambling. And I’ll stop. Instead, I’ll wish you a Happy Solstice and a Happiness in the coming New Year!

  11. I always look forward to the day after solstice when the days start getting longer instead of shorter. I tend to be very affected by the light as well, and on a day with some sun, I really need to get out and enjoy it. Plus, as a person who loves to photograph with natural light, it makes things much easier for me!

  12. I love knowing that we are on the upswing after the winter solstice and moving closer to sunny days. We have already had many long, cold, rainy days – blech! Cali doesn’t sleep in because she is ruled by her inner food clock, and she LOVES the cold weather. She does miss going out and lounging in the back yard! We miss the sun!!

  13. Happy Solstice, into the light again! Darkness at 5PM sucks.