Moods (07/11/07)

Dear Zelda,

My wife jumps out of bed in the morning with the roosters. She is smiley, happy and full of energy, even on gray days. Me? It takes several cups of coffee and a lot of quiet before I can even manage a slight smile. It’s not that I’m in a bad mood, it’s that I’m in no mood to be happy at the crack of dawn. Do you have any tips to help me be more of a morning person? Our teenage children refer to me as “Mr. Grumpy.” Help me Zelda.

Grumpy Old Guy

Dear Grumpy,

I like to remind myself that love at first sight doesn’t happen before breakfast, and feeling cheery at daybreak doesn’t happen much either. It’s a shame that early risers have to suffer our sunrise cynicism, but wouldn’t the world be kind of boring if we were all the same? Where sleep is concerned it seems everyone is unique and different. Usually the folks who shine at dawn are dim in the evening, and vice versa. But everyone has to make compromises, particularly in a family, so what can we “night owls” do to help dump our morning grumps?

The root of the problem actually lies in our internal body clock, which is largely determined by our genes. But just because we have a certain genetic predisposition doesn’t mean we can’t effect change through the choices we make. Dr. Michael Smolensky, co-author of The Body Clock Guide to Better Health, says that while a small proportion of us are true “night owls” or early-morning “roosters,” the majority are “hummingbirds,” folks who can usually adapt when they need to. He suggests that to re-set your own internal clock, the best solution is to get yourself going a little earlier in the morning and to make sure you get enough sleep the night before. This may sound either simplistic or crazy, depending on your perspective, but give it a try. If you require half an hour each morning to drink your coffee and get up to speed before you’re sociable, then try waking up half an hour before everyone else does. Get your grump on, and then get over it.

Of course subtracting sleep time in the morning will mean making some adjustments at night to get enough Z’s (though can you ever have enough Z’s?). To help us night owls, Smolensky suggests that we avoid activities that distract or stimulate us like watching the late shows, paying bills, browsing the internet, or viewing scary movies before going to bed. Instead, relax with a good book or a warm bath about ninety minutes before you plan to fall asleep. Also it’s a good idea to avoid caffeine, alcohol, exercise, and bright lights before bed. I’m not sounding like any fun am I? Of course it’s okay to deviate from this bedtime regimen on special occasions, but try your best not to stray from the fixed wakeup time. It’s said that by getting up at the same time for thirty days straight you lock in the habit, and after that you’ll be so conditioned to waking up at the same time that it will be hard to sleep in.

As for the grumpy part, my morning breath and bed-head hair don’t often encourage me to wake with a smile, but when I have something to look forward to I’m more likely to hop out of bed happy. Seriously, I will sleep late unless my owner tells me there is a photo shoot planned in the early morning, in which case I often rise before everyone else. So if you’re going to wake yourself up early, come up with something special to look forward to when the alarm goes off: a frothy hot latte, a run in the park, or a Krispy Kreme donut...whatever makes you happy. If it helps, you can even write it on a sticky note and post it next to your bed just in case you forget in the night.

It’s admirable that you’re trying to change your Grumpy-Old-Guy ways. It isn’t easy to do, but if you follow my advice, stick with it, and take plenty of Vitamin Z, I’m confident you’ll soon be waking with a grin rather than a gripe.
Dear Zelda,

We have been having a heat wave here. My two dogs really don't like the heat at all. It's a good thing that we have air conditioning at our house, but I would like to let them stay outside. I think they get tired of staying inside all the time. What is your advice to keep dogs cool in the "dog days" of summer without moving to the beach?

Panting in Portland

Dear Panting in Portland,

Dog gone it's hot, and in the summer the living isn't always easy for us canines. Actually, the summer heat can be extremely dangerous, especially for those of us with a little extra insulation (I'm not pointing any paws.). So here are a few of my tips for chillin' out on those hot, humid dog days of summer.

My first, and probably most important piece of advice is that when we're outside we should always have cool, clean, refreshing drinking water available. I think a spill-proof bowl is de rigueur if your owner isn't going to be out there with you at all times. The second absolute necessity is shade. Never, never, never leave us without a place that provides all-day shade. It can be a large beach umbrella or an overhang, but it needs to remain shaded even when the sun shifts. And when it's extremely hot, or in the heat of the day, we need to move indoors.

Another trick my owner keeps up her sleeve is that she fills a big plastic bowl, or even an empty 1/2 gallon milk carton, with flavored water. She varies the flavors with a few squeezes of lemon juice or a dash of chicken bouillon. You can be creative here... pomegranate pickle juice or liquor-free margarita mix? Now we're talkin.' She pops the container in the freezer, and when the liquid turns slushy, inserts a sturdy stick in the middle. Think of it as a giant pup-cicle. When Zoe, ZeeZee and I are outside she removes the frozen giant pup-cicle from its container, flips it over and sticks it in the ground. In no time our treat has taken a licking... by us. And since we dogs control our temperature mainly through our tongues, it's a great way for us to beat the heat. Cool, huh?

There are also a variety of products you can find in pet stores, like Fill-n-Freeze bones and Cool-It bandanas. There is even a product called an Outward Hound Hydration System that lets us carry around our own water supply for long walks! And for the really cool canine, there are also Miracool Mats, which you soak in cold water. When we stretch out on them, we're cool and comfy for a long time.

I hope these suggestions are helpful, and that you'll manage to keep your dogs from getting too hot under the collar this summer. When in doubt, be conservative and bring them inside; it's amazing how fast we overheat, particularly when it's scorching outside. But here at Team Zelda we're definitely staying cool, and now you can be too!


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