Got S.A.D.?

According to the dictionary –

Summer is “a period of fruition, fulfillment, happiness, or beauty.”
Winter is “a period of time characterized by coldness, misery, barrenness, or death.”

Well that pretty much sums it up, don’t you think?

Having lived in this area since I was 2 years old, I’m used to the winter. Not my favorite time of year but it comes with the territory. If you’re going to live in “Chicago,” you’re going to experience winter. Why is this year different? The snow doesn’t stop. The windows seem to rattle a little more with Polar Vortex winds. The streets are a mess and getting into my house should qualify me for an Olympic event. Sure, when the snow first falls it’s pretty; but it turns gray, slushy, packed and cold.

When I was about 19 years, my family decided there was something wrong with me. I needed “help.” I was depressed, tired, withdrew from anything social AND craved comfort foods. I didn’t think I needed “help” but I knew there was something wrong. I participated in a study at University of Chicago and soon put a name to what it was: Seasonal Affective Disorder (otherwise known as SAD).

Over the years I’ve lived with SAD, taking trips to the sun whenever I could. Moving was not an option. Getting Rex helped – he loves the snow SO much I had to take him outside, even if I didn’t want to. “Snowface” (as I affectionately call him) sticks his head into the snow and pops up with a totally white face, a smile and a pink tongue hanging out. It’s pure happiness. I’m so lucky to have him help me through the winter. He doesn’t seem affected by the long winter months and he WON”T let me forget to take him outside. Which makes me doubly lucky, as it turns out that some dogs actually suffer from SAD too.

I started to notice that some dogs have personality changes in the winter just like me. Then I saw a survey by a veterinary clinic (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals). The survey found that 40% of dog owners saw a big downturn in their pet’s moods during the winter months. Half of those surveyed said their dogs slept longer and two in five reported their dogs were less active overall. As to food –one in four of those surveyed reported that their pet’s appetites increased in the winter.

The symptoms are the same in dogs and humans: lethargy, depression, social withdrawal, fatigue and craving for comfort foods. As soon as the weather warms up, and the sun appears, the symptoms disappear.

So, during these LONG winter months, I go on small trips (for which I have a doctor’s prescription), take a whole lot of vitamin D, have special lights in my house AND, most important of all, hang with Rex.

One of the recommendations for dogs that suffer from SAD is to make sure they exercise. And hopefully that’s where we help out. Our staff has a mission: ensure that ALL our guests take part in some of the day’s activities so they get exercise during these long winter months.

Do you suffer from SAD? Does your dog? Is this winter affecting you? What are you doing to get through it? And do we (Rex’s Place) help? The days are getting longer, and a little bit sunnier. As a kid, it was opening day at Wrigley Field that was my indicator that sun was coming soon. It’s 57 days away and I, for one, can’t wait.