We’re sharing our Country French-inspired fall home tour today.
Truth be told, I’ve struggled to come up with a theme for this post for weeks now.
I could tell you how much fun it’s been to dive into our Fall Bucket List and sprinkle seasonal bits around the house.
I could share how a French flea market filled with patinaed finds, aged to perfection housewares and linens, or my love of brown and white transferware and the fact I can’t seem to quit the color pink was the catalyst for my Country French-inspired fall home tour.
But those things have already been well documented.
So, I thought I would catch you up and share some encouragement for those of you going through transition and embracing change this season instead.
If you’re new here, we were traveling to the cabin when my baby sister sent us a picture of a white wire-haired Jack Russell terrier who needed a home.
At around 2 years old, her original owner was “not well.”
But we were told she had all her shots, was potty, leash, and crate trained, micro-chipped, fixed, super smart, and cuddly.
She sounds like a dream dog, doesn’t she?
The thing is, after a few days and a trip to the vet, we found out only 2 of those things were actually true.
I can’t say we were completely caught off guard by Piper’s behavior. We’ve had 3 other rescues, 2 of them JRTs.
We know how mischievous they can be and are fully aware of the time and love commitment they need.
Still, there was something about Piper that was just “off” from the very beginning.
For a while, we rationalized and justified her wild lady behavior.
We chalked it up to her breed, previous abuse, needing more time to adjust, not being able to find the right food, exercise, and treat regimen, and not being properly trained or socialized.
When we finally made it to Piper’s one-year adoption birthday, it truly felt like a miracle.
She no longer cowered in the back corner of her crate. We were able to walk her on a leash. She was mostly potty trained and sleeping through the night. She enjoyed puzzles and toys, new food, and treats.
We set up a lead in the front and backyard to give her more supervised independence. She was doing much better in her car seat on trips. She had even allowed several of our service providers, my parents, and sisters to pet her.
We could hold her, give her belly rubs, and kiss her around the face too.
Those things were HUGE for us, and we had a party in her honor.
But Piper continued to struggle nearly every day in some way.
Things ultimately came to a head several months ago, when we were truly at the end of our rope.
I was sitting at our breakfast table eating a hearty bowl of oatmeal when I noticed one of the blueberries was covered in furry mold and I immediately burst into tears.
Under normal circumstances, I would have reminded myself to be more careful and moved on.
In my heart, however, I knew I had missed the moldy blueberry because we couldn’t turn on the kitchen lights.
And we couldn’t turn on the kitchen lights (or really any light save for the bathroom lights) without Piper totally losing it.
I’m talking barking in hysterics, jumping on furniture like a feral cat, running around the house whining, panting, pacing, and racing from the front door to the back door over and over again kind of hysterics.
Honestly, wasn’t just the kitchen lights either.
It’s every appliance, device, and item in our home that reflects light on the ceiling.
The minute she sees it, it takes HOURS to get her calmed down.
To really understand what it’s like, you’d have to imagine cooking meals with only the light from your windows.
Imagine opening the door to a dark refrigerator. Imagine having to ask someone to take your dog outside or in one of the bedrooms so you can vacuum because the LED lights on the vacuum reflect on the ceiling.
Imagine not being able to open the oven door whenever you want, or even the silverware drawer for that matter.
Imagine the light created from daily thunderstorms, your tv, phone, clock, kitchen appliances, and electronic devices around the house that emit a white, green, red, or blue light – even a piece of tinfoil – cause a major, major meltdown.
Can you envision it?
That’s been our reality for a while now.
After the moldy blueberry incident, we started taking videos of Piper’s behavior.
We changed her diet and stopped spending money on the countless over-the-counter remedies like calming chews, hemp oils, humane anti-bark collars, and special toys we’d tried in the past.
Armed with evidence, we walked into the vet’s office, desperate for help.
Within minutes of completing Piper’s exam and listening to the reason for our visit, she said, “Does Piper struggle with loud noises? A raised voice? Thunderstorms? 4th of July?” (YES)
“Is she easily overstimulated by her environment?” (YES) “Does she struggle to readjust after she gets upset for hours?” (YES)
“What about TV? Quick movements? Lights?” (YES, YES, YES) “Does she become aggressive while walking on a leash, in a car, or when she sees another animal?” (TRIPLE YES)
“How is she sleeping?” (She is always on guard and only naps about 30 – 60 minutes a day and sleeps 6 hours at night which we found out is 4 hours less than the recommended average)
At this point, I could no longer hold back the tears. I felt like I was in the principal’s office with a wayward child.
“I understand your tears because I’ve had them myself,” the vet calmly said, “I also have a rescue that suffers from severe anxiety. He doesn’t have OCD in addition to anxiety like Piper has but I promise there’s hope. We’ll help you get a treatment plan together and be with you every step of the way.”
We sat there for a few minutes gathering our composure. The anxiety was not a surprise, but we were blown away by the OCD diagnosis.
So blown away, in fact, we took her to 2 additional veterinarians both of which gave her the same diagnosis.
I had NO IDEA dogs could even suffer from OCD.
Truthfully, there are days we still struggle.
Simply seeing a bee, a lizard, a large crane, or a turtle outside the window can send her into a ferocious fit.
There is not a single set of blinds on any window in our home that doesn’t have chunks taken out of it.
I would trash them all and start over but summers in Florida are no joke.
So, for now, we must keep them.
Thankfully, we’ve installed privacy screens which have been a big help.
Little by little we’ve been treat training Piper so she can get used to having the lights in the common areas of the house on.
Especially, in the kitchen which will be critical when the time changes.
Daylight bulbs have also been a blessing and being strategic about using the oven, vacuuming the floors, and opening the freezer have helped as well.
I’m hopeful we’ll be able to have a light in the refrigerator someday soon too.
We’re no longer able to watch tv on the big screen because it’s just too much for Piper to handle. The sounds, colors, and movements overwhelm her almost immediately.
It’s not a huge loss because we don’t watch a lot of tv anyway.
Still, it took some getting used to.
Because we work from home, we’ve been able to redirect Piper when she’s spending too much time scanning the ceiling before an OCD cycle sets in.
We are hyper-aware of anything big or small that might reflect light on the ceiling and sounds that might overwhelm her.
I’m not going to even sugar coat it, it can be exhausting sometimes.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve shared her story with friends and family and have heard things like…
- “I wouldn’t put up with that!”
- “Why would you let your 10-pound dog basically turn your house into a prison?”
- “She should be rehomed.”
- “Just bring her over to my house and my dogs will teach her how to play. It’s ok if they get into a scuffle that’s how dogs learn.”
- “She should know how to behave by now. You’ve had her over a year.”
- “You should just let her run around the yard and get some energy out so she’ll calm down. Eventually, she’ll come back.”
In my heart, I know these people are well-meaning.
But sometimes when you’re going through it, it makes the questions and comments that much tougher to hear.
Whenever I find myself in a similar situation, I try to stop and think, “Is what I’m about to say kind, encouraging, helpful, or necessary?” because now I know what it feels like.
While we’re only a few months into Piper’s new medication and treatment plan, I can finally see the hard work starting to pay off.
We’ve been diligent about creating a solid daily routine for her which has not always been easy given we work from home.
Sometimes I feel like I have to pivot a hundred times a day. I don’t get nearly as much accomplished as I used to which as a recovering perfectionist has been hard to accept.
The minute I look at her sweet face though, I know the extra effort has absolutely been worth it.
Piper has taught me more about grace and how to love than I could ever repay her or adequately put into words.
We truly treasure her daily.
I think sometimes when we peek inside people’s lives through home tours, blogs, Insta, and other forms of social media, it can be really easy to say, “Wow, they have it all together. I wish I had that too!” or “Everything seems effortless for them. They clearly do not struggle through the messy middle like I do.”
Whether they admit it or not, (let’s face it we all like to put our best foot forward), I don’t know of a single person that hasn’t experienced some sort of loss, time of transition, or been challenged by change over the last few years.
So, as we get ready to welcome the last quarter of the year and celebrate a new season, I want to encourage you to find the hidden gems in each day.
Maybe you’re dealing with a strained relationship, financial difficulties, job or medical stress, an ailing loved one, a troubled teenager, an absent parent, or a cutie pie toddler that catches an epic attitude every time you pass the candy aisle of the grocery store.
Maybe you’re tired of being tired or are constantly overwhelmed by the chaos that seems to creep into daily life.
Perhaps you have something keeping you up at night, or just feel unmotivated in general.
Feel the feelings, and then act.
Taking one small step in the right direction might not feel like enough.
Trust me, it is.
Once you take one small step, you’ll be able to take another, and another, and then another until you’re able to find your way again.
And as you find your way, you’ll clearly be able to see how that period of transition and change was part of your journey all along.
Then one day, when you find yourself faced with the opportunity to encourage someone that’s struggling down a path you’ve already taken, you’ll rise to the occasion and give them your best.
As always, seeking help from a licensed healthcare practitioner and veterinarian is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and those you love.
Don’t wait to speak up.