Country French Inspired Fall Home Tour
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.
I could also share step-by-step details of how to decorate your entry, mantel, and breakfast nook for fall.
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.
Piper is adorably cute! I’m glad she has you to help her get through this.
I really appreciate it, Susan, thank you so much. She’s a handful but definitely a keeper. Hugs, CoCo
Hi Coco, I have just read through this post twice to make sure I took it all in…All I can say is God sent you to Piper, heaven knew she needed someone really special to help her out and through all your struggles you have stayed true to her. Like you said, she has taught you some things also, I don’t know if I could have coped, even after having children with all the drama that comes along, but you must be made for her. Well done, I admire your thoughtfulness. Take care.xx
Thank you for your kind words, Janette, I really appreciate them. Many times I’ve wondered if I have what it takes to give Piper the kind of love and attention she needs. On the days I feel like I don’t know what else to do she makes a tiny bit of progress and it helps to push me forward. One of my girlfriends reminded me the other day that Camilla’s JRT rescues will be in Buckingham Palace and if they can learn how to behave in the palace surely Piper can learn how to behave in this island cottage. Thanks again for all your encouragement, CoCo
I loved this post so much and can so relate. I think I mentioned to you once before that our 14-year-old cat has severe anxiety and OCD. He’s been this way since we rescued him at 6 weeks. He just started eating unsupervised this year, but for 13 years I had to feed him by the spoonful and supervise him. We don’t have the light issues, but any and all noises put him on high alert for days. It’s hard to get him to eat when he is struggling with anxiety and fear. He was super aggressive until this year and would bite us when over stimulated. Our stories are very similar, and I feel your heavy heart. We love our Gabe just like I know you love Piper, but it can be very trying. We have had friends say the same thing—rehoming him has never been an option. I wouldn’t judge anyone else for making that choice, but for us, we just couldn’t. He now has dementia, which is to be expected. Some of his behaviors have slowly disappeared while new ones have appeared–forgets he ate, sleeps too much (which causes more disorientation), needs to be encouraged to drink water. Over the years, we have found that certain interactive toys have helped make him feel more confident, which in turn lessened his anxiety. A structured lifestyle has absolutely helped with keeping him more grounded and less obsessive. Of course, the structured lifestyle has also been a lifesaver now that we’re dealing with his dementia. Thank you for posting this sweet story and reminding all of us that we’re not alone in our challenges and transitions. Hugs to you and Piper.
I so appreciate your kind words, Kim. I know you’ve had a hard time with Gabe too. I told my Mom the other day that if this situation were happening to a human there would be an army of casseroles and offers to help. But that doesn’t happen with animals. It’s like you just have to deal with it the best way you know how with the time and resources you have available. I know you completely understand this sentiment having dealt with Gabe for so long. It just alters your life and your heart in a way that’s hard to express or for others to understand. Both of our other JRTs lived to 17 and 19 and they struggled with dementia at the end as well. While I wouldn’t wish that on any pet owner, it taught me a new level of empathy and compassion for animals and humans. A lesson I don’t think I would have fully appreciated had we not gone through that experience. Hang in there, it sounds like you’re doing all the right things! I know Gabe has lived a better life for having you and your tenderheart to love. You make a difference each and every day. Big hugs, CoCo
I love this story. Our Reeses is afraid of every single noise too.
No not as bad as Piper. We have heard the same statements. We tune them out.
We cherish every second with our pups. They’re our babies and taught us patience and make us laugh everyday.
It’s really hard when they’re afraid of so many different things but you just have to love them through it. I know you guys have gone through a lot of challenges with your pups as well and like you say you have to cherish every minute you have with them because the unconditional love they give back in return is such a gift. Hugs, CoCo
Thank you for sharing your struggles. Piper is so blessed to find patient dog parents to help her through this. I honestly think you’ve accomplished something that few would have the courage & stamina to do. Blessings to you!!
That’s really sweet of you to say, Diana, thank you. I was so worried to publish this post but if we’re struggling I know there has to be someone else out there struggling too. While the struggle can feel isolating at times it always helps to know we’re not alone no matter what we’re going through and to have kind words like yours help to keep us going. Big hugs and thank yous, CoCo
Coco I just want you to know I value your insights and honesty. Loving anything or anyone is hard work and learning to except things they way they really are is sometimes very difficult. You have been thru so much this last year and yet you keep creating beauty and putting yourself out there. I appreciate everything you do along with your wonderful talent. You have a hug coming your way from Omaha.
Thank you for these generous words, Shelley, you have no idea how much I appreciate and needed to hear them today. I think sometimes when we go through things like this it can be really easy to feel like your struggling alone. But as you say, loving anything or anyone is hard work and learning to accept things as they are is sometimes difficult. We’ve just returned home from the cabin where we spent time celebrating a milestone birthday and doing wellness checks on loved ones. The entire time I was there I kept thinking how much easier it would be if we could all stop resisting the inevitable…the difficult conversations, learning how to navigate the aging process, grieving what once was, long-term care, and independence solutions while at the same time learning to accept these life moments with dignity and grace. I’m naturally someone who just wants to fix things but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized more and more learning to accept things as they are and not how we want or wish them to be is an invaluable skill. Sending you big hugs and thank yous from Florida, CoCo PS: I couldn’t find a place to comment on your dresser post but I wanted to let you know it is amazing! You are so talented and I am thrilled you made your dreams come true. It looks so good!
Truly beautiful pictures and so serene based on what you’ve been going through. Such beautiful words of compassion and love. Thanks for a wonderful post showing so much tolerance and giving. What a lucky dog!
You’re making me all kinds of teary today, Robin, thank you for your sweet words. Each morning I can hear Piper going from room to room looking for me. When she finally gets to my office her whole body shakes with excitement and she acts like she’s discovered some kind of hidden treasure. It’s heart-melting fleeting moments and kind encouragement from people like you that keep us going. Sending you big hugs and thank yous, CoCo
Bless you CoCo! I know your puppy feels your love every day, and your whole family’s rewards are immeasurable. Doing what you know is right and loving is the very best way to live your life. Thank you for sharing your struggles, and giving encouragement to all of us in whatever situations we’re in. Love to you my friend!
Thank you so much, Barbara! Piper definitely wants to be a good dog but her little mind and body are always on guard and she just hasn’t figured out to truly settle yet. I know she’ll get there though. We just have to keep loving her through each day. Thankfully, the medication has been a huge help and we’re learning what things trigger her too. I’ve always been a planner so this day-by-day mentality is new for me. She teaches me grace in ways I never thought possible and we love her to pieces. Hugs, CoCo
Hi, Coco—This is a really amazing post—! Photos were beautiful, but the story—is a hard one. As a friend of a gal who works for the ASPCA…I have learned more about animals and their issues. While your pup sounds like an extreme issue…, yes they can be helped. Our throw away society has extended to throwaway animals, kids, apartments, etc. Blessings to you for sticking it out. When you take on a rescue–it should be a long-term responsibility, and not taken lightly. No one would give back a disabled child, or a compromised aging adult, at least we hope so. I’m so glad you have a vet support system. We are too old to take on animals because we may not outlive them. But, I help through other means and help with socializing for my friend’s continual stream of fosters and her own 3 –adoptees. Hugs, Sandi
This gives me so much hope, Sandi, thank you so much for this comment! Piper’s vet originally sent us to the animal behavioral health hospital at the University of Florida but the vet that takes on small animals was out for almost 6 months. It was really hard because we had no idea what to do at first but we knew we had to do something significant. It’s taken a bit of trial and error with her medication management and knowing what kinds of things will set her off but she’s making progress each day. I was so worried to press publish on this post because I would be devastated if someone thought all rescues behaved this way and decided against getting one. Piper is our 4th rescue and even though she came with a lot of extra issues and is a ton of extra work, she truly is a bright spot in our lives and we feel incredibly lucky to have her. It’s super sweet you’re willing to help your friend socialize her animals. Piper is very cautious around most people and socializing her has not been easy. It’s a huge gift that you’re giving both your friend and the animals that you help teach to love and trust and they are lucky to have you. Big hugs and thank you for the encouragement, CoCo
Wow, I can’t believe all you’ve been through. Piper is so lucky to have you. Thanks for sharing this.
She’s a handful but she’s definitely a special little lady and we’re lucky to have her. Hugs, CoCo
Oh Piper! Just reading your post I alternate between feeling exasperated and overwhelmingly sad. The frustration she causes you is clearly an indication of how stressed out she must feel inside. Now that she has found her forever home – she probably feels even more pressure to keep her family protected. Hang in there CoCo! Little Piper is worth it. She thanks you every day. Often, I think we learn more about ourselves from animals than we do from other people.
Also – if it offers you some small measure of comfort – our dog Belle is obsessed with lights and reflections. She has even gone through the screen door “chasing” a light. Oh dear. We still love her. (Although Belle does not have the same level of sensitivity as little Piper)
Thanks so much for your sweet support, Anna! Piper is definitely a handful but she is totally worth all the extra trouble. I think part of it is trying to figure out what things trigger her OCD cycle and how to best manage what she needs. The medication has been a huge help so far! I had no idea dogs could be obsessed with lights and reflections or even have such high anxiety they would go through things like screens, glass doors, and windows but I’m finding it is not uncommon. Thank you for sharing Belle’s struggles too. I wish more people talked about things like this. It helps to know we’re in this together! Big hugs, CoCo
What a gift you have been to Piper! We have rescued several Golden Retrievers through the years. The worst we have had happen is a few pizzas being snatched when we left them unattended and one really fancy to go dessert eaten off the table. Took awhile to know there would ALWAYS be plenty to eat. One of our Goldens hated storms and would alert ahead of time by climbing into our tub. We just let him be. They were a blessing,
Thank you for choosing to rescue Goldens, Rachel! One of my grandparents had a Golden and it was one of the most loving and patient dogs I’ve ever been around. She never snapped or barked when all 8 of us grandkids would try to hug and pet her at the same time. But rather sat there soaking it all in! I never thought about the bathroom being a safe space during storms so I really appreciate you sharing this. We’re expecting storms from Hurricane Ian and the smaller space and lack of windows might help to bring Piper comfort so I’ll give it a go! Big hugs and thank you for your encouraging words, CoCo
Great story Coco. I have a rescue dog and she has so many strange anxieties. She is deathly afraid of plastic bags, men (not my husband), beeping nosies of any kind, and gets so scared when my kids run around and play. She also suffers from extremely bad separation anxiety. But I know the first family that had her could not deal with her and I never gave up working with her and I could not imagine having any other dog at this point. Some of her anxieties are not as bad but its has taken years to get to that point.
Your home looks amazing too by the way. Have a good week.
This gives me so much hope, Meagan! Thank you for sharing how things are going with your rescue too. Piper is our 4th rescue and is probably the hardest dog we’ve ever had. You can tell she definitely wants to be good but it’s like her little mind and body don’t know how to settle down enough to allow her to even rest. The medication has helped so much because at least now she is able to listen to commands and we can work on treat training. I’m excited to know that if we keep working with her like you kept working with your rescue things will get better. We love her to pieces and just want to make sure we’re doing everything possible to help give her a better life. She’s definitely been through enough. Hope your week has been filled with all good things, CoCo