Off Kilter at Our Little House

A sunset over the lake

Finding Balance.

This summer will be remembered for a lot at Our Little House, but the central theme seems to be about finding balance:

In my work, home chores, decluttering, gardening, volunteering and even in my reading.

In the wake of losing Emma, it has also become about finding a balance once again for our two large dogs, Sade and Chloe. In my post a few weeks ago, I asked why children today are bored? There was a good discussion as to why parents might be wary of letting children out to roam and play…it’s a big scary world.

I might now apply that to why my two big dogs are bored.

My good friend, Allie, wrote on her Pet Tips & Tails blog last week about helping her dogs find balance in their lives. She says it is hardest for her to help her dogs with the mental stimulation. I find that I have the same challenge with Molly and Dakota, the two smaller dogs, as people do with dogs in the city or suburbs. They have a routine, they are kept on a leash during scheduled walks and I have to help them find stimulation while they’re in the house.

However, life in the country is different for large dogs. I know people who live in the city or suburbs, or even on those 5 acres plots in the semi-country don’t understand that, dogs of all sizes must be kept in their yards.

I know because before I moved to the country, I didn’t understand how my aunt could let her dogs roam the woods. “They should be allowed to be dogs,” she told me. The wild predators we have here would not generally attack large dogs and we don’t have farmers – or any neighbors for that matter – to worry about.

Large country dogs are generally allowed the freedom to roam the land, to have lives closer to what dog’s lives used to be. It is generally safe, provided their people have assessed the risks, defined the boundaries and found a balance between letting dogs be dogs and our concerns for their safety.

Here at Our Little House, our large dogs could not be contained. Even in the city, Emma would scale a 4 ft. chain link fence if we weren’t keeping a constant eye on her. Her days were spent walking with Molly, Dakota on a leash and then depending on me to provide her mental stimulation the rest of the day. She was happy, but clearly not as satisfied as she was here.

Once we moved, Emma, Sade (who joined us on our move here), Naji and Cain (my aunt’s dogs) weren’t happy unless they were together chasing squirrels, rabbits and armadillos and roaming the 40 acres of woods my family owns, as well as taking swims in the lake. They were scolded if they went too far or stayed out too long and over time, they adhered to our defined boundaries of time and space. They generally stuck to the woods and water in the perimeter around the house, or spent time sunning on the deck.

That was until last week when something or someone tilted the careful balance we had struck with our big dogs.

Since that morning, I haven’t let Chloe and Sade out of my sight for longer than 15 minutes. I make them stay with me during our scheduled walks and if they venture out of sight, I call them back.

Nothing has changed in the balance they found with us, but everything has changed in how I view that balance. I’m as watchful as I was when we first moved here, carefully hovering.

I know that this hyper-fear I’ve developed cannot last forever. The weather will soon cool, foliage will die and leaves will fall, making their chases more enticing and they will no longer be happy 24/7 under our watchful eyes.

For now, though, this is the balance we have to slowly find again – to allow our dogs to be dogs – and let them live the life Emma so loved here.

Are you working on attaining a balance in your own life? How about balance for your pets/kids? How do you accomplish it?

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17 Responses

  1. Kerri, I think I have lost it. So much of my son’s and my stuff I have to sell or send to a thrift store. Everything except what I have a close family attachment for. I need room to breathe. I have to prepare for the fallen leaves.
    I must remember to live one day at a time.

    • kerri says:

      I can see where that would throw everything off kilter for sure, Mary. Maybe a storage unit is in order for some of your son’s things? There’s plenty of them around here!

  2. I’m not a big fan of end of summer / autumn. I always have more worry, more angst this time of year.

    As I mentioned in a private email, an older dog in our community went missing last week too. It sure feels like something is in the air.

    Once again, I am so sorry for your loss and the kilter crashing that came with it.

    Our property is fenced, and we do let the dogs out alone sometimes, but after the rattlesnake scares this summer and with Ginko’s latest knee surgery, our two pups have been pretty cooped up this summer too.

    It is a fine line between giving them freedom and keeping them safe.

    I hope you find your balance again very soon.

  3. mary says:

    For shelving, here’s what I’ve done in the past. (1) drive by any construction site and ask for scraps, often these are big enough to create shelving. (2) if you come across an old, ugly bookshelf, table or dresser(on the side of a road, garage sale,or giveaway), snag it. Take it apart, use the wood for shelving. (3) Our local (not chain) lumber yard has a scraps bin, where odd size lumber is cheap. We found enough to enclose a side porch. (4) ask, ask, ask everyone you know if they are looking to rid themselves of lumber, shelving or bookcases. My pantry in the kitchen is a vinyl covered fake wood bookcase more than 30 years old (cost $25 orig). I renailed everything together and glued the shelves as they needed to take the weight of pantry items, then painted the entire thing white. Nailed molding on the front at top and bottom and voila! Is it my dream pantry? Of course not, but I’m satisfied with it. In my laundry closet, there really wasn’t room for shelving so I use shoe pockets (made to hang on a closet door) and put cleaners, etc. in each pocket. Of course, I don’t know what you’re actually trying to do with your kitchen and pantry, but I decided when we moved into our tiny house that we would buy no furniture to make it work. This has forced me to be creative with what I have.

  4. Heather says:

    So sorry about Emma. How do you mentally stimulate your dogs? My two couch potatoes seem to enjoy sleeping in my office during the day and when my husband comes home they stare him down until he reaches for the treat bowl. But none of that is exactly stimulating.

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you, Heather.
      My dogs spend the day with me in my office too and will be total couch potatoes if I let them. She will tear into a rawhide for the better part of the day. Molly is fairly easy, she will tear into a rawhide and keep at it for the better part of a day. She also loves the kibble ball. When I have a sack of dog food nearly empty, I will also throw that on the floor and let her root around in it. What can I say? She is a Doxie and they would eat until they exploded if we let them. Dakota is a little more challenging. She only likes rawhides if it is started, so I let Molly start one and then I give it to Dakota and give Molly another new one. Dakota is also more into toys, she loves her “bo-bos.” Sometimes, it’s just a matter of me taking a break and playing a good game of “gotcha” with both of them. The big dogs love for me to throw sticks and like bigger bones.

  5. Kathleen Winn says:

    We are in a state of total chaos here. Our big move to a new house is next Monday. The movers will come and load everything, then drive it to the new house on Tuesday. We’ve tried to be careful about labeling boxes and keeping stuff from each room together, however, I foresee lots of tearing into boxes looking for that one important item that can’t be found anywhere. I can’t wait to move and get settled.

    Kerri- once again, I’m so sorry about Emma. I can certainly understand why you’re feeling so protective of your other dogs. They of course must also be feeling the loss of their friend. I hope the cool breezes of Autumn bring healing and restored harmony to your little house.

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, I don’t even want to think about the total chaos of a move, but at least you have movers helping with the chore.
      Thank you, Kathy. I hope we find it soon too. I totally spaced off an assignment Monday evening, forgot I had put two sodas in the freezer yesterday and they exploded and then forgot to put taco chips in Dale’s lunch this morning for his taco salad. I guess now it will just be a spicy salad. I feel like I’m losing it.

  6. Allie Johnson says:

    Kerri,
    Great post. Thanks for the mention and link to mine on K9Cuisine.

    I am all out of balance over here after about three months solid of keeping lost dogs while we tracked down their people and having two foster dogs. Since the last foster dog just went to his new home on Monday, we finally have time to breathe and get back to our routines. But things have really gotten out of hand in the meantime.

    One thing we really let slide was our house. We managed to keep it mostly tidy, but piles of paper and other stuff accumulated, and we didn’t deep clean as much as usual. We decided that we’re going to take a week where we spend the evenings cleaning, focusing each evening on a different room. We’ll purge a lot of clutter that way and get some deep cleaning done, as well as putting the finishing touches on our kitchen and bath remodeling projects that we left not-quite-done. It seems a clean and organized house is a good foundation for balance in other areas of life. (Ie; it’s easier to exercise if your exercise clothes aren’t buried at the bottom of a laundry pile.)

    Anyway, the stuff that we’re going through is so different from what you’re going through, but still had us quite out of whack nonetheless. I’m still thinking about you and your family, and I hope you find a way to get your and your dogs’ balance back, albeit in a different way. Again, I’m so sorry about Emma.

    • Kerri says:

      Thank you, Allie.
      Ah, the clutter. Something we’re always dealing with here. The ironic thing is that I had just decluttered my own papers, deep cleaned the house (that happens when people are coming to stay!) and was finding that balance again when this part of our life was knocked out of sync. I empathize with you, I know that the fostering and returning dogs to their owners also throws the home life out of kilter. You’re on the right track and you’re right, when one area is on track, it’s easier to keep others right. My own slack has maybe cost us big as I learned last night we’ve been using old insurance cards and now the old company is billing us for prescriptions they paid because we used the wrong cards. Argh. I used to be so darned organized with that kind of stuff.
      Good luck and thanks for continuing to think of us.

  7. Alexandra says:

    I worry constantly about my grandkids and the balancing act it will take their parents to maintain balance in their lives …

  8. V Schoenwald says:

    I am also hearing from around town, that everyone else is off-kilter also, must be a August virus going around?

    • Kerri says:

      V, Maybe it’s the alignment of the planets or stars or something, but something is definitely up. Hopefully, someone has some decluttering advice for both of us. With the elder care, the only thing I can suggest is to be kind to yourself and give yourself a rest from it now and again. Do the best you can and know it is the best you can do and that will keep anyone from making you feel guilty.
      Thank you for your kind words of sympathy.

  9. V Schoenwald says:

    First, let me say again, my sorrow for your loss. I would be beside myself. I have 2 feral cats that I have outside here, and I have fits with them being out.
    I am having a balance/de-cluttering thing going on here at my very small place, and I am losing the battle and the war. I am trying to strike this balance, with putting produce up, the domestic diva stuff, and elder parent care, I am, right now having a very difficult time at it. I need to put up shelving that you can put in closets and laundry rooms, but financially, I can’t get that done either, so, I am trying to de-clutter and get rid of things I absolutly do not need to bring balance into my kitchen when I do work, and not try to find things I need on the floor or drag out things to put on the kitchen table where I am also working putting jars, and dehydrating stuff also. It is a mess in a small place with no cupboard space to start with. And the unfortunate thing is, it’s based on fiancial to buy the shelving I need to at least get the kitchen and the laundry done to free up space in other rooms. I think that I will be able to eake out some funds next month to at least get the laundry room done, this would help with the small kitchen appliances I do use, and free up the space. If anyone has ideas, let me know, I’ll sure take em’. I’m thinking of running away at this moment, anyone care to join me?