A Tale Of Two Dogs, Friendship, Heartache, And Co-Regulation

Self-Reg for parents, photo of man and son sitting on the grass together

Let it be over! As many blog readers know, I’m a dog person, and for over 30 years, I’ve always had at least one dog at my house. Usually I’ve had two, and for a small amount of time, I’ve even had three. Dogs, like other pets, truly become part of the family. Back in January, I blogged on my professional blog about my youngest dog, Sammy, being diagnosed with diabetes. She quickly lost her sight, but developed some wonderful strategies to adapt and blossom in her new reality. Unfortunately, a couple of months later, Sammy’s older sister Molly, was also diagnosed with diabetes. Hers was worse, and she had liver and kidney problems in addition to the diabetes. But Molly went on insulin, and I hoped (and prayed) for the best. Both dogs though began to lose large amounts of weight, and while Sammy would happily eat all of the time, Molly became a very reluctant eater. I wanted to believe that the insulin would change their trajectory, but things were not looking good.

Last Friday, Molly refused to eat anything. All she did was sleep. Then she started to vomit. She would drink a little water and vomit. This happened all night long. I knew that she needed to be put down. When she went to the vet on Saturday, a sleeping pill was all it took. She went peacefully, and my family and I spent the weekend grieving.

Because Sammy’s blind, she didn’t know what happened to Molly. There was no doubt that she missed her sister. She would cry if ever in a room alone, and always wanted to stay really close to somebody in the house. Sammy usually loved bones, but turned her head away from them for days. She started to sleep where Molly used to sleep, almost in an attempt to have a little extra connection with the sister that she loved.

Then on Wednesday night, Sammy started vomiting. She would take small sips of water and throw up. Her whole body began to shake, as she experienced mini-seizures. The dog that used to like to eat anything, turned her head at everything. How could this be happening again? On Thursday morning though, I knew that she also needed to be put down, but I had to go to school. I’ve used my two personal days for this year, and I knew that I couldn’t take a day off for this. I also knew that there would be no supply teacher, and a revolving door of educators can be so dysregulating for kids. With all of this in mind, this is what I did.

I share these sad stories here because I think that it was co-regulation that helped me get through this incredibly difficult week.

I work with an amazing teaching partner and friend, Paula, and I quickly texted her about what was happening. I chose to text, as I knew that talking about this would cause me to burst into tears. Spending full days crying seemed unfair to the students, but would also heighten my stress level. Paula did what she always does so wonderfully, and told me that she was there for me in whatever way that I needed her. If I needed to step away for a few minutes, or just be present, but document and engage less, that was okay. Knowing that I had these options, made me feel so much better.

I also told our families about what happened. They were so incredibly wonderful and supportive. Knowing that they understood where I was at right now, reduced a lot of my stress. I could feel confident that I could do what I could do, but also give myself permission to maybe do a little bit less, and that was okay.

I immersed myself in play. I tried to spend as much time as possible just being with the students: listening to what they were sharing, playing along with them, and finding reasons to smile. It wasn’t like I could forget what happened at home, but for pockets of time, I could feel something other than sad.

Molly and Sammy, I will never forget you, but I hope that you are there for each other now, just as you were always there for all of us.

Some weeks are hard. Some are devastating. Some you’re at your best, and some you’re just making it through. How does co-regulation impact on your success at school and in life? This week I needed all of my people and then some, but that extra support made all the difference. Thank you to everyone who reached out this week, and thank you to Stuart Shanker, Susan Hopkins, and The MEHRIT Centre for helping me reflect on what I needed to meet with success on one of the most emotionally draining weeks of my life.

Our Co-Reg Community Facilitator, Aviva Dunsiger has been an active Self-Reg blogger for a number of years. She has taught everything from Kindergarten to Grade 6 and enjoys blogging about her teaching and learning experiences. She blogs professionally on her blog, Living Avivaloca.
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