Mothering Through Loss and Finding New Hope

Navigating the unexpected death of our dog

Gail Valker McNulty 🕊️🌱
Human Parts
Published in
4 min readSep 18, 2023

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Charred patterns on redwood stumps near Albert’s resting spot
Author’s photo

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I used to say that I learned to love the day my daughter Evie was placed in my arms, her umbilical cord literally tethering her to me. Her leaving for college in August was yet another right of passage for my heart that has adapted continuously as she and my sons Jack and Henry have grown, relying on my nurturing less and less. The night before she left for the long drive to her new school, I took a photo of her and the boys with Albert, the sweet little dog we had brought home to my house as a puppy ten months after I had moved out of the family home.

Three days later — half an hour after I finished icing Jack’s 16th birthday cake — the boys and I pulled into our drive and saw Albert lying in the road in front of a stopped truck. I picked Albert up and cuddled his warm body. Henry immediately went for a shovel and started digging.

Jack called his dad who helped him and Henry finish the little grave. Henry gathered some of Albert’s favorite things, wrote a letter to him, and brought the green hoodie towel that had dried all three of my babies before being wrapped around Albert each time he came out of the shower with one of us — a little burrito waiting to be set free to run, roll, and shake dry. I wrapped his soft body in the towel and gave him to Henry who held him for a little while before lowering him into his resting place. We all took turns shoveling the dirt to cover him. I took small comfort in the fact that Albert had loved to dig comfy holes for afternoon naps. After placing a log as a temporary marker along with some flowers Jack’s girlfriend had brought over, we called Evie to tell her the sad news. It was difficult for any of us to touch dinner, more less cake, so we postponed Jack’s birthday celebration.

The morning before Albert died, I had journaled about how grateful I was that despite the separation and my many flaws as a mother, everything was going well for our family. Evie seemed excited about college. Jack was looking forward to getting his driver’s license and he and some friends had celebrated his birthday at my place the night before. Henry had enjoyed his first week of middle school.

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Gail Valker McNulty 🕊️🌱
Human Parts

Dreaming of a future where instead of having the right to pursue happiness, people everywhere have enough and live in peace and harmony with Nature.