Grief that first time


Punch and Mum, circa 1960

Sometimes, amongst the flippancy and frivolity, there’s different emotion lurking.

Sacha Black offers prompts weekly at Writespiration

04 - BOX - 036

Punch leading the way out of the box…

This week it is

Write about a nostalgia that hurts in less than 200 words

I’ve written about my dogs in this blog, those who’ve been part of my family recently.


He never tired…

But I haven’t written about my first, bitter loss.


Not like the Archaeologist to be bored… At least the dog is interested

‘Where’s Punch?’
The dog had been ill for weeks, barely able to stand at times, often off his food. But you entered the room and his stub of a tail wagged like Mrs Pritchard’s admonishing finger when my attention wandered. I’d been told a healthy dog had a cold nose; I’d taken to checking. His nose passed.
‘Dad’s taken him outside.’

How long is a moment? How far does disbelief stretch? At what point does a tissue of a hope crease and crumple to reveal a universal truth?
Maybe I’d been lucky to reach a unsullied 14 with no experience of death. Maybe not. I’d no bedrock, no relevant experience – how can any previous experience prepare you for something so visceral? Does losing a second limb hurt less?

05 BOX-024

Not sure how I didn’t lose that arm…

Parents lie; but however consummate their lying they can’t hide their own hurt. It might be in the timbre of their voice, in the shape of their shoulders, in the stiff way they stir something as mundane as porridge.

2014-07-17 17.21.35

This is so staged. I had (have) no idea how to use a plane.

Mum gave away, in the time it took to say those four words that our dog, a constant at my side since I was 3, was dead.
The clock ticked inexorably towards the next death, the shed door shut and dad came in for breakfast.
RIP Punch

04 - BOX - 021

Punchenello Tillingdown, the name on his pedigree certificate – thank you

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in Animals, family, memories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Grief that first time

  1. Very moving portrait of a moment in time, Geoff. I’m not surprised it’s a memory that’s still so fresh. If I’d had a dog when I was 14 it would have half-killed me to lose him. Just a question—and I’m not being flippant, morbid maybe but not flippant—what was your dad doing in the shed?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sacha Black says:

    jesus, I have a lump in my throat. This:

    Parents lie; but however consummate their lying they can’t hide their own hurt. It might be in the timbre of their voice, in the shape of their shoulders, in the stiff way they stir something as mundane as porridge.

    Is SUCH a powerful emotional image.

    Not sure how to collate all this, so I think I will link to it. ❤


  3. Judy Martin says:

    That must have been a horrendous time for you Geoff, especially as you had grown up with Punch at your side.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Allie P. says:

    What an absolutely gorgeous big sweetie. He was so very proud and distinguished looking.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jan says:

    One of my first dogs was a boxer – excellent dogs. 😢


  6. Helen Jones says:

    So sad, Geoff. You conveyed your pain as fresh as though it had happened yesterday. RIP Punch.


  7. merrildsmith says:

    A sad and moving story, Geoff.
    I was just a bit younger, maybe 12?, when our family dog died. Zipper was already a part of our family before I was born and so she had always been a part of my life. That was my first experience with death, too. (My grandmothers had both died when I was very young, but I don’t really remember.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      It’s so difficult to prepare. My two experienced it with an elderly cat. Tough for them to. Remembering Punch I offered them a chance to say a good bye. No idea if that helped at all, I just feel it might have me.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I too remember with raw grief the loss of my first pet – I wonder if it is a universal thing………..

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bittersweet, Geoff. He had a certain noble presence. Those companions are indeed family to us. I’m not surprised at the sorrow still evident in your words. 💔

    Liked by 1 person

  10. M. L. Kappa says:

    I asked for a dog when I was two and my mother told me to wait till I was four, thinking I’d forget. Of course I didn’t and, a promise being a promise, got my dachshund. A few years later he was killed (by a car, I assume, since I never asked). At the time I was told he was sick, ‘in hospital’, until they confessed. Your post brought it all back, Goeff. And the photo of your Mum – the perm, the skirt – just like mine! What a lovely boxer Punch was, btw.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Beautiful tribute to Punch Geoff.. he looks like an amazing dog. We had a boxer in Cape Town and naval families passed him around every two years. He went to a neighbour on our departure but I felt devastated as he had been on the end of my bed for two years. RIP all our faithful fur family members.


  12. Charli Mills says:

    Such a heartbreak, and a poignant look at how well we can read grief in others despite best efforts to deny it. For a time we might not know what it is, but once experienced grief never looses its grip. RIP Punch.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ali Isaac says:

    They really do become part of the family, dont they?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. noelleg44 says:

    This was so moving, Geoff. I often cry when I think of my first dog, whose name was Jeffrey – he was my constant companion, and no dog since has quite measured up.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. davidprosser says:

    Heartbreaking. It’s losing family.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Yvonne says:

    It would be easy to judge your mother for lying, except the way you wrote this makes us (well me) instantly aware of her suffering too, so I feel empathy. That, I think, indicates good writing!

    On a totally different note, when I saw the first photo my first thought was “Why is Geoff wearing a dress/” I’m sure you’ve been told this before, but you look so much like your mother!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Rachel says:

    Wow, this is heavy, but beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Mick Canning says:

    It’s both remarkable and also somehow encouraging that the loss of an animal can hurt almost as much as the loss of a person. I think it says something good about people.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I dread the moment when it comes to me.
    Great emotionally writing, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: Writespiration #82.5 Opening and Closing Lines | Sacha Black

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