That First Time


There’s a lot of difficult stuff in the news just now and normally I rise above it. But sometimes, amongst the flippancy and frivolity, there’s different emotion lurking and I was drawn to this piece about my first experiences of death and grief from 2016. It involved the family pet Boxer, Punch. He was one of four born to our previous family pet, Rusty. She died shortly after he was born but I was too young at two or three to register it.

04 - BOX - 036

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


But this is about my first, bitter loss, that first hole in one’s heart.


‘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 Prickett’s admonishing finger when my attention wandered in class. 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 conscious 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

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

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. They never found a way to have another dog after that.
RIP Punchinello Tillingdown (his Kennel Club name)

04 - BOX - 021

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. 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 death, family, grief and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to That First Time

  1. joylennick says:

    Grief, for pet or person, can sometimes be too overwhelming to describe. It can be all.encompassing..So sad. x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sadje says:

    I can read the loss in your words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Although the death of a companion is always difficult to bear, that first loss is the worst. Having grown together, shared secrets and tears, worries and fears, there is suddenly a huge hole in your very being!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Darlene says:

    So very sad. This brings to mind the day our Corgie died and how upset my son was. I believe my son was 7 and he´d had the dog for 3 years. He´s lost other pets since then and always takes it so hard, sometimes harder than his children do. But, it doesn´t stop him from getting another after a time. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh bless. They must have minded very much, if they never had another dog.
    I’ve never managed to take on another cat either.
    Do look up Kinky Friedman’s ‘Eulogy for Cuddles’ – beautifully written 5-6 paragraphs (though about a cat).
    Punch has given us readers plenty to smile about, though 🙂 – thank you, Punch!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. willowdot21 says:

    Oh? it hurts so much.💜

    Liked by 1 person

  7. noelleg44 says:

    They all hurt but that first one is the worst. My English setter, Jeffrey, was taken to Boston by my father to be treated for mange. He never came back. Years later, talking about it with a friend, I burst into tears. I’ve never gotten over it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      I can recall, sitting here, a dull afternoon when I was about 9. He was sitting by my side in the garden completely transfixed by something and for the life of me I couldn’t see what it was or shake him from his focus. The grass was long so probably June. Not sure why that one comes back now…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Erika says:

    He was part of your life since you could remember. It is only understandable how deep his loss cut into your young heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      It was the lack of shock, the sort of seeping grief that I don’t think I understood. It would have been better if wailing and gnashing of teeth had been allowed in my house back then, but one just didn’t… bloody English sang froid…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Erika says:

        Oh, I understand!. Grieving with yourself without understanding what you are going through AND not finding some understanding in your house. That’s so hard for a child.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I understand Geoff. I miss all my dogs, Maggie probably the most because she picked me and was my baby. It still hurts, as she was a part of our lives for so long even though we have Maya now. She is not a replacement and has wormed her way into our hearts already after just two weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pam Lazos says:

    This is what I find so difficult. Getting another pet when the ones you had were so near and dear. It took 10 years the first time after a loss. I don’t know that I’ll go round again when we lose the three we have. They are truly family members and irreplaceable. 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  11. That grief is so real. I’ve loved every one of our beloved furry family members and grieved their loss when they passed. This was an excellent read. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Your memory brought up mine. I lost my dad and dog when I was ten. There is always a place in my heart for both of them. Thanks, Geoff.


  13. JT Twissel says:

    I grew up with a boxer too. She passed when I was eighteen and far from home but I could have sworn she appeared in front of me for a brief second while I was walking to classes and I knew she was gone.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. petespringerauthor says:

    The passing of a close friend stays with us forever. We had to put one of our two yellow labs down (cancer) at the start of the pandemic. Since I was born, dogs have always been part of my life, but Jake was the absolute best (and I’ve had quite a few great dogs). He was brilliant and would often use his noggin to figure out a way to get food off the counter, even when it seemed there was no possible way that he could reach it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. All deaths are likely to remind us of earlier ones

    Liked by 1 person

  16. The death of a pet is very hard and memorable, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Widdershins says:

    I too can remember the passing of my first animal companion. We never forget. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

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