The Divinity of Dogs

An Interview with Laura Perkins

by Madeline DeLuca

The impending apocalypse gave me room to explore a more sentimental, tender story of what it means to love someone, how difficult it can be to give and receive love. I was especially interested in the love we think we’re not supposed to feel, a love that feels counter to expectations.

–Laura Perkins

The world is ending in this story, but there is no clear cause or reason. Why did you choose not to make the “reason” obvious?

I thought that giving a direct cause for the end of the world would distract from the emotional core of the story, which, for me, is more about the variety of love we’re offered in life, and what means the most to us in the end. The world ending provided a framework for working through this question, but the actual reason never felt very important. There have been so many imagined ends in fiction that I trust the reader can fill in a reason if they feel like they need one.

The narrator describes Daisy’s love as “the way God is supposed to love us,” and it’s this love that she chooses to bask in during her final moments. Why did you want to explore this devoted, selfless love in this way?

Love is very difficult to write. The impending apocalypse gave me room to explore a more sentimental, tender story of what it means to love someone, how difficult it can be to give and receive love. I was especially interested in the love we think we’re not supposed to feel, a love that feels counter to expectations. That is what the end of the world offers us—that freedom from outside pressure. And I spend a lot of time in general thinking about the ways humans love verses the way animals, like dogs, love. I wasn’t sure how to write it, until I read Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend. That book felt like permission to give it a try.

There are many stories about the end of the world, but this one stood out to us with its focus on love, striving for normalcy, and the need to feel as human as possible. What did you do in preparation to write about the end of the world like this?

I didn’t prepare at all. I almost never do any preparation for short stories. I didn’t even want to write about the end of the world, as I don’t even believe the world will “end” in the way some people expect. I’m hopeful about our future. But, of course, I have been thinking as much as everyone else about the end of everything, especially the last few years. I wondered if people would be secretly a little relieved if it was finally over. That’s where the story started: “What if the world ended, but people were happy about it?” And: “Wouldn’t it be kind of funny if a woman chose to spend the last few days with her dog instead of her boyfriend?” When I was done, I honestly didn’t intend to do anything with this story. I thought it was too squishy, too sentimental. But my husband read it, and he urged me to give it a shot.

In this story, many people are happy that the world is ending, while others want to pretend nothing has changed. Others, like children and pets, have no idea. Can you explain your thought process behind showing us these scattered reactions?

Partly, I wanted to try to show the broadness of the world within the narrow scope of this story, and I wanted to show how alone in the world the narrator feels. She somewhat straddles all these feelings—she’s relieved, but she’s afraid, too. It was also important to me to show a return of love to Daisy, who can’t fully understand what is happening. I didn’t want this story to be about a dog doing all the loving in service of the person, or the view of her to be as a dumb receptacle or avatar for love with no agency or interiority of her own. Everyone at the end must question what they owe to the people (or animals) who matter most to them. The narrator makes the decision to put her own fears aside to try to make Daisy’s last moments as easy as possible. I wanted to show, in their different reactions and Daisy’s limitations, that their relationship is one of mutual care and attention, and that the narrator is deserving of the love Daisy gives her.

Do you have a pet that inspired Daisy?

I do! I adopted a chihuahua eleven years ago through similar circumstances described in the story. His name is Kirby. I remember thinking the one dog I would never want is a chihuahua, but he’s fascinatingly intelligent, loyal, and sweet. Now I love the breed. They’re great dogs—they just need different care than others due to their size. They sort of need someone to stand between them and the rest of the world, which isn’t built for them.

If you knew the world was ending in a few days, what would you do? Who would you see?

I always think I would drive to the ocean, which I’ve never seen in person, but then I might get stuck in traffic when the world ends. How awful would that be? I would probably do nothing, at home, with my pets and my husband. I would have a boring, perfect, lovely last few days.

If you had enough time to read one last book, what would it be?

This is by far the hardest question! I hate having to pick one of anything. I don’t have one favorite book. Maybe All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews.

What are your writing rituals?

I’ve never had many rituals, but one thing I can’t do is write cold. I have to read a little before I start. It puts me in the right headspace, sort of like warm up stretches. I write in the mornings, though not at an impressively early hour. There’s only one goofy thing that I do. I like total silence when I write, and most of the places I’ve lived have been crowded and noisy. A few years ago, I got these noise-canceling headphones, like the kind people wear at shooting ranges to save their ears. I look like I’m trying to fly a helicopter, I’m sure, but they work.

What projects are you working on now?

Mostly writing short stories. I’m also working on a novel, but it’s still in the early stages.

And finally, whose writing inspires you?

There are so many writers I admire. Some of my favorites are Danielle Evans, Carmen Maria Machado, Miriam Toews, Lily King, Samantha Hunt, Louise Erdrich, and Claire Keegan.

By Madeline DeLuca

Madeline DeLuca is fiction co-editor of Mud Season Review. She has her MFA in Fiction Writing and Publishing from Fairfield University. She currently lives in Pennsylvania and works at a bookstore. She loves language, words, and stories—especially strange ones. She has written a novel, poetry, short stories, and essays, and her words can be found in The Portland Review, Causeway Lit, Kalliope, and Hardfreight. She is honored to read your words today.