An interview with Among Animals contributor Sara Dupree (“The Weight of Things Unsaid”)
Q: What was the inspiration for your story?
A: Many of the elements of my story are autobiographical. I lost my sweet, happy dog when he hopped through a hole in the ice at a time in my life I was dealing with several other losses. A few years later, as I was grieving over a miscarriage, my family and I found newly hatched turtles and released them into the river near the place where my dog was swept away. Writing the story was an exploration of how those events could be connected.
Q: “The Weight of Things Unsaid” is a lovely, domestic story in which animal life intertwines with human life in several different aspects. In what ways do you feel these worlds intersect?
A: This is a difficult question for me to answer because I don’t think of the human and animal worlds as being separate from each other. We inhabit the same space—humans are just usually more adept at taking it over—and rely on the same resources. The narrator of my story might be more open than most people to acknowledging the lack of separation by considering how turtles and fish parent and beginning to admit, to herself anyway, the space her dog occupied in her family life.
Q: The narrator mourns the loss of both human and non-human animals in this story—and in fact, she mourns one loss even more than the other, which she feels she must keep to herself. What are you hoping to awaken, inspire, and/or provoke in readers by showing that such losses are felt just as strongly or even more so?
A: The story is an exploration of how those losses are entwined in the narrator’s life. I’ve realized at several points in my life that loving and mourning the loss of non-human animals feels the same to me loving and grieving over humans. For me the intensity of the emotion depends more on the intensity of the connection than the type of species. I suspect this is universal to human and non-humans alike; however, at least among most humans, acknowledging this truth is frowned upon. How many companies offer bereavement leave to their employees for the death of an animal? I hope this story will encourage readers to look their own reactions to love and loss—of humans and non-humans—with greater understanding and compassion.