Death Is the Largest Wolf: An Interview With Gracie Preyde
When I was visiting my parents over Easter weekend, I decided to interview our family’s dog Gracie. She’s an Australian shepherd who has been in our family’s employ since 2008. Prior to that, she studied at Harvard University, where she earned a PhD in Organizational Behavior.
Her duties at the Preyde household mostly involve shepherding, though she is also responsible for the continued improvement of our family’s other dog Sophie, who is a brain damaged cuddle bitch.
David: Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me.
Gracie: You asked me to do it, so here I am.
David: Take me through a typical day in your life.
Gracie: Because I do not sleep, the structure of time is cyclical for me, and it is difficult to articulate precisely when one day ends and another begins.
David: You don’t sleep?
Gracie: No, because there are wolves. I have to protect the family at all times, and how could I do that if I slept? It would be totally irresponsible.
David: Okay, so let’s say that your day starts when my mother gets up.
Gracie: I’m lying in the darkness watching her sleep, then she wakes up, and provides me with meat as a reward for my nighttime vigil. The Mistress understands me. She appreciates me. Sophie is also given meat, because even though she does nothing, she must be provided for. Afterward, we are taken hunting. There are many smells. Then we return to the den, where I ensure that the wolves do not come. Periodically someone leaves the den, and I worry about them ceaselessly until they return.
David: It sounds like you do a lot of worrying.
Gracie: There are many things to worry about.
David: What else do you do?
Gracie: There is very little time for other endeavors. I have to watch for wolves, and squirrels, and other beasts, and I think constantly about death. Death is the largest wolf, and the only one that ultimately cannot be fought. When I was in Harvard, I did a lot of reading. Plath, Dostoyevsky and, ironically, Woolf were my favourites.
David: I know you enjoy television, too.
Gracie: The Mistress is under the impression that I enjoy television. She turns it on for Sophie and I when she leaves the den. Sophie cannot understand television, because she has no brain. For the most part, I cannot appreciate television, because I worry so much about what might be happening to my family when they are not with me.
David: You said that for the most part you can’t appreciate T.V. What are the exceptions?
Gracie: Criminal Minds. Law and Order. Zoboomafoo.
David: Would you consider yourself a very family-oriented dog?
Gracie: To paraphrase Coppola, “A dog without her family is nothing.”
David: Tell me about your family.
Gracie: Mr. Preyde is my alpha. He is also the omega. He is the rise and fall of the sun. He does not like me, and feels that he does not need me.
Then there is Mrs Preyde. She feeds us and takes us hunting. She leaves the den less often than the others, which means I have to worry about her less. I rarely see you anymore, Master David, but on a breezy day I can smell what you’re doing and in this way I monitor you.
David: I don’t think that’s possible. I live sixty kilometers away.
Gracie: Last Monday you ate a turkey sandwich for dinner.
David: Holy shit.
Gracie: Then there is Mistress Allison, who belongs to me more than anyone else in our pack. She is the one who initially hired me. Sadly, she has decided that my love is not acceptable. She moved far away, and purchased a feline to replace me.
David: That’s not an accurate interpretation of events.
Gracie: Then there’s Sophie. I am so pleased you decided to give me her as a project, and I enjoy her company, though it is not intellectually stimulating. I have met with mixed success in my attempts to enlighten and improve her. If it wasn’t for me, she would have choked to death on her tongue long ago. But if it wasn’t for her, I would not understand joy on even a theoretical level.
David: What is your chief characteristic?
David: What is your main fault?
Gracie: I wish I was stronger and smarter. I know, I know: PhD from Harvard, I.Q. of 200, but I have not realized my full potential. As a result, my family is vulnerable. This is why Dr. Eleanor died.
[Note: Dr. Eleanor Preyde (1997-2009) was a psychologist/golden retriever employed by our family. She served as Gracie’s mentor from 2008-2009]
David: That wasn’t your fault.
Gracie: Oh, yes it was. I should have been able to sense that she was ill, but I was busy shepherding my humans. If I was a better dog I would have been able to save her. I’m perfectly capable of curing pancreatic cancer in canines, given adequate time and resources, but I was young and weak. Easily distracted. In those days, I still slept.
David: If not yourself, who would you be?
Gracie: Sophie. She has no responsibilities, because she doesn’t even know what a fart is. Her mind is a vacuum, her soul is a butterfly.
David: What is your idea of happiness?
Gracie: My pack together in our den forever. There is nothing else. No places to go, no things to threaten us, and certainly no wolves.