Man’s—and Woman’s—Best Friend

Zoë Sharp

I’m side-stepping my usual post, yeilding the floor to two others whose voices need to be heard today, both former Murderatos. The first is Ken Bruen, who surely needs no introduction here, and the second is Alafair Burke.

Their words speak for themselves:


Ken Bruen

In Ireland today, doctors are being paid for treating 513 dead patients.

Due to serious flaws in the HSE’s notification system.

In 2010, 5 million was written off by The Health Authority, when they discovered that 20,000 dead Medical card holders had been paid.

How seriously fucked is that?

And we wonder why, after Greece, we are in such serious financial shite?

But lest I begin to grim, we can get back to that later, here is my own grave story.

Last November, the sole remaining member of my family, my brother Declan, was found dead in his flat. His body was lying there for 8 months!

I kid thee not.

Always a very private person, disappearing for months on end was his gig. But he lived in a gated community, surrounded by pubs, his mates and right in the centre of the city.

After I had identified the remains, we had the funeral on a wet bitterly cold late November morning. Just before I was due to hold the rope that would lower the casket, the manager of the cemetery said

‘I need to speak to you urgently.’


I snapped

‘Could it like wait, five minutes?’


He whispered

‘There’s no room for you.’

‘Room, where?’

He indicated the open grave, where five of my family rested, said

‘When Declan goes in, it’s full, there’s no room for you.’

Jesus, how unhealthy did I look?

And I asked

‘Did you have to.. I mean absolutely have to tell me now?’

He was affronted at my tone.

Stalked off.

A metaphor if you will. As there’s been no room for me in my family in life, I was now banned from the grave.

Perfect for a writer.

The ultimate outsider.


I got a new pup.

Cross me bedraggled heart.

Named Polo as the vet said, I swear

‘He’s bi-polar.’

Well, he’s certainly the quietest dog I’ve ever had. Zen in his stillness. Maybe he’s read my recent reviews and feels silence is best. I, after all, dish out the grub.

So you know!

I remain convinced that one of the best treatments for depression is a dog. Very hard to be wallowing in the deep when a little pup is gazing at you in love and wonder.

And he’s funny.


Steals the case of my glasses, hides it, then looks like

‘Who me?’


To write for Murderati was one of the great joys



Of my career.




Pari and JT

Alexandra and Zoe

and now new Murderati friends

Gar and Stephen and David


The crew of Murderati are just the very best I know. To be allowed to check in at odd moments is just bliss. To writer belong. Since I gave up cigs, I’ve become a gobshite.

Truth to sadly tell.

I started cycling, 20 miles every day, and worse, cut out brews since my trip to New York in December.

(Note to cemetery manager.)

I said to Reed, next

‘I’ll be writing cat mysteries.’

(Maybe a Zen bi-polar canine sidekick?, you think?)

Reed in his inimitable fashion, emailed back


Flash fiction par excellence.

Read Craig’s El Gavilian

And the new Jason Starr.


David Corbett continues to hugely entertain on the poetic nuances. I’m re-reading The Book Thief for the sheer joy and it reminds me of David in the best way.

I’m readying me own self for The German tour.

Sounds …posh………….The German tour

As opposed


Poor tour I guess.

The Germans have discovered my role as a dead Viking in the worst movie ever made

‘Alfred The Great.’

Which dovetails nicely


(always wanted to seem literary and dovetail)

My most recent news.

A role as an English professor in a new Irish –German TV series.

And my preparation?

Grow a beard.

And I suppose, act literary.

I’ve been doing serious and intense me whole befuddled life so that’s a give.


The pup seems bemused by this new me, and barks when I rough house in the garden with him and won’t

No way

Bring back the old ball he used to love a month ago.

Not a grave matter you might think but in the world of pups



The second voice is Alafair Burke, whose French Bulldog, The Duffer, has been such a significant part of her life—and her posts during her time on Murderati.


Saying Goodbye to the Duffer

Wed, Mar 21, 2012

Alafair Burke

On Halloween in 2005, I walked into a pet store in the West Village, saw a black and white French bulldog puppy, and fell in love. I knew it was an irresponsible move. Bad lineage. Puppy mills. Imported.  All of that.

But I’d already looked into the piercing eyes beneath that furrowed brow and knew he and I were connected. My husband wasn’t my husband yet. We lived together. We knew we’d get married, but hadn’t bothered to set a date. Then we had this puppy, and somehow we were a family. We got married two months later on New Year’s Eve.

I wanted to name the boy Stacy Keach. There was an obvious resemblance, and the idea of a dog named Stacy Keach (not Stacy, not Keach. Stacy Keach.) made me laugh. The soon to be husband didn’t get it. Fine, I said. Come up with something better.

Duffer. Like a bad golfer. Like Duff Man from the Simpsons. And it kind of sounded like Puppy, which is what we’d been calling Puppy for nearly a week.

But not Duffer. THE Duffer. He was special, after all.

The hardest part of loving The Duffer was knowing that, despite my crazy, unprecendented connection to him, he wasn’t really human. Absent some tragedy on my end, he’d have to go first.

This week, the day I’ve feared at some level since Halloween of 2005 came. Sooner than I expected, but as late as we could hope under the circumstances. Th- I’e Duffer had a brain tumor. He got radiation last fall. He lived five extra, happy (extra-happy) months. We found out this week there were no more good days to be had.

As a good friend just wrote to me, “They live on in our hearts. He was a lovely little guy and he had a great life, and he was loved and cared for at the end. We should be so lucky.”

I will miss the Duffer, but find comfort in knowing that he never missed a thing. Thank you for letting me share him with you.


Our hearts go out to both Ken and Alafair. ZS




13 thoughts on “Man’s—and Woman’s—Best Friend

  1. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Zoe – thank you for bringing us both these stories. One thing about Murderati is that it's a family, and it's a continuum.
    Ken – it's wonderful hearing your voice again, reading the poetry in your words. I'm sorry to hear about Declan. The news left me in a state of shock. But your reaction to it reminded me of what art should be – reflection, interpretation, a search for meaning. Thank you for sharing it with your long-time friends at Murderati.
    Alafair – I read about Duffer on Facebook yesterday and it tore my heart out. I'm so sorry for your loss; our loss.

  2. David Corbett

    Fir Ken, with kind warm thoughts upon the loss of your brother:

    When I play on my fiddle in Dooney,
    Folk dance like a wave of the sea;
    My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,
    My brother in Mocharabuiee.

    I passed my brother and cousin:
    They read in their books of prayer;
    I read in the book of songs
    I bought at the Sligo fair.

    When we come to the end of time
    To Peter sitting in state,
    He will smile on the three old spirits,
    But call me first through the gate;

    For the good are always the merry,
    Save by an evil chance,
    And the merry love the fiddle,
    And the merry love to dance:

    And when the folk there spy me,
    They will all come up to me,
    With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’
    And dance like a wave of the sea.

    “The Fiddler of Dooney,” by William Butler Yeats

  3. David Corbett

    For Alafair, wishing you an easier time of it than I know you'll have:

    I’ve changed my ways a little; I cannot now run with you
    in the evenings along the shore, except in a kind of dream;
    and you, if you dream a moment, you see me there.

    So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
    where I used to scratch to go out or in, and you’d soon open;
    leave on the kitchen floor the marks of my drinking-pan.

    I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do on the warm stone,
    nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the nights through I lie alone.

    But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet outside your window
    where firelight so often plays, and where you sit to read
    – and I fear often grieving for me– every night your lamplight lies on my

    You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard to think of you ever dying.
    A little dog would get tired, living so long.
    I hope that when you are lying under the ground like me
    your lives will appear as good and joyful as mine.
    No, dears, that’s too much hope:
    You are not so well cared for as I have been.
    And never have known the passionate undivided fidelities that I knew.
    Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided…
    But to me you were true.

    You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
    I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
    To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
    I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.

    The House Dog’s Grave
    Robinson Jeffers

  4. Louise Ure

    Ken, my heart breaks with Declan's story. And rises again with Polo. Can't wait to see you as the Literary Professor.

    Alafair, though I didn't know him, I, too, will miss The Duffer because of all the joy he brought you.

  5. JD Rhoades

    "I remain convinced that one of the best treatments for depression is a dog."

    Absolutely. Not only does that adoring gaze help lift the spirits, if he's anything like Our Fargo, he won't let you lie there and wallow: "Hey! Hey! Get up! Let's get moving! This ball ain't gonna throw itself, pal!"

    Great to see you, Ken. I'm sorry about your brother, but glad to see you're getting healthy. I've been trying to do the same. Maybe it's catching. And even more glad to hear there's no room to bury you, because the world needs you in it.

    Alafair: I'm so sorry, sweetheart. I know how bad that hurts, and what a hole it leaves in your life. Hugs..

  6. Gar Haywood

    Ken: A beautiful post. Effortless (or so it seems) genius. Any time you want my spot at the Murderati bar, just say the word and it's yours.

    Alafair: The Duffer was one lucky fellow. And we were all lucky to know him, even from afar. My prayers go out for you both.

  7. twist

    Ken, what a lovely, sweet-sad post. I miss your voice. BTW, I won't be using the family plot in Cork. You can have my spot if you'd like. There are a lot of story-telling, tough ol' Irishmen there to keep you company.

    Alafair, I'm sorry Duffer is gone. I liked him from afar. Thank you for sharing him with us.

  8. allison davis

    I would have called this column, "Good Dog."

    Not just depression but since I've sworm off husbands and anything resembling such, a dog is definitely in my future for some unconditional love. While I'm in heartbreak avoidance mode, I would still embrace that, in spite of being reminded how hard it is to say goodbye.

    Ken, thanks for coming in and sharing your loss with us, very Irish. I'll have a whiskey tonight (that's what we did at wakes in my family) in Declan's and your honor.

    Alafair, you did so right by the Duffer and he was a very social media dog for sure (and loved it). Rest assured we all had affection for him, and feel the pain of his absence.

  9. KDJames

    Aw hell. Just when you think you've finished crying over your own loss . . .

    Condolences and virtual hugs to both of you. Feeling all sorts of still-raw empathy for any loss, hoping you both will come back and talk to us again in happier times. Your voices are missed, a different kind of loss.

  10. Susan Shea

    Though the topics were sad, and my heart's heavy for you both, having the voices back for Murderati readers was lovely, if only for a day. The lost were so different but loss is something shared. Whomever or whatever we love has changed our lives, and the imprint stays and is as deep as the hole is large.

    Thanks for visiting.

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