Trinity in Remembrance, 1998-2014

The heart is heavy today. 

I had to put down Trinity, my 16-year-old border collie.

Sixteen years to the day I got her, I've realized. 

To celebrate her life, here are a couple of newspaper columns I did over the years - one about her coming into my life, the other just a funny look at what can happen when you live with dogs. 

A Pack Of Three
Since I have oodles of free time and, quite frankly, was getting way too much sleep, I decided to adopt a new puppy from Haven Humane Society about two weeks ago.

Trinity , my new border collie cross, came home March 14 with kennel cough, worms, some sort of parasite -- and a healthy appetite for digging holes and chewing on everything she could get her mouth around. It was everything a very organized, very clean individual, needs in his life.

I'm disheveled and cranky, the house is a wreck, my shoes have departed to the spare bedroom, the cats have moved to a life 5 feet off the floor and my 3-year-old Aussie cross, Scully, looks at me with pleading eyes -- little puppy jaws clamped firmly on her ear -- that scream why, why?

Why? All Trinity has to do is one cute thing and all is forgiven. In the first week, she learned to sit and lay down on command. We're still having some problems with piddling on the floors, but at least she's trainable. And Scully has learned to inflict enough pressure to let Trinity know her place.

We've evolved into a pack. A pack of three. Running buddies to the end.

Puppies are a lot of work, and not a decision to make lightly. For the past six months, I've thought about adding another dog to the clan. I looked at breeds -- Purina has a World Wide Web site ( that allows you to fill out a questionnaire and matches the best dog to your lifestyle -- and settled on a border collie. Nothing really caught my fancy until I went to Haven Humane on my lunch hour.

There she was, an almost pure white puppy with one blue eye and one brown eye. I spent the entire lunch hour playing with her. Then I left. I had to think some more.

Was I ready? Did I have enough time? Enough money?

I decided that if she was still there the next day, I'd take the plunge. She was and it's been a great, if not expensive, addition.

It cost me about $195 to adopt her, get her well and get her fixed. It was another $180 for a kennel, leash, lead, toys, food and rawhide chewies (to curb that teething).

I know I'm just getting started. Puppies need shots, heartworm medication and obedience classes. But there's memories to be made and I'm ready. Befriending Scully taught me that.

I adopted her a month before I moved to Redding and Scully has probably been to more rugged places in the state than some two-legged residents. She's been on snowshoe excursions on the flanks of Mt. Shasta and the ridges of the Latour State Forest; she has scaled the Castle Dome Trail in the Castle Crags Wilderness; chased snakes through the Caribou Wilderness and climbed downed logs (some 20 feet in the air) at Carson-Iceberg Wilderness; she has swam in the pools of Brandy Creek and paddled with me on Whiskeytown Lake; and she's watched from shore as I've chased trout across the north state.

I'll expose Trinity to the same adventures. The first steps begin in late May, when I'll take the dogs up the coast for a week of hiking. That should be a riot.

But we're a pack of three. And the adventures stretch before us like the north state vistas. 

Trinity Creates Her Own Chaos
For those who do not know me well, I tend to create my own chaos; the situations that befall me thus leak onto the people and pets I hold near and dear (though quite unintentionally).

Most of the time, my chaos presents itself as a Series of Unfortunate Incidents -- humorous stumbles that are recounted later in a light and breezy, back-handed manner. Reader's Digest moments.

Like last summer's river-rescue of my 12-year-old dog, Scully, which directly led to her retirement from large-scale outings. Looking back now, the 150-yard swim in the Sacramento River to rescue Scully from being swept all the way to the Delta has taken on the sepia-toned quality of a good yarn.

But sometimes, the bedlam stinks. Literally.

It was 11 p.m. on May 16 and I had found myself without a ride to the Sacramento International Airport. With nine hours to go before I needed to leave -- and I still had to pack for a two-week tour of the Midwest with my dad, his Chrysler and various graduation ceremonies spread from Kansas to Iowa.

Cell phone in play -- and trying to come up with names of people who would actually answer at that time of night -- I had the dogs in the 24-acre field across the street from my house.

Trinity, my 7-year-old border collie, bolted from my side and took off into the darkness in full-on search-and-destroy run.

Somewhere from within the recesses of my brain, a thought screamed out -- from that little piece of medulla oblongata that allowed our caveman ancestors to flee instinctively from predators -- "Skunk!"

"Be here at 7:30 a.m. OK?" I blurted into the phone. "I think Trin just found a skunk."

The striped skunk, common throughout North America, belongs to the family Mephitidae. Skunks are omnivorous, meaning they eat everything from insects and rodents to all manners of vegetation.

But what really sets skunks apart is the two walnut-sized glands near their backsides that can be used to secrete a yellowish oil composed of thiols and thioacetate derivatives -- from several feet away.

By the time I caught up to Trin, she had her face buried in the dirt.

She had been blasted square in the left eye and neck.

The smell made me gag.

I dumped her in the shower, turned on the water, soaped her up with Dawn dishwashing liquid and hurried to the store for the only viable solution I know will oxidize the thiols -- and lessen the stink.

The formula is thus: one quart fresh hydrogen peroxide, a quarter cup of baking soda and a teaspoon of Dawn dishwashing liquid. Mix well _ it'll foam up so you have to use it all -- and spread liberally to the affected area, being careful not to get it into the dog's eyes. Let it sit for five minutes, then rinse. Repeat as necessary (and you will repeat).

Anything you might wear while doing this will find its way to the trash. Trust me on this one.

And that's why, at 1 a.m. and again at 3:30 a.m. on May 17, I stood in my front yard, buck-nekked but for a pair of rubber gloves, spraying Trin off with the hose.

Thank goodness for the cover of darkness -- and a very quiet neighborhood.

That's a scene that's just way too hard to explain to the casual passerby. 

Troublemaker drops Sept. 23


SHERIDAN, Wyo. – Thom Gabrukiewicz’s first collection of flash fiction, Troublemaker, will be released on Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and iBooks on Sept. 23, 2013.

Troublemaker contains 30 flash fiction pieces Gabrukiewicz has written over the past eight years. The titles shift from light and whimsical to maliciously dark.

What is flash fiction exactly? That's hard to pin down, since opinions vary. Most flash fiction writers agree that the genre is brevity in action, a story that has been whittled down to its essence whilst remaining a complete story, with plot, narrative, character/s, conflict, and resolution.

In Troublemaker, the stories range anywhere from 300 to 2,000 words, meaning readers can consume a little or a lot at one sitting.

Thom Gabrukiewicz is both a communicator and a writer of flash fiction. Most of what he writes is kind of dark, with occasional forays into the light. He’s a winner of some awards and has covered two Winter Olympics for Scripps Howard News Service. He’s also written a guidebook about hiking with dogs. He’s worked in newsrooms across the U.S., most recently in Sioux Falls, S.D. and Redding, Calif. He currently lives and works in the wilds of Wyoming.

For more information, contact:

Thom Gabrukiewicz

3WW, "A Gross of Envy"

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are disgust, pout and wad. 

A Gross of Envy
He sat and watched the couple in a mix of outward disgust and regret, through his car windshield and the dust-caked windows of the convenience store.

He turned up the knob of the air conditioner, loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of the once-crisp oxford shirt, which had grown limp and somewhat dampish in the Texas heat.

His eyes never left the couple.

She sat with her back turned three-quarters to the window, a plump woman with pouty shoulders and hair the color of a mouse turd that she tied up into a ponytail. She wore a surgical scrub top the color of bubblegum. She laughed easily at the man’s stories, and each time she heard something particularly funny, her shoulders would wobble.

The man was huge, and not in a pleasing way. All rounded edges, lumps and bumps. He wore a white V-neck T-shirt under thin leather suspenders; a tuft of course chest hair protruded from the V, like a weed that sprouts from a crack in the concrete. His jowls shook when he talked, as did his supple man-tits.

He talked. A lot.

Her shoulders trembled in quick response.

He stretched tanned, manicured fingers upward from the leather-covered steering wheel and watched the scene unfold through the dual panes of glass. An uneasiness hung in his belly, but he couldn’t turn away.

The behemoth masticated on a burrito the store sold in a heated case near the do-it-yourself coffee and soda machines. The woman worked on a foot-long hotdog with the works, chunks of white onion falling like hail onto the red Formica tabletop in the store’s excuse for a dining room.

His mobile rang. Her favorite song. He sucked air into his lungs through his nose, one long hissing intake.


“It’s 7:30, where the fuck are you? We have a house full of people.”

“Getting ice, as you requested. Do we need one bag or two?”

“Jesus Christ. Three, I told you, three bags of ice. And hurry it up, would you? You’re seriously pissing me off.”

The screen went dark and he tossed the mobile haphazardly onto the black leather passenger seat and wove his fingers around the steering wheel and shook.

Yet his eyes never left the couple.

The hulk was nearing the terminus of another story, the pudgy fingers of his left hand making a point as the right held what was left of the burrito. Her shoulders vibrated uncontrollably.

And in an instant, he snatched a wadded ball of paper napkins from the tabletop and dabbed at the woman’s mouth before he planted a wet and sumptuous kiss upon her lips. She put both her hands around his massive head and massaged the buzz cut stubble.

Their embrace finally broke, and they quivered into more laughter.

And through two panes of glass and the oppressive Texas heat, he dabbed at his watery eyes with the corner of his silk tie, envious.


Coming soon to an e-reader near you, my first collection of flash fiction. "Troublemaker" should be out this fall:

"OMG," A Three Word Wednesday Flash Fiction

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are argue, lick and squint.

Barreling across the high plains in a rented Ford POS, I’m silently sure Laine is doing her upmost best to hit every hole and uneven spot on the Interstate in an effort to dislodge some sort of an apology from my now-clenched lips.

She squints into the distance, the afternoon sun harsh through intermittent thin, gray clouds. I would say something about putting on her sunglasses, but I don’t want to argue. Not again.

She’s been silent now for some 167 miles. And in that time, I’ve picked at my jeans and licked my lips. A lot.

We’re on our way to her parent’s house in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. Yeah, I don’t know where that is, either.

We’re going for Easter weekend.

Laine was raised in a strict Christian home; her dad is some sort of elder in the church or something.

I’m a lapsed Catholic. Something of an agnostic if you really want to know the truth, a turn that transpired after watching my dad die in a hospital bed from lung cancer, unable to speak and in considerable agony.

And the man went to church every single fucking day.

Laine informed me, as we crossed the border into South Dakota, that I’d be required to go to Easter sunrise service. At dawn. In some field. In Minnesota, for chrissakes.

My dad was fond of saying that people shouldn’t discuss politics and religion in all social situations, since he was something of a racist homophobe conservative Republican and his offspring all turned into varying degrees of liberal activism. Of course, I remember he started saying this only after he made my sister openly weep. At Easter dinner, come to think of it.

Laine and I bickered for a good 90 miles – and passed up Wall Drug and all its kitschy glory and maple-glazed doughnuts – in the process.

So I did what I’m seriously good at: I let her make one last snarky comment as I fell silent, letting the plains rush by the windows as I licked my lips and picked at my jeans.

Now she’s bouncing us around in the Ford so I’ll confess that I’m wrong about God and religion - and life, probably – and get a promise that I’ll be on my upmost behavior while she’s sequestered in her childhood bedroom – and I’m riding the sofa in her parent’s “rumpus room.”

No way.

We’re coming up on the South Dakota/Minnesota border and in the distance there’s a huge fireworks sign that rises from the prairie. I purse my lips, take in a deep breath and speak:

“Hey, seriously, we need to stop for some Easter fireworks. We have to pull over.”


“Well, if you’d like to know, I celebrate the Resurrection with some Roman candles. Maybe a few fountains. Certainly some bottle rockets.”

She swallows a laugh that sounds a lot like “gurk.” That’s my girl.

“You celebrate the Resurrection with fireworks?”

“Oh absolutely. It’s a known fact that God loves himself one helluva rave. I like to put the boom-boom into His rebirth.”


She shakes her head in mock disgust, takes her hand off the gear shift and weaves her fingers into mine as we hurdle past the last exit in South Dakota.

“You’re a shit,” she says. “And you had better not embarrass me this weekend.”

“As God is my witness...”