My Dog, Scully

She was born on the streets of Addison, Texas, or maybe was dumped there. I met her at the Dallas, SPCA, where I was a volunteer.
I never could understand why nobody wanted her. Yes, she was shy. But I'd let her out of her cage and she'd tunnel under the small of my back and happily pant.
I volunteered at the shelter so that I didn't need a dog. I had hundreds of them. I steered people to pets that fit them and their family.
She was nearly up for termination. Indeed, that's why the shelter in Addison had shipped her to the SPCA. This was too cool a dog to euthanize.
Scully Honey Gabrukiewicz stumbled into my life in February of of 1997. She was all of four months old. A friend's 5-year-old daughter wanted me to name her Honey; Peg was fast enough to suggest it as a middle name.
Scully died Friday of kidney failure. She was 14 years old - ancient, considering that she had parvo when they brought her in and the vet warned me that she might live eight to 10 years.
I watched her pass away with my hands full of her rust-colored fur. As she passed, I felt her heart beat down to nothingness.
I buried her on a friend's acreage on a small hill, overlooking a pond. I think she'll like that.

So many memories.
Scully, Trinity (my 12-year-old border collie cross) and I wrote a book together about hiking with dogs in Northern California. Scully went fishing with me, and actually let me fish. We took epic backpacking trips. We ran into bears together. I once rescued her from the Sacramento River, which led to her eventual retirement from the big adventures.

Here's a few columns I've written about her along the way:

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 recently.
Trinity, my new border collie cross, came home March 14 1998 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. 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.
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.

The Trouble With Bears

TRINITY DIVIDE -- I have had my share of scrapes in the wilderness, from hypothermic hiking partners and mild heat exhaustion, to self-inflicted dental floss stitches and a dislocated shoulder.
People I love tell me that a little monkey wrench in the machinery is good for me. Sure, I'm obsessive-compulsive (and many would say a bit regimented).
Scrapes are just a way to keep me grounded -- knowing I can't control everything is a good thing, they agree -- and a way to build character.
Recently, I set off from the Gumboot Trailhead 18 miles west of Mount Shasta to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to the Seven Lakes Basin with Scully, my 7-year-old Australian shepherd cross, and Trinity, my 4-year-old border collie cross.
I also planned to come out early, hike Castle Lake up to Heart Lake and Bradley Ridge, then take a leisurely stroll along the Squaw Valley Creek Trail near McCloud.
Granted, that's something like 28 miles of trail time, but I had a schedule, a fool-proof plan, to squeeze the maximum of outdoor goodness from 48 hours off to work on the book I'm researching.
What I got was another lesson in humility.
The PCT winds its way up a ridgeline above the Seven Lakes Basin, which includes Upper Seven, Lower Seven, Helen and Echo lakes. Turn 360 degrees and you'll get stunning views of Mt. Shasta, Castle Crags, Grey Rocks, Thompson Peak and the Sawtooth Ridge in the Trinity Alps and Mt. Eddy.
From the PCT, the trail into the basin follows an old jeep road -- where things began to unravel.
Off-roaders have discovered that they can drive into the basin from a logging road. The resulting traffic has turned the trail into a jagged talus field. Both dogs cut their pads and Scully cracked a nail.
There was no way she was going to walk out on her own.
The only way to get her back to the truck was to put her, piggy-back-style, on the top of my pack, with me holding onto her paws.
Three miles out, up a loose pile of sharp rocks -- but, thankfully, I'd link up to the wide and inviting PCT that mercifully would be all downhill to the truck.
With a 25-pound pack and a 40-pound dog on my back, all I could see were the tops of boots.
That's how I missed the one switchback that would deliver me to the PCT. I topped out on a ridgeline just above Helen Lake. I should have been much higher, and more north. 
I put Scully down, got out the map and noticed that Trin was looking at the lake with her head cocked in doggie bewilderment.
Moseying up the path was a 200-pound, sub-adult male black bear. About 50 feet away. Making very good time. In a beeline to our position.
Now, black bears are the Mr. Magoo of the forest, relying on a heightened sense of smell to get by. We're up-wind and this bear can't smell us. And he's getting larger with each step.
I picked up a rock, raised up on tip-toes and started screaming at the top of my lungs.
The bear sat on its hindquarters and began to sniff the air.
I launched the rock, which finally got the bruin's full attention. He took off, up the very ridge that we're supposed to be on.
Rather than traverse the talus field again, then up to the PCT where I know there's a now-startled bear, I decided to take the logging road out to U.S. Forest Service Road 26 and the trailhead. It added about four miles to the trek, but the path was mostly downhill and there was water available.
When she wants to be, Scully is as intractable as a pouty 2-year-old. She waded into a catch basin, laid down and wouldn’t come out of the water. I called. I cajoled. She looked away as if she didn't see me.
I walked the shoreline one way, and she'd paddle to the other. Ten minutes this went on. Now completely miffed, I caught up with her latest dog-paddle escape route when the water reached my hips.
Now I'm hiking with soaked socks and boots -- and a wet canine on the top of my pack, rivulets of dog-scented water cascading down my back. With 2 miles left to go.
Long story short, we made it to the truck -- we were on the go for four-and-one-half hours -- and spent a good part of the afternoon cooling off in the North Fork of the Sacramento River.
We're all recovering nicely, thank you. The girls have found the coolness of the kitchen linoleum just about the greatest place on Earth.
And after six days, I've finally relocated my sense of humor.

Those Golden Years
She still may yearn to swim in the big waters, but she is too old now to do so.
Like many dog owners in the north state, the cool waters of the Sacramento River beckon, when ribbons of heat shimmer off asphalt and no amount of panting will cool beasts with fur as thick as theirs.
No, all north state residents suffer in silence -- while beads of sweat flourish on lips and foreheads. Pink tongues wag. Man and beast wait to venture out of doors. And only when the heat of the sun's rays are finally diffused through the cottonwood, oak, alder and willow that line the banks of the Sacramento.
We are haunted by water.
Well, I certainly am -- now (and serious apologies to Norman Maclean for the previous).
You'd think a simple plan, an outing so mundane as to take the dogs for a walk and have them sploosh around in the Sacramento River, would be easy. Walk three blocks to Cascade Community Park, amble down a dirt path cut through the blackberry brambles to what I call the channels -- ribbons of cool water that flow around six islands off the main stem of the Sac.
But then you don't know the girls, Scully and Trinity. Or our collective providence to get in waaaaay over our heads. 
And it was up to Scully -- she's the Australian shepherd/chow cross that will turn 11 in November -- to turn this outing into mishap.
Just a simple dip into the Sac, when the flows were at 14,750 cubic feet per second (high, but not raging), the air temperature more than 100 degrees and the water temperature a bone-chilling 51 degrees. That old swimming hole beckoned.
Trin, being Trin, slipped into the river like an otter and motored through the eddy. Scully, being older, wiser, likes to ease in. But with the higher flows, bottom was about three feet, straight down. She went under -- then began to paddle into the current.
"Hey, Scully, over here," I said.
She turned to face me, made a few feeble dog paddles, and was caught in the current where it slipped passed a choke of willow that marked the end of our eddy. Her eyes said, "Oh, shit."
And she was gone.
I ran through the grass to the next opening in the riparian forest, and watched as Scully did her best impersonation of a red, fuzzy bobber -- with a monster rainbow trout on the line. She kept going under, only to pop back up and attempt a few paddles.
Three steps into the rushing water and my sandal was sucked off in the mud; another step and I went under, no longer able to touch, much less breathe, as the cold water acted like a vise on my chest. The leashes were clutched in my right hand, my sandal in the left (which, as you might imagine, is just poor swim stroke mechanics).
And Trin, being Trin, decided that we were out to have fun -- and charged into the current to catch up with Scully.
"Trin, over there," I screamed and pointed to the bank. "Now!"
Scully was about 30 feet in front of me, just floating now, waiting for me to catch up.
I skipped the sandal to the bank and managed to hook the leashes on a logjam -- and made like Mark Spitz. I caught Scully by the collar and swung toward shore.
Then I noticed Trinity was caught in a bunch of submerged willow branches -- and kept disappearing under the surface. 
Trin has this amazing, upswept tail that has been the destruction of many a wine glass on low tables. It also is the secret to her efficient water propulsion. That tail was caught in a blackberry bramble, which rendered it useless. Every time she came to the surface, she looked sincerely puzzled.
I threw Scully near shore into a clump of brambles -- where she could touch -- and swam against the current about 20 feet to free Trinity. We swam back, Trin hopped up on shore and I got Scully unstuck and on shore, too.
"Stay right there," I yelled and swam the 20 yards against the current to get the leashes, while snagging my sandal as it conveniently floated by.
Surprisingly, both dogs did as they were told. Wet, muddy and startled, they sat as I picked my way through five feet of cobwebs, dead bugs and sticker-encrusted brambles to shore.
Cobwebs hung off my hat, my shirt. Bits of blackberry brambles were stuck to my arms, my thigh, my shorts. Mud clung to my forearms, my feet. My shins were a quilt of cuts and scrapes.
It was time to go home, go lick our wounds. Scully roamed five yards behind, slow, shaking.
It was a slow, deliberate walk home, wet and dejected. To the comfort of a Adirondack chair for me, and a lawn still warmed by the sun for them.
A few days later, as I sat in my chair to watch the neighborhood go by, Scully came up and put her head in my lap. I scratched it and she started her happy pant, then raised her head to look into my eyes.
"I'm OK with this retirement thing," is what they said.


Anonymous said...

So sorry for the loss of your beautiful girl. This is a wonderful tribute. You guys had so much fun and adventure together.

I lost a beloved kitty back in January, so I totally get how you feel. My heart goes out to you.

Rest well, sweet Scully.

Anonymous said...

What a great tribute to a wonderful companion. It brought tears to my eyes as I read, for it brought back some memories of adventures that I had through the years with my 4 legged family members that have gone over the rainbow bridge.

Scully is running free and swimming strong once again, and she is in good company. I hope all the happy memories can heal your aching heart my friend.

quin browne said...

Ah, Thom... anyone who says that losing a beloved pet is far easier than losing a human companion.. dead wrong.

They are our reason to remember to be kind to all... to love unconditionally, the way they do with us.

Jeni Mc said...

Honored to be her guardians to the next life.

Beth said...

Too much death for you in recent years, too many endings. And yes: a dearly loved pet's death can be even more devastating than that of a loved human, in different ways. Blessings to you and Trinity as you learn to cope.

*Just Fran* said...

A beautiful tribute to a fine partner in life. Our thoughts are with you in your loss. I hope you find comfort in knowing that she loved and was loved. It was a good life for her.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. Our furry ones add so much to our lives while they're here, then leave a hole when they leave.

You gave her a great life, and I hope you can take comfort in remembering that Scully's goals were simple - she didn't need to see the Taj Mahal or climb Everest in order to be happy. She just wanted a life of love, and you gave her that.

Matt Merritt said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm sure it's a very lonely house tonight. You're in my prayers.

Jeff Pickett said...

I echo everyone's thoughts and comments Thom. Sorry to hear such sad news, but you're surrounded by many when comfort is needed. That in itself says a lot.

Shelli said...

Those stories are amazing tributes to the companionship you had with Scully. I am sure you and Trinity are going to miss her company. But thank goodness you have each other to lean on.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this time of sorrow.

Dee Martin said...


Unknown said...

These are some of my favorite columns that you wrote...many in the Record Searchlight. I had your second dog's name wrong (I thought, Shasta instead of Trinity). I miss seeing you around Redding and hope that you are well. I bought your book for a friend who hikes with her dogs. I am so sorry for your loss.

Don Jacobs said...


I have been away from the computer for three days. It tore me up to read about Scully. I am close to both of your dogs as you well know. They seem like a part of my family.

I have many fond memories of Scully, and will forever treasure them. You were always saying just a half cup of food now, she doesn't need anymore. But she always tried. I'll never forget when they opned the dog biscuit door on me one time also and had the cat treats too.

Having gone through this with Tosha in February, it really jolted me and brougt back memories. Lois and I want you to know that we also will miss Scully. Even though she had moved far way with you to SD, she always remained close to our hearts as we both would take her for walk while you were away.

May Scully rest in peace.

Don Jacobs

Toi said...

Thom, please accept my heartfelt
sadness at the loss of one of your
best girls. She had a beautiful
soul, as I'm sure Trinity does
and this is why all three of you
were brought together; because I
can tell by the love threading
through each story about your
family that you have a gold heart.

Great names by the way.



b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

What wonderful memories you have of your life with that dog. Sigh!
Now let me get this have a wife that actually lets you go out alone? I have a feeling that your adventures are more than just fun...they have tried your strength and your character.
I loved these articles.
A prayer for your Scully has been sent! Sleep well lovely pet.


Katy said...


Sorry to hear about Scully. She was a sweety. Hang in there & give Trinity a hug.

Anya Padyam said...

so sorry to hear that!!! Those columns are testimony to wonderful adventures companionship and a great life!

Take care and hang in there!

So sorry to hear ...

MinnesotaScottson said...

Thom, sorry to hear of your loss. As a dog owner, I know how great a pet they can be. My Chocolate, an 85 pound Chessie Lab, comes to greet me nearly every day when I come home from work. It makes no difference to her whether I have had good or bad day. That's unconditional love.

Dog Sitting Los Angeles said...

Your story is very sad and i am sorry to hear about it!!!