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Lost dog back home thanks to MnDOT employee

Photo: Mike Howe, MnDOT

A Siberian Husky is safe and back home with his owners thanks to a MnDOT employee who this week pulled the pup out of harms way as it ran along a busy east metro highway.

Mike Howe is a "Highway Helper" and spends most of his shifts running interference at crash scenes and clearing debris out of the traffic lanes. So when he rolled up to a car stopped on the side of Hwy. 36 in Little Canada Monday afternoon he figured he was about to render aid to a stranded motorist.

Instead, the driver - not the dog's owner - was trying to catch the 2-year-old blue-eyed pup before anything bad happened. With her help, Howe was able to coax the rain-soaked husky into his bright yellow truck.  A couple calls later, and after a stop at an animal hospital, Parker was reunited with his owners the next day.

"It's all in a day's work," Howe said of the recovery on Hwy. 36 near Edgerton Street. "I know that would make my day if it were my dog."

It did for the dog's owners, Kristen McVeigh, her daughter Amber Russo and her boyfriend, Joe Funk. The trio had desperately spent several hours in the rain looking for Parker and his 10-month old brother, Dexter, who both somehow slipped past their gate and got by a fence in the neighbor's yard to go on a three- to four-hour romp. Somebody in the neighborhood had found Dexter, but there was no sign of Parker.

"We are so grateful he was caught and brought back to us safely," McVeigh said. "We hugged him so hard."

Howe has had to play dog catcher before, but securing the docile Parker was easier than in past cases.

"I've had to chase them a mile and usually they are mean and they snarl," Howe said. "He [Parker] was wagging his tail. I got him to the truck and he hopped right in."

A Ramsey County Sheriff's Office deputy took Parker to Hillcrest Animal Hospital where the pooch, aside from being hungry, was deemed healthy. An implanted microchip was used to identify McVeigh as the owner, and she came and got the dog.

Howe, who has been with MnDOT's Freeway Incident Response Safety Team (the technical term for Highway Helper) for a little more than three years, has a knack forspotting precious items discarded along the roads. Last year, while driving along Hwy. 610 in Brooklyn Park, he found a box containing a wedding dress in perfect condition.

"These are among the coolest finds that stand out," Howe said. "Every day is different and this is just an example. I wing it every day."

Reminder: Thursday's Vikings game could disrupt afternoon commute

Here is a heads up for downtown workers who may have forgotten or were unaware that the Vikings have a primetime game at U.S. Bank Stadium Thursday night.

Kickoff against the Dallas Cowboys isn't until 7:25 p.m., but a few streets around the stadium will close starting around 4:30 p.m. The big one is 4th Street between Park Avenue and I-35W, a popular way for many commuters to get onto southbound I-35W or Hiawatha Avenue or westbound I-94. That likely will put extra pressure on Washington Avenue and 8th Street, two other roads leading to major exit points.

Also closing is the one-block segment of Norm McGrew Place between 3rd and 4th Streets.

Starting Wednesday, the two-block segment of Chicago Avenue between 4th and 6th Streets right in front of U.S. Bank Stadium will close at noon Wednesday. Yep, a whole day early. 

All streets will reopen an hour after the game is over.

The street closings are for traffic safety and security needs related to a large stadium event, the City of Minneapolis said.

No other streets will be blocked off, but the Thursday game could muck up the evening rush hour on other downtown streets, too. A sell-out crowd is expected for the game, which means more than 66,000 fans will be making their way into downtown just as many workers are trying to leave.

Along with extra traffic on the streets, ramp parking could be tricky as spaces normally empty on a typical Sunday might be occupied by workers still on their job. So be aware as drivers jockey for positions, both entering and exiting ramps and lots.

Another reminder: Downtown parking meters will be programmed for the flat event rate of $25 starting three hours before kickoff, or about the same time street closures go into effect. Drivers parking at meters before 4:30 and after 8:30 p.m. will pay the normal hourly rate.

As always, Metro Transit will have its fleet of trains and buses out to shuttle fans to and from the game. To avoid downtown traffic, park and ride lots at Fort Snelling and 28th Avenue station may be a viable option. Buying an "All Day Pass" in advance online allows you to skip the ticket vending machines and ride any time until 2 a.m. the next day.

Northstar trains will run, departing Big Lake at 5:03 p.m. and arriving at Target Field at 5:55 p.m. From there, hop a Blue or Green Line train to the stadium.  Return trips on Northstar depart one hour after the game is over.