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."

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