Thursday evening started out as a joyous one for Emily Carrillo’s family.
Her kids were out playing as snow fell on the Mendenhall Valley, and their year-and-a-half-old Siberian husky Dixie was out with them. Dixie was excitedly running around, Carrillo said, and ventured into Riverside Drive at just after 6 p.m.
A dark pickup truck drove up the road at that point, Carrillo said, with its snowplow down. With the record amount of snow that fell Thursday, the truck was plowing the road. The truck approached quickly, and one of Carrillo’s children was calling for Dixie to get back.
Carrillo said it appeared that the truck actually sped up as it approached, hit Dixie and kept driving. It had been dark for hours at that point, and the driver might not even have seen the small dog. Dixie took her last breath at 6:23 p.m., Carrillo said. The family buried her on private property Saturday afternoon. Carrillo’s children wrote messages on Dixie’s small wooden coffin, which was made by Juneau residents Jeffrey and Salissa Thole. Inside the coffin were dog bones, a photo of the family and a tennis ball.
“It’s pretty heartbreaking,” Carrillo said via Facebook Messenger. “She was part of our family.”
A post of Carrillo’s on the Juneau Community Collective Facebook page made the rounds in the community over the next couple days, spurring people to post videos of plows going quickly and sharing their own thoughts on the situation. Carrillo said she heard that a plow hit another dog in the area Thursday, but the Juneau Police Department and Animal Control only got Carrillo’s report.
The plow did not belong to the city. The City and Borough of Juneau’s Street and Fleets Department is responsible for plowing Riverside Drive, but Streets and Fleets Director Ed Foster said CBJ plows were taking a break between 4-8 p.m. Thursday. Carrillo’s family reported it to the JPD and called Animal Control to learn what their burial options are.
Animal Control Officer Karen Wood spoke with the family, but only briefly. Wood said it’s fairly common for loose dogs to wander into the street and get hit, but it’s less common for snowplows to hit them. She said this is the second instance in the past two years of this happening, but it’s generally quite rare.
Wood said it’s tempting to want to blame the driver, but she said that if a driver swerves to avoid a loose pet in the street, the owner can actually be held liable for damage or a crash that happens. Wood said a driver can be cited, however, if they hit an animal and don’t report it.
It’s fairly rare that a driver reports it, she said, and even more unlikely that Animal Control is able to determine who the driver was if the driver doesn’t report it.
“Most of the time, the person’s not at fault,” Wood said, “but it’s a $75 fine if they don’t report it and we find out who they are. It’s not something we often cite people for.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.