Sunday, November 23, 2003

Odds and Ends

-- From wire reports

Mascot mutt for Montana miners dies

BUTTE, Mont. -- The wary, dreadlocked mutt that survived more than 17 years alone in a toxic pit and served as unofficial mascot of the Berkeley Pit miners has died.

Affectionately known as The Auditor, the dog died peacefully Wednesday in the dog house the miners had built for him.

"Things around here have been pretty sad, really," said Steve Walsh, vice president of Montana Resources, which owns the property. "It was a shock, with all the attention he'd been getting."

Nobody knows where the dog came from or why he lived in the barren waste dumps, leach pads and mine roads above the rim of the huge former copper mine. The mile-wide, bowl-shaped pit holds some 30 billion gallons of water so contaminated by heavy metals that nearly 350 snow geese died when they landed on it in 1995.

The Auditor was first spotted in 1986 and soon became the unofficial mascot of the miners, who loved him for his sheer toughness. They built him a shanty of a house, made him a bed of rags and left food for him. The Auditor ate his last meal of Alpo on Wednesday morning and was found that afternoon in his bed.

Miners said they called him The Auditor because he always showed up when least expected -- except at dinner.

His thick, filthy coat, matted almost to the point of armor, hid any clue to the dog's breed and showed only his snout. Some years back, one of the miners was able to shear the dog's bangs -- one of his only known instances of human contact.

Matt Vincent and Holly Peterson started a fund-raising drive last summer to erect a life-size bronze sculpture of The Auditor, who captured hearts around the world last January after a story Vincent wrote for The Montana Standard was relayed by The Associated Press. Letters, e-mail, cash and adoption offers poured in.

The Auditor was cremated. His ashes will be buried at the Granite Mountain Memorial that overlooks Butte.

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