Dog survives trip in trash truck to Great Falls landfill

The dog that survived a ride in a semitrailer hauling garbage from Livingston Transfer Station to a Great Falls landfill is pictured shortly after being retrieved from the load of trash in the truck of Kyle Meier, the driver who discovered the dog in his garbage load on June 3. Photo courtesy of Kyle Meier

A Livingston dog found itself down in the dumps early this month—quite literally.
A terrier ended up in a landfill near Great Falls after slipping into the bottom of a semitrailer hauling garbage from the Livingston Transfer Station. The dog survived routine garbage compaction and the odorous, 180-mile journey to the landfill totally unscathed. He was returned home after being discovered by the semitrailer’s driver.
Kylie Meier, a driver for Montana Waste Systems, picked up a load of garbage from the Livingston Transfer Station around 10 a.m. He discovered the dog as he dumped his trash trailer at a landfill just outside of Great Falls early that afternoon.
The truck’s trailer has a “walking floor,” which is a conveyor belt-like system that pushes garbage out of the back of the trailer. At the bottom edge of the trailer near the cab, a small mesh-covered window allows the driver to check the status of the dumping process, which can take over 20 minutes.
When Meier peeked through the mesh window, he met the pooch’s gaze on the other side. He said because the garbage is compacted, he was surprised to see the dog alive. Unable to retrieve the dog out from under the layers of dense trash, Meier waited for the truck’s floor to push the dog out with the remaining refuse.
Meier found a leash in the garbage and clipped it to the dog’s collar, which had tags for the Stafford Animal Shelter and a Livingston veterinary office.
“He was a little stinky, but no worse for wear,” Meier said. “He just looked at me like it was just another day.”
Meier brought the dog to the Great Falls Animal shelter later that day. Sherry Morgan, an office clerk for the shelter recalled Meier coming in and saying, ‘“He’s a nice little dog, I just hate to think he came all the way from Livingston.’”
Morgan contacted the Stafford Animal Shelter and gave them the story.
“I was kind of shocked,” said Gwen Strachan, front desk manager for the Stafford Shelter. “I didn’t believe he could make it through that without getting hurt.”
Strachan said the owners of the dog had called two days before she received word from Great Falls to report their terrier was missing.
The owners of the dog, who live near the transfer station, did not wish to comment for this story.
Strachan said making a positive identification of the dog was easy, since it was microchipped.
If the little guy wasn’t claimed by his owners, he would have considered adopting him and joked he would rename him “Livingston” or “Trailer 17,” Meier said.
“I told everyone I was going to keep him because the happiest, luckiest dog alive––take him to Vegas,” Meier laughed.
Livingston Public Works Project Manager Matt Whitman believes the dog, unbeknown to department employees, wandered into the transfer station’s garbage collection sometime outside of working hours. The building has large garage doors that provide access for garbage trucks to dump the county and city’s waste.
Whitman said one of the doors was broken and could not be closed at the time, since it was accidentally dented by a bump from a garbage truck.
After trash is dumped, it is pushed into a long rectangular opening in the floor on the other side of the building, where it collects in a trailer below. The opening has a smooth, slanted metal plate lining its front edge—a surface that wouldn’t provide much traction for a dog’s claws.
Livingston Transfer Station attendant Casey Purcell said this isn’t the first time a dog has slipped into the trash trailer.
In his five years at the Transfer Station, Purcell estimates about a dozen dogs have slipped into a trailer after jumping out of their owners’ vehicles and following their noses to the source of some smelly delight. But he said none were ever injured or hauled away.
“You never know what you are going to find in the garbage,” he said.

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