Have you noticed something a little off about the Iron Horse this week? The beer seems a little flat? The staff not quite as cute as you remember, and the hunks just not filling the place up like they used to? If so, it’s more than likely your black cloud stems from the loss of an icon. His name was LT. On July 3, the big, friendly Golden Retriever (but aren’t they all big and friendly?) who watched guard and hung out at the bar passed away. He was nine.
“He’s just the mascot here,” says Hilary, a three-year veteran Iron Horse waitress. “We have customers who wouldn’t come in until they greeted LT.”
But to LT’s human, Iron Horse owner Tami Ursich, that’s hardly the all of it.
“He wasn’t the Iron Horse mascot, he was my best friend,” she says. “He made a lot of people smile, he brought a lot of people joy…People who didn’t even know me knew him.”
Hearing about LT’s exploits may make some humans wonder what they’ve been doing with their lives. To Iron Horse patrons, he was the classic maître d’—going from table to table checking to see that everything was in tip-top shape. But LT had a life beyond the bar.
He appeared in print ads, and appeared to speak on radio ads. He lectured to an elementary school classroom on the topic of being a Golden Retriever. He once gave a young fan a Mermaid-themed snow-globe, causing the youngster to ask, “Mom, how do you think he did it? How do you think he paid for it? How do you think he picked it out?” Like any good mountain man/playboy amalgam, his list of accomplishments goes on and on.
When pressed, a tearful Ursich settles on one story that distinguishes LT from the pack. On Feb. 17, 2000, he went missing. A frantic Ursich contacted the cops, the pound, and Missoula’s media outlets to put ads in the paper reading, “LT IS LOST. HUGE REWARD.” A week and a half later, Ursich was contacted by a family in Ohio who had assumed the dog was a stray, since a recent trip to the groomer had left LT without collar or tags. Upon his safe return, the Indy (yes, we’ve written about him before) dubbed him “Missoula’s most famous dog.”
Persons wishing to pay last respects should head down to the Iron Horse and drop a card on the shrine—a table tucked between the pool table and the entrance to the rest rooms with a huge photo, five vases of fresh flowers and a potted plant. Or stay at home, buy yourself a six-pack, sit in your yard and howl at the moon, remembering the dogs lost in your own past.