by Betsey Cohen
A Missoula man is heartbroken and angry after a day of cross-country skiing with his malamute dogs near Lolo Pass turned into his worst nightmare Sunday afternoon.
Layne Spence was skiing with his three dogs on a quiet logging road in Lee Creek when, according to Spence, a rifle shot echoed through the air.
Then, Spence saw his 2-year-old brown and white dog, “Little Dave,” fall down with a shot to a leg.
About 15 yards away from him and his dogs, Spence saw a man in camouflage holding an assault weapon.
“I started screaming ‘Stop, stop,’ and the man kept shooting,” said Spence, 48, and who is often seen walking his dogs around Missoula’s river front. “And he kept shooting.”
“My dog is lying there, dead and I shouted ‘What are you doing?’ and the guy said, ‘I thought it was a wolf.’ ”
After the man allegedly shot Spence’s dog six times, he took off without another word, leaving Spence to deal with the tragedy of his dead dog.
Spence abandoned his skiing gear to carry Little Dave out, and to get his other two malamutes, Frank and Rex, to the safety of his truck.
When he got back to Missoula, Spence filed a report with the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department.
“This doesn’t have to happen,” said an obviously distraught Spence. “Not every big dog is a wolf. These are pets, they all had their collars and lights on, they were all with me the entire time.
“People need to know what a wolf looks like before they start shooting,” he said. “And I was standing right there.
“What if I had a child on a sled, what would have happened if a bullet ricocheted?”
“There are other people who use the woods besides hunters this time of year.”
The incident remains under investigation by the Missoula Sheriff’s Department.
Anyone who has information about the shooting is asked to call Crimestoppers at721-4444.