Updated 11:53 p.m. Saturday:
At 11 p.m., the Iditarod released the following statement via email:
"Anchorage, Alaska March 7, 2015-An Iditarod Dog not participating in today's Ceremonial Iditarod Start in Anchorage, was hit by a car on 36th and Old Seward Highway has died.
Stuart, a dog belonging to Iditarod Musher Lachlan Clarke and his wife Linda was in a truck at the end of the Ceremonial Start when he was taken out of the truck to be snacked and watered, "He was playing with the other dogs and his chain became unclipped and he took off" says Linda Clarke.
Other race fans and volunteers tried to help catch the dog but the dog ran into the woods and began roaming Anchorage. The Clarke's received many phone calls, texts and emails about sightings of Stuart.
Linda said "that the outpouring of love from the city of Anchorage has been overwhelming". The Lachlan family would like to thank all the race fans and volunteers who participated in helping to search for Stuart. "The genuine love and support has been appreciated" says Linda.
Lachlan will be running the 2015 race in memory of Stuart."
View the release here: Media Advisory 3-7-15.pdf
An Iditarod sled dog was struck and killed by a car in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday night, nearly seven hours after breaking away from his team during the ceremonial start for the race.
The dog, a 3-year-old black husky mix named Stuart, belonged to the team of Colorado musher Lachlan Clarke. The dog broke from his tether around 11:30 a.m. at Campbell Tract near Elmore Road and 68th Avenue and was seen running north on Elmore Road in traffic.
Efforts to find the dog spread quickly on social media, and texts and phone calls poured in to Clarke and his wife, Linda, all Saturday afternoon. But Linda Clarke said the dog was struck around 6 p.m. near the intersection of Old Seward Highway and 36th Avenue, about five miles from where he escaped from his owners.
"We were able to identify him and say goodbye," Linda Clarke said, fighting back tears.
There was no immediate comment from Iditarod race officials Saturday night. A spokeswoman referred calls to race marshal Mark Nordman, who did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Stuart was named after Stuart Little, according to the team's website. He was one of 20 dogs that Clarke brought to Alaska from the team's kennel in Buena Vista, Colorado, Linda Clarke said.
But only 16 dogs are on the mushing lines, and for Saturday's 11-mile loop of the ceremonial start, Stuart was not one of them, Linda Clarke said. Stuart and three other dogs stayed in the team's truck and were driven to the finishing point at Campbell Tract.
Just before he broke loose, Stuart was chained to the truck with the other dogs, getting watered and fed, Linda Clarke said. Somehow, she said, his clip came undone.
When people saw he was loose, they started chasing him, including trying to dive after him. He was frightened and took off, Linda Clarke said.
Word of the missing dog spread quickly, and the Clarkes received calls and texts all afternoon from people who thought they had spotted him. One of those people was Peter Scully, who works in an office building on L Street overlooking the tidal flats on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
Reached by phone, Scully said he saw a dog that fit Stuart's description sprinting on the tidal flats near the boat launch. After about a half-hour, Scully hiked down to try to corral the animal. He wasn't successful, and the dog dashed south toward Westchester Lagoon.
Scully sent pictures of the dog to the Clarkes. They thought the dog looked like Stuart and went with other searchers to Westchester Lagoon and the tidal flats to try to track him down. They were coming from that area, Linda Clarke said, when she first heard Stuart had been hit by a car in Midtown.
When they arrived, Stuart's body was on the side of the northbound lane of the road, and no driver had stayed on the scene, Linda Clarke said.
She said she was "so sorry" for the people she did not know who had followed the story and tried their best to help.
"I cannot imagine ... any other city stopping what they're doing and looking for this amazing dog," Linda Clarke said. "That love that poured into this is what is so healing for us."
She said Stuart's name will be added to the Clarke sled to accompany the names of 25 fallen Marine soldiers that the team was already honoring. The dog loved to run, she said, and was happiest when he was pulling a sled.
She said the team is still committed to compete in the Iditarod.
"We're going to honor his spirit and go on and do this thing," Linda Clarke said.
Stuart was the first Iditarod dog to die since the 2013 race, when a dog on Paige Drobny's team suffocated in a snow drift in Unalakleet.
Alaska Dispatch News reporters Beth Bragg and Suzanna Caldwell contributed to this report.
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