'Ornery' dog leads 33 maintenance workers to $1M lottery prize

If it wasn't for an "ornery" dog named Stella, 33 heating and cooling workers at the University of Utah wouldn't be dividing up a $1 million jackpot.

For 13 years, the group of coworkers had been playing the same set of numbers in the Idaho lottery — Utah doesn't have a lottery — in vain.

Then, on January 6, Steve Hughes, one of the 33, stopped at a gas station on his way to buy the group's monthly ticket. He left his dog, Stella, inside his running vehicle as he went in to pay for gas.

When Hughes returned to his truck, Stella had locked him out by putting her paw on the manual lock, the Associated Press reported.

So while Hughes tried to pick the lock — and eventually coached his dog to open the back window by putting her paws on an electronic window button — his girlfriend went back into the station to buy the ticket there instead of elsewhere.

It was a winner.

The group discovered on Wednesday night that, thanks to Stella's door-lock adventure, they had won the second prize in the Idaho Powerball: $1 million.

Each of the man will get about $20,000 after taxes, or, "a nice little bonus during the year," Hughes said.

"I'm going to pay off some bills and probably get me a boat," Tison, the maintenance workers' supervisor, said.

Tison added that the group will continue to use the same numbers.

"There is no need to change them," Tison told the Associated Press. "It worked once, why wouldn't it work again."

Stella didn't go unrewarded:

"She got a couple of big surprises when I got home," Hughes said. "She got 18-inch rawhide bones."