Holiday Reading, The Story of Shep

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Holiday Reading, The Story of Shep
Posted by seppburgh2 on Saturday, December 19, 2020 9:16 PM
 

The holidays are here, for yule log reading enjoyment, here is the timeless RR story of Shep.  While not an endorsment, there is a child's book on Shep's story "“Shep, Our Most Loyal Dog”, an excellent children’s book by Sneed B Collard III, with illustrations by Joanna Yardley

https://www.shepsplace.org/2017/06/19/famous-sheps-in-dog-history-vol-1/#:~:text=The%20most%20famous%20Shep%20of,by%20a%20forlorn%20collie%20dog.

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During the summer of 1936 a sheepherder fell ill while tending his flock and was brought to the St. Clare Hospital in Fort Benton, Montana. A nondescript sheep dog had followed the herder into town and soon set up a vigil at the hospital's door. A kind hearted nun who ran the hospital kitchen fed the dog during those few days before the man died.

The herder's family in the East requested that his body be sent back home.  On that August day the undertaker put the body on the east-bound train for shipment to his waiting relatives.  As the gurney was rolled out onto the platform, a big gaunt shepherd dog with watchful eyes appeared out of nowhere and watched as the casket was loaded into the baggage car.  Attendants later recalled the dog whining as the door slammed shut and the engine slowly started to pull away from the station, then head down, turning and trotting down the tracks. On that day the dog, later named Shep, began a five-and-a-half year vigil that was only broken by his death.

Day after day, meeting four trains daily, Shep became a fixture on the platform. He eyed each passenger hopefully, and was often chased off as a mongrel but never completely discouraged. Neither the heat of summer days nor the bitter Montana winter days prevented Shep from meeting the next train. As Shep's fame spread, people came from everywhere to see him, to photograph him, and to try and make friends and possibly adopt him.

All of the attention was somewhat unwelcome; after checking the train he often retired quickly to get away from those who came to see him. Most people missed the point that Shep was a one-man dog. The bond he had formed with the herder many years before was simply the most important thing is his life. Food, shelter and attention were now provided by the railroad employees. That was all he wanted, except his master's return.

A conductor on the Great Northern Railroad, Ed Shields, became interested in Shep. He pieced together Shep’s story, and wrote an article for the Great Falls Tribune. The story of the “forever faithful” dog soon spread across the country. Ripley’s Believe or Not featured him in a column. The railway received so many letters about Shep that they had to hire a secretary to handle the mail. Shields also wrote a pamphlet about Shep’s story, and sold it on the train, raising thousands of dollars for the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind. To a generation of Americans, Shep came to epitomize the undying loyalty of dogs.

As Shep grew old, he lost his hearing, and in 1942, he was waiting by the tracks and failed to hear an incoming train. Two days later, the town held a funeral for Shep that was attended by 200 people. A boy scout troop carried his coffin to a hill above the train station, where he was buried. The railroad erected a monument and a painted wooden sign of Shep, with his name spelled out in rocks below.

The Shep Memorial

With renewed interest generated by the fiftieth anniversary of Shep's death, the community of Fort Benton organized a committee to produce a lasting memorial to their famous dog. The West's most renown sculptor, Bob Scriver, was contracted to create a heroic-sized bronze statue of Shep. Etched bricks and miniature bronze statues were sold to finance the project, at a cost of about $75,0000.00.

From photograph's and a Shep "look-alike," Scriver developed an imposing resemblance to Shep, expectantly standing with ears cocked, tail up, and his two front paws on the rail. He gazes longingly down the track awaiting his master's return. A beautiful site along the levee of the Missouri River was selected for the memorial. Located in the park across from the Grand Union Hotel along Front Street, Shepherd's Court quickly became the town's focal point. The large bronze statue was placed on a rough granite stone from a local quarry.

The stone is low enough to permit even small children to stand beside the faithful dog - for petting and for pictures. A thirty-foot brick octagon surrounds the statue, where over eight hundred people have already placed a memorial brick to a loved one or to a beloved pet. There is room for seventeen hundred bricks in the completed Shepherd's Court. The statue is a fitting tribute to the faithfulness of man's best friend, and a reminder of the wonderful story of Shep, Forever Faithful.

 

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