Story of Shepherd Dog Shep's Long Vigil Part 2

About the history of the dog shepherd dog Shep who kept a long vigil in Montana.


Shep's New Way of Life

While they still considered him as only a stray dog who had adopted the depot, night operator Jim Wood, section foreman Pat McSweeney, and station agent Tony Schanche did much to make Shep's adopted home as pleasant as possible. Their aid did not disturb Shep's own plan of waiting for his master's return.

Digging out a spot for himself under the wooden depot, Shep waited and watched each train in hopes that the next would bring his master back. He watched the passengers who alighted from the coaches and witnessed the unloading of the baggage cars. He looked mutely and questioned each passerby. After each train had left the station, he returned to his shelter, where he would lie and watch and listen for the whistle of the next incoming train.

Rain or shine, summer and winter, for more than five years Shep kept his vigil.

Shep Becomes Famous

By 1939 Ed Shields had pieced together the dog's story and told of Shep's vigil, then in its third year.

Almost at once Shep became one of the most famous dogs in all the world, exemplifying that devotion for which dogs have been noted since man's earliest days.

Newspapers all over the country, and in foreign lands, told of the dog who still waited, with undiminished hope, for the return of his master. Every train which whistled for the Fort Benton station renewed that hope. Shep did not know that his master lay in some eastern cemetery and would never return.

Shep became the subject of articles in the Railroad Magazine and in the London Daily Express. Robert Ripley picked up the story and featured it in his famous cartoon "Believe It or Not."

Letters poured in from all over the U.S., from Canada, from England. One woman in Jacksonville, Fla., wrote the local station that Shep was the most popular dog in America. A minister in Virginia used as his sermon topic the virtue of faithfulness as exemplified by Shep.

Letters became so numerous as to become a burden on the Fort Benton railroad employees. T. F. Dixon, then superintendent of the Butte division of the Great Northern, with headquarters at Great Falls, assigned his own secretary to handle Shep's mail. So the faithful dog became perhaps the first dog in the world to have his own private secretary. Mr. Dixon later became vice-president of the Great Northern railway.

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