Story of Shepherd Dog Shep's Long Vigil Part 4

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


Shep Goes to Meet His Master

Shep joined his master Jan. 12, 1942.

He had not been young when he began his long wait, and in the five and a half years of the vigil he had aged noticeably. No longer so agile as at its start, his hearing and other senses dulled by age, Shep may have failed to hear the engine or to sense its nearness as train No. 235 drew up at Fort Benton station. Bystanders saw him look up when the engine was almost on him, move quickly, and slip on the snowy rails. The wheels crossed his body.

Shep had gone to meet his master.

Associated Press and United Press wires carried the story--along with thousands of words of news of the war--of the death of the dog who had symbolized faithfulness to so many thousands of persons. Letters poured in again. Trainmen and station employees, who for so long had befriended the dog, mourned the death of Shep, an old friend.

Shep was laid to rest at the top of the bluff overlooking the station at which for five and a half years he had awaited in vain the return of his master. There within sight and sound of the singing rails and of the trains he had met he could wait forever.

Shep's funeral was attended by hundreds that Wednesday, Jan. 14, when, with the afternoon shadows lengthening, the dog was laid to rest.

Rev. Ralph Underwood of the Fort Benton Christian Church gave the sermon at the grave, stressing the faithfulness of the dog to the master who had preceded him. For the closing part of the service, he read. Sen. George Graham Vest's "Eulogy on the Dog." (See The People's Almanac 1, pp. 1361-1363.)

Mayor Ed Shields of Great Falls and Mayor H. F. Miller of Fort Benton were in attendance, as were children and grown-ups of Fort Benton and nearby towns. Members of Fort Benton Boy Scout Troop No. 47 acted as pallbearers, and Kenneth Vinion sounded taps at the graveside.

Great Northern employees erected a profile monument of Shep and built a concrete marker. The station installed a spotlight, which is turned on the grave each night so passengers on evening trains may see the monument.

Passing years have not dimmed the interest in Shep's story. It has been told and retold, and in death as in life, Shep continues to exemplify the virtue of fidelity, to death and beyond, of a dog to his master.

If there is a heaven for dogs and a dog has a soul, surely Shep is there and his soul rests in peace.

Source: Reprinted by permission of The River Press, Fort Benton, Mont.

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