By JAMES (JIM) JACOBSON
While historic Fort Benton is known as the first town in Montana, perhaps an equally well known story of Shep the faithful dog attracts as many visitors.
In August 1936, the casket containing a sheepherder’s body was loaded on a baggage car headed East for burial. A dog, of collie strain, watched with anxious eyes expecting his master’s return. He was to be there to meet every train, every day, year after year.
By 1939, Conductor Ed Shields pieced the dog’s story together, linking Shep with the body shipped that August day. With the real story known, Shep became famous. Many, many well-intentioned offers to adopt him were gently declined; friends knew Shep’s sole aim was to keep his vigil.
Shep died January 12, 1942, slipping on the tracks before an incoming train. His passing was mourned by all who knew of his story. He was laid to rest atop the bluff above the depot. His funeral was attended by hundreds. Reverend Ralph Underwood took as his theme Senator George Graham Vest’s “Eulogy on the Dog,” a tribute to a dog’s faithfulness to his master, which Shep so fully exemplified.
Shep’s collar and bowl were put on display at the Museum of the Upper Missouri in Fort Benton, and his story featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! MSN