Friday, June 10, 2011

The Vigil

Driving up Montana #87, Fort Benton beckoned me to visit the famous site of "Shep" the Aussie Shepherd who kept vigil for his master for 5 1/2 years. Thinking, "this is a hokey time waster," I experienced some of the most heart-wrenching emotions of my life.

In 1936 an old rancher died in the Ft. Benton hospital and his coffin was put on a train headed for his relatives in Ohio. His dog, Shep, followed until the train's speed forced him to return to the depot to await the old man's return. Shep lived by the tracks and met every train. When the town people realized what was happening, many wanted to adopt Shep but it was apparent he had only one destiny.

The town looked after Shep by bringing him food, visits from a vet and stories were written about him. His story touched the hearts of many and Shep received letters and presents from all over the world. After keeping his vigil for 5 1/2 years, he was getting old. One snowy night he slipped on the train tracks and could no longer hear the whistle. Shep's long vigil was ended.

The above bronze statue of Shep, with his paw on a train rail still simulates his vigil. His remains are buried high on a bluff overlooking the town. You can reach the actual site by the path in the photo below. What a climb. Was I up to that? It was an extremely windy day and much of the path was a narrow precipice. Half way I panicked, too scared to forge on or turn back. All I could do is fight the wind and try to stay in the moment. When I reached the burial spot, an amazing thing happened, the wind stopped. I sat down and became one with nature, with devotion and the impetus behind vigil. Alone up there, I felt as if I could reach up and touch the sky and my tears flowed freely. In that moment, I was able to come to grips with my own issues as a strong love permeated my heart.

Even as I write this, many years later, I can't explain what happened high on that bluff but it was a definite epiphany that remains with me to this day.
There is a movie named "Hachiko" starring Richard Gere that tells the same message of a faithful dog who waits for his master's return. I don't know the history behind that movie, but it also tweaked my heart-strings.

A very short vid below also talks about Shep.


  1. This almost broke my heart. Our dogs are such wonderful and true companions.

  2. Oh my goodness!!! What an incredible story!!! Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Have a wonderful weekend. : )

    ~ Wendy

  3. What a beautiful story. I wonder if such one-master loyalty is common to this particular breed, or if Shep's brand of loyalty is completely unique. At any rate, it's a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

  4. If you like sad dog stories go on line and look up the true story of Greyfriars' Bobby by Henry T. Hutton. Talk about heart breakers.

  5. Damn it. You didn't tell me I needed tissues.

  6. Yes, I saw that movie starring Richard Gere. It made me weep.

  7. This is so tender. Dogs have that special sense. I have a story about our two dogs that I may relate one day in a blog post.

  8. Beautiful--thoughtful--sad. Too bad most humans don't have hearts that big.

  9. Teresa : Aren't you glad you now have your Buddy companion.

    Turquoisemoon : Yup..... I'm always suspicious of people who say they don't like dogs.

    Wendy : Dogs make such great companions.

    Susan : I wonder too. I know that collie type breed is mighty faithful.

    Mybabyjohn : Haven't read it for years. will have to again. I used to sit and cry during the Lassie TV shows with my kids.

    Carol : I know, you're a dog lover too.

    Texwisgirl : sniff sniff

    Gigi : Me too. I cried for days thinking about that movie.

    Karen : Yes, post your dog story. Would love to read it.

    Fishducky : Yes, if humans were only more like dogs. sigh.

  10. What a lovely place to have an epiphany! I truly believe the spirit of Shep was with you all the way.

    It's a beautiful story and I'm so happy to learn that the community looked after him and now honour his memory!! Take care

  11. Manzi: I am such a huge dog fan. I read this and spent the rest of the evening just playing with my dogs. Great story!

  12. Those stories break my heart. No one can tell them what happened, they can only wait.
    Think I will go cuddle with Mighty.

  13. WOW..great touching story...thanks

  14. I tried so hard not to read this because I knew it would upset me but now I've gone and read it and I'm upset. I love my new cats very much and I think they're a bit fond of me but there's nothing quite as special as the love of a dog.

  15. Whoohoooo your over 300 followers!!!

    and i loved your story!

    Thanks for sharing

  16. That story brought tears to my eyes. So sad.

  17. Kitty : At first I thought the whole story might just be a publicity thing but when I went there and talked to the town people, they still have a real feeling for Shep after all these years.

    JJ : Thanks. Whenever I think of Shep, I'm more playful with Cody, too.

    Patti : Aahh, that little Mighty. Give him an extra kiss from me.

    Jeff : Thanks Jeff. Dogs are so special.... most pets are.

    Rosalind : I'm sorry I made you upset. I recently saw that movie Hachiko on TV and it made me think of this Shep story. I'll try to be funny next time. :)

    Leontine : Thanks for the nice comment and follow. I'll be by your blog too.

    Anthony : Thanks. I like your pie picture on your profile. Looks yummy

    Terry : I cry easily over dogs too. I can't ever watch those ads on TV for the kennel dogs. They look sooo sad.

  18. You see? Aussie dogs really ARE special! But you already knew that with Cody the wonder dog, right?

    Thanx for a great story halfway through my weekend - hope you enjoy all of yours!

  19. What a heartbreaking story. Poor Shep, waiting so faithfully for so long.

  20. That made me cry, too! I love my old dog. I don't think she would keep vigil for me for 5 years, but I know she loves sleeping next to me every night and going for walks. She is always glad to see me when I come home. What a sweet, sweet story.

  21. Interesting. And heart wrenching.
    And from your bio you sound like an interesting person, so am happy to follow you. thanks for finding my via the blog hop, and hope you followed me back!

  22. Hello :)
    So I currently posted on my blog saying that I'm going to have a simple blog challenge. You can check it out over at my blog. I wanted to know if you can help me spread the word out, it starts this Wednesday and come over my blog to read about the rules. They are very simple.
    Thank you very much :)

  23. LOVE MY DOG! Beautiful post. Tear jerker!

  24. Hey Red : As I always said, Aussie dogs are the greatest!!! :) Just like the Aussie people.

    River : Can you imagine, meeting every train for 5 1/2 years. I sometimes wonder if my dog is happy with her life. She seems happy but it looks a little boring to me.

    Galen : I'm so glad you too, are an animal lover. It's so unconditional with dogs.

    Sandra : I did check in on your blog. It's very interesting and you do some fine work.

    Climb2nowhere : Sorry that everyone needed tissues.

    Thank you everyone for the interesting and loving comments and stories about your dogs.