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Shep, Our Most Loyal Dog Review by Dena Wood

By Sneed B. Collard III
Illustrated by Joanna Yardley
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main Street, Suite 300
Chelsea, MI 48118

Shep, Our Most Loyal Dog tells the true story of "Old Shep," a dog famed for his loyalty and faithfulness. Old Shep belonged to a sheepherder in Montana in the early 1900s until his master became ill and was taken to a hospital. Shep waited patiently outside the hospital for his master to return. Sadly, the shepherd died and was taken in a wooden casket to the train station, where his body was sent to his relatives. Poor Shep stayed at the station, meeting four trains a day and hoping for his master's return. When thirsty, he would run a mile to the river for a drink and then quickly return. Skittish and fearful, he rejected all attempts at kindness until he was finally won over by the patience and kindness of the station employees and allowed them to care for him.

Over time, train conductor Ed Shields, was able to unravel the story of Shep and understand how he came to live at the Great Northern Railway station. Ed shared the story with the Great Falls Tribune, and Shep was immediately famous. People sent letters, money, even bones and offers to give Shep a new home herding sheep. However, Shep continued to live his life at the rail station until he was run over by a train in his old age. Hundreds of people attended Shep's burial, and his monument and name can still be found on a hill near the Fort Benton, Montana, train depot.

While this story is a testament to loyalty and heart, I have to admit that I found it depressing and not particularly enjoyable for young children. I found the shepherd's death, Shep's fear and loneliness, references to the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, and World War II, as well as the death of Shep himself to be quite overwhelming. Even the writing seems geared toward older readers. The watercolor illustrations are lovely, and the story is interesting, but I would hesitate to read it to children under ten. Even then, I would suggest reading it with a parent to discuss the story.

Product review by Dena Wood, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2006