Forever Faithful by John Cali

This blog post is a bit “off the beaten path” as far as spiritual topics go. But not too far off, as it’s as story of loyalty and love. It’s excerpted from a book I wrote a few years ago,
Dogs: Heartwarming, Soul-Stirring Stories of our Canine Companions.

“In April 2001, I found myself wandering through remote northern Montana. I was writing an article on Lewis and Clark, and following their epic trail of discovery across country that remains nearly as remote and unspoiled today as it was in their time.

“Though the calendar said spring had arrived, Montana was still pretty wintry. One cold snowy afternoon, I arrived at the northern end of my journey, Fort Benton on the Upper Missouri River. I spent several days in that delightful, friendly little town.

” In Fort Benton I came across what has to be one of the greatest stories ever told of canine love and loyalty. The next few days the story of Shep unfolded and came alive for me, though he’d been dead nearly sixty years.

“Shep became a legend in his own lifetime. And now that he’s gone, his legend continues growing and touching the hearts of all who hear his story.

“During the summer of 1936, a sheepherder fell ill while tending his flock and was brought to St. Clare Hospital in Fort Benton, Montana. A nondescript sheep dog had followed the herder into town and soon set up a vigil at the hospital’s door. A kindhearted nun who ran the hospital kitchen fed the dog during those few days before the man died. The herder’s family in the East requested his body be sent back home.

“On that August day the undertaker put the body on the eastbound train for shipment to his waiting relatives. As the gurney was rolled out onto the platform, a big gaunt shepherd dog with watchful eyes appeared out of nowhere and watched as the casket was loaded into the baggage car. Attendants later recalled the dog whining as the door slammed shut and the engine slowly started pulling away from the station, then head down, turning and trotting down the tracks. On that day the dog, later named Shep, began a five-and-one-half-year vigil broken only by his own death.

“Day after day, meeting four trains daily, Shep became a fixture on the platform. He eyed each passenger hopefully, and was often chased off as a mongrel, but never completely discouraged. Neither the heat of summer days nor the bitter Montana winter days prevented Shep from meeting the next train. As Shep’s fame spread, people came from everywhere to see him, to photograph him, and to try and make friends and possibly adopt him. All of the attention was somewhat unwelcome; after checking the train he often retired quickly to get away from those who came to see him.

“Most people missed the point Shep was a one-man dog. The bond he had formed with the herder many years before was simply the most important thing in his life. Food, shelter, and attention were now provided by the railroad employees. That was all he wanted, except his master’s return.

“Shep was an older dog when he came to the station house in Fort Benton. Throughout his vigil the long nights under the platform and the cold winter had taken their toll. Stiff-legged and hard of hearing, Shep failed to hear old 235 as it rolled into the station at 10:17 that cold winter morning of January 12, 1942. He turned to look when the engine was almost upon him, moved to get out of the way, and slipped on the icy rails. Shep’s long vigil had ended.

“Shep’s funeral was held two days later. He was laid to rest on the high windy bluff overlooking the station where his long wait had been in vain. The sights and sounds of the singing rails and the whistles around the bend are all gone now, also passing with time.

“No passenger trains pull into the station today, but Shep still maintains his lonely vigil atop the wind-swept bluff overlooking the abandoned depot.”

Spirit has often said our animal family are among our greatest teachers. Shep was certainly one of those teachers.

Please give us your thoughts below.

John Cali’s Spirit Speaks Newsletter

6 Responses

  1. John Cali

    Thanks very much to you all for your thoughtful, considerate comments.


  2. Anonymous

    I found this story so similar to the story of a faithful dog, Hachik? in Japan that waited for his owner for nine years at a station after his owner's death. Hachi didn't know his owner had suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage while he was at work one day and died. So his master never returned to the train station where Hachik? was waiting every evening, hoping his master to come back after work.

    Hachi: A Dog's Tale (or Hachiko: A Dog's Story outside the United States) is a 2009 American drama film (starring Richard Gere) so I guess now Hachik? is known outside Japan too. A bronze statue of Hachi stands in front of Shibuya station in Tokyo and it is an extremely popular meeting spot. The station entrance near the statue is named "Hachik? Entrance/Exit" so apparently there's no one in Japan who doesn't know about this story.

    After reading your story, Johnny, I found out Hachik?'s tale was not the only amazing story that could happen between a human and a faithful dog. So I searched in Wikipedia for similar stories and found under "Faithful dogs" ( so many cases of similar, amazingly loyal, faithful dogs. How touching! Where does their pure, devoted, non-hesitating, single-minded, eternal, never-changing, divine, altruistic (or selfishly being completely one with their loved one type of) love come from?

    As Spirit says, dogs don't have a death issue like many of us humans do. So I don't think Shep or Hachi (or any other dogs) were living misery while longing for their owners to come back. If they really had wanted they could have chosen to re-emerge into Non-physical together with their masters, or shortly after their masters were "gone". They must have had some intention or desire to still remain physical, out of joy — which is hard to see from the human perspective. I think for them, experiencing the ultimate love for someone was pure joy that surpassed the apparent "separation" humans might have seen between those dogs and their owners. They didn't need any feedback or reward for their love. Loving a physical being or a non-physical being didn't make any difference for them, I guess. Just experiencing and expressing the ultimate love brought them utter satisfaction and joy — as actually many of us also have experienced when we love/d someone with no string attached. Well, I think that was simply what those dogs wanted to do, and they were just being who they really are in physical form. They simply did what they were most excited/called to do at that moment, until they felt there was no more new desire hatching from them. At the end, they were probably saying, "That was fun to be who we really are, in this physical world, as planned."

    I think no one can really know what others are experiencing including dogs, because no two persons/creatures have the same relationship with each one's vortex/source/higher self. And I appreciate our diverted views about this world. It is our diversity that contributes to the expansion of this universe. That's what makes it so delicious to be in this world, reaching for the new expansion.

    My comments are getting too long. I hope I'm not taking too much of everyone's precious time. I guess those who are very sensitive to energy can feel the presence of many doggies participating in this discussion. I can't feel them but I know they are there. (Oh, is it the same as feeling them?) Isn't this blog such a sacred place to be? And also such a joyous, uplifting place to be? My utter appreciation for Johnny and Spirit who have created this wonderful place for us to participate in real time. Thank you for your unconditional love, Johnny, Chief Joseph, other spirit guides, and readers!

    Blessings to all,

  3. Anonymous

    It is a beautiful story but missing and waiting someone like this and not living my life fully, can't do me any good? or if to see it little a bit differently, I learnd that I should get over it if someone close to me dies or I might end up like this dog. I should let go or think something like:''I'am with that person in My heart'' or something like that.
    I agree dogs are very good friends indeed.


  4. Marlene

    Dogs and humans can develop an incredibly strong bond. I've been very blessed to have been loved by several. And it goes without saying that I have loved them right back. With each dog's passing I feel the sorrow that comes from having outlived a good and loyal friend.

  5. John Cali

    Well, I would have liked a happier ending too, at least to Shep's earthly life. But I'm sure he's happy now.


  6. Anonymous

    Beautiful faithful dog who now is with his master. I was hoping for a happy ending like he followed the train East. Ahh well.

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