Over the years, as we’ve worked with families to plan funerals and cremations, we’ve become acutely aware of the importance of sharing stories of those we’ve lost — and the importance of sharing these stories with future generations.
We’ve been diligently researching the lives of the significant people who have made Broomfield so special and want to share their stories with you. Our blog series begins with Shep the Toll Dog, a beloved figure in this community for over 10 years.
Today, U.S. Highway 36 is a busy highway with suburban sprawl and strip malls marking its corridors. However, back in 1951, it was little more than a dream. Ground was broken for a new highway that would become known as the Denver-Boulder Turnpike, and toll booths were set up to pay for the new road. One day before its opening in 1952, a thin and bedraggled black and white shepherd mix wandered up to the toll booths and quickly won the hearts of the workers.
The toll takers adopted the dog, and drivers fell in love with him. They would often bring him bones and treats and contribute to his upkeep. A plastic bucket was often placed outside the booth where people could donate their extra change for Shep’s care. So many donations were collected that a special account was set up in his name. In a way, Shep became Broomfield’s community dog and served as the town’s mascot. Often, drivers who would pass by on their way to vacation would stop by the booth to see him when they returned each year. Shep was a fixture at the tollbooth for 13 years.
When Shep was mysteriously shot, Dr. Clyde Brunner donated his services and became Shep’s personal veterinarian. Despite his excellent care, time and arthritis took their toll on the beloved dog. The toll keepers would carry him into the booth each morning and take him out in the evenings. In August 1964, Shep was put to sleep.
The Colorado Department of Transportation decided to officially bury Shep, and local merchants donated the fence and headstones. The larger one says “Shep. 1950-1964. Part Shepherd. Mostly Affection.” The smaller one simply said, “Shep. Our Pal.” The highway superintendent personally dug a grave for him near the toll booths. A portrait of Shep still hangs outside the CDOT commissioner’s auditorium in Denver.
The site was maintained for decades. Even when the U.S. 36 interchange was redesigned in 1971, they were careful not to disturb Shep’s final resting spot. However, its location in the right-of-way led to a five-year effort to relocate the memorial to a new more fitting home.
Shep’s remains were found while they were making preparations to move the headstones and fencing that marked the grave. It is fitting that Dr. Brunner was a part of the team as the remains were exhumed.
The relocation to Shep’s new home by the Depot Museum in Zang’s Spur Park was celebrated during the depot’s 100-year celebration on Oct. 17, 2009. Fifty-five years after the beloved mascot’s death, many still visit his grave. It is not unusual to still find dog biscuits left behind for him from time to time.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Shep’s story. Please know that our professional team is here for you and your family anytime you need us. Don’t hesitate to contact us with questions. We think of it as neighbors helping neighbors and hope you do too.