This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise September 16, 2007.
On August 14, 2007, I lost my sweet and beautiful greyhound, Betty Boop, to an unknown illness. In honor of her, and perhaps just to make myself feel a little bit better, I thought I’d write this column about Shep, the famous Broomfield mascot dog.
You’ve probably seen Shep’s grave. From the eastbound on-ramp to Highway 36 from 287/Wadsworth at Broomfield, you can see a grave on your left with a small fence and two white headstones. That’s where Shep was buried in 1964 by the tollbooth operators who had adopted him.
Shep appeared as a stray puppy around the construction site when the turnpike was still being built in 1950. The workers shared their lunches with him and he stuck around. When the turnpike opened, tollbooth operators arrived at their new job to discover that young Shep had already moved in. The toolbooths became Shep’s home. The operators cared for him and many motorists gave a bit extra to help. Shep reportedly received hundreds of Christmas cards every year.
Since his death, Shep has become even more famous. An oil painting of the dog hangs outside the CDOT auditorium in Denver. At least two books devoted chapters to him: “Unforgettable Mutts: Pure of Heart Not of Breed” by Karen Derrico and Susan Chernak McElroy and “Four-Legged Legends of Colorado” by Gayle C. Shirley. The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, reports that Shep’s ghost has been spotted numerous times along the Denver/Boulder Turnpike (the old name for Highway 36).
According to CDOT spokesman, Dennis Van Patter, it’s been a mystery for many years who has maintained Shep’s grave. CDOT highway workers try not to disturb anything when they perform their usual maintenance. When David Jennings, the Broomfield Enterprise photographer, and I went out to look at the grave, we discovered it had been overgrown with weeds. Someone had removed his picture from the headstone. The Christmas stockings and tree decorations, stuffed animals, squeakies, and American flags were tattered and faded.
However, I’m happy to report that, in honor of a beloved greyhound named Betty Boop, as a nod to the kindly tollbooth operators and others who took care of a stray named Shep, to those who kept his grave bright and decorated these four decades since his death, and perhaps as a message to the Michael Vicks of this world, some dog-loving elves sneaked out and spruced up Shep’s grave, returning it to at least some semblance of its former glory.
UPDATE: Shep has been moved to a new home at the Broomfield Depot museum.