Famous Sheps in Dog History, Vol. 2: Shep the Turnpike Dog, Broomfield CO

Shep greeting motorists at the tollbooth

Second on our list of “Famous Sheps in Dog History” is Shep the Turnpike Dog, from Broomfield, Colorado. In 1950, construction began on the Denver-Boulder Turnpike, a 17-mile toll road linking the state capital of Denver to the university town of Boulder. A set of tollbooths was planned for Broomfield, roughly the halfway point of the road. As workers built the tollbooths, a young, stray dog began hanging around the worksite, begging for lunch scraps. The dog was shy at first, but eventually an attendant coaxed him into the tollbooth, so he would have a comfortable place to sleep.

For the next 14 years, the dog — who came to be called Shep, of course — became a permanent fixture at the tollbooth. The attendants worked eight hour shifts, and Shep would cheerfully greet them when they arrived. He became a favorite of motorists as well. Kids looked forward to seeing Shep at the booth, and some families even got out to have their picture taken with him. When they paid their tolls, many would throw in extra money for Shep’s food and toys, or give him treats.

Shep relaxing at the tollbooth

Shep lived a happy life at the tollbooth, greeting travelers and providing companionship for the attendants. In 1958, he came back to the booth with wounds from a shotgun, but a local vet treated him for free. Over the years, he developed into a local icon. He became the unofficial mascot of Broomfield, and later, of the entire Colorado Department of Transportation. A painting of Shep still hangs outside the auditorium at CDOT’s headquarters in Denver.

Portrait of Shep at the Colorado Dept. of Transportation, Denver

As he grew old, Shep became blind and deaf, and gradually lost his mobility. In 1964, he was sadly put to sleep. The Transportation Department buried him beside the road. Local merchants installed an iron fence around the site, while a cemetery donated two headstones. His grave was regularly decorated with flowers and flags. In 2009, the grave and fence were moved to the Broomfield Depot Museum in town.

Shep’s original gravesite

Like the first Shep in our series, this Shep is also the subject of a children’s book: Shep the Turnpike Dog, by Charlotte Havey.

Shep the Turnpike Dog, by Charlotte Havey

It is inspiring to see how an unwanted dog can end up touching the lives of so many. Sheps can do that!