Shep, as he later came to be called, was a black and white, part Shepherd, stray pup, seen wandering around the turnpike construction site and eating workers’ lunch scraps sometime around 1950.
Nobody knew who he belonged to or where he had come from, and as it turned out, for fourteen years this dog took up residence in the tollbooth on the Denver-Boulder Turnpike.
Legend has it that an attendant, working the graveyard shift one cold and lonely night, coaxed the (at first) shy puppy into the tollbooth offering a warm place to sleep for the night. Shep soon won the hearts of the other tollbooth attendants and would cheerfully bound out to greet each shift’s arriving workers. Turnpike motorists adopted Shep as well, often paying their toll and a little extra to help provide dog food, treats and toys.
Shep became Broomfield’s unofficial mascot. Vacationing families even had their pictures taken with Shep.
Clyde Brunner, a Broomfield Veterinarian, provided his services for free. Shep enjoyed many more good years in the tollbooths until old age caught up with him and left him blind, deaf and struggling with arthritis. He was put to sleep on August 3, 1964, making this year the 50th anniversary of his passing.
Paul Kemf, the highway superintendent at the time, dug Shep’s grave on the side of US 36 at the Highway 287 off-ramp. Boulder’s Green Mountain Cemetery donated a marble headstone and marker.
The lone gravesite, covered with crushed white quartz, surrounded by a small two-foot iron fence, was for years decorated for the holidays by an unknown gravekeeper.
In October 2009, Shep’s grave was relocated to a new and permanent home at Broomfield’s Depot Museum. The ceremony was attended by museum and city workers and local history buffs. “Shep, The Turnpike Dog,” a piece of Broomfield’s amazing history, has been preserved.
THIS JUST IN: On June 23, 2014, I had a telephone conversation with Fred Montgomery, an 81-year-old, who lives in California. His dad, Archie, a tollbooth worker, is who originally found Shep, coaxed him into the tollbooth, fed him, cared for him, and even buried him when he passed! Archie passed away in 1967, just three years after Shep died. What a trip!