It may be a dog in Japan who is most famous for demonstrating the true meaning of loyalty, but the vigil of a Montana dog, named Shep, is at least equally heart-wrenching.
The story of Shep’s vigil begins, almost eerily, the year after the death of Hachiko, the Akita who, after his master died, famously waited for him every day at a train station for nearly 10 years.
Hachiko would accompany his master, a university professor, to the train station every morning, and be waiting for him when he returned. When his master didn’t get off the train one day, having died while at work, Hachiko continued going to the train station every day for nine years and nine months, until he died in 1935.
In 1936, a sheep herder in Montana took ill and was taken to St. Clare Hospital in Fort Benton. His dog followed him into town, and waited outside the hospital.
A nun who ran the kitchen at the hospital brought the dog food as he stood vigil for the next several days, until the sheep herder, whose name has been lost to history, died.
His body was put into a coffin and taken to the train station in Fort Benton to be shipped to his family back east.
As it was loaded onto the train, Shep was there watching. Reportedly, he whimpered as the door slammed shut and the train pulled away,
The dog chased the train for a while, then turned back.
For the next five and a half years, Shep, believed to be a collie mix, never left the train station. He lived underneath the train platform, and would greet each train that stopped — about four a day — in hopes of seeing his master.
According to FortBenton.com, Shep “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 that Shep was a one-man dog.”
Railroad employees fed Shep, and the story of his vigil was carried in the old “Believe it Or Not” newspaper feature, and picked up by other news media of the day.
As time went on, though, Shep was slowing down, probably arthritic, and he had grown hard of hearing.
One day in 1942, unable to hear an arriving train and too slow and frail to get off the icy tracks, Shep was struck and killed.
His death made headlines and thousands of people sent in condolences.
Hundreds attended his funeral, at which a boy scout troop carried Shep in his coffin up to a bluff and buried him.
An obelisk and sign mark the spot of his burial, and 50 years after his death the town of Fort Benton commissioned a statue memorializing Shep, which now sits alongside the Missouri River.
NBC’s Dateline carried a short report about Shep last week:
Posted by John Woestendiek January 12th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, dateline, dog, dogs, fort benton, hachiko, loyalty, master, memorial, missouri, montana, pets, sheep herder, shep, statue, train, train station, vigil, waiting
This video loses its audio about two-thirds of the way through, but it’s enough for you to get the point.
Which is either (A) Miley Cyrus misses her dog, or (B) Miley Cyrus wants to be sure everyone knows how much she misses her dog.
Floyd, an Alaskan Klee Kai that Cyrus had owned since 2011, died April 1. While repeatedly tweeting about the pain that has caused her, Cyrus has been hesitant to describe what caused the dog’s death. It is now believed to have been a coyote attack.
Afterwards, Cyrus told the audience, “That was the hardest song of the night to do … as y’all know, because I lost my Floydie this week … Sometimes I just can’t stop from breaking down crying.”
It was the second appearance Cyrus has made with the statue, the first coming in a performance in Boston last week.
I sympathize with the singer, and offer my condolences, but I can’t help but notice in her all the same traits I noticed in customers of dog cloning, when I wrote a book on the subject.
She has yet to seek to bring back a laboratory-created copy of a dead dog, as far as I know. But, like most of the early customers who did, she’s wealthy, eccentric, perhaps a tad selfish, wants to control the uncontrollable, and seems to think her grief is somehow larger than anyone else’s.
I can’t help being turned off by those who need to shine a spotlight on their mourning. Call me old fashioned, but I think that should mostly be done in private. Cyrus, it seems, has decided to take her grief — like her navel and tongue and other body parts — public.
In recent years, the singer has gone through dogs at a rapid pace.
In 2012, Cyrus rescued a dog she found abandoned outside a Walmart, and named him Happy. He joined her other three dogs, Floyd, Lila and Ziggy.
A few months later, Lila died of initially undisclosed causes, though Cyrus’ mother later revealed Lila died of injuries received when she was attacked by Ziggy, and that Ziggy had been gotten rid of.
The facts behind the dog’s death weren’t revealed until one of her backup dancers posted some photos on Instagram, along with the explanation that Floyd had been the victim of a coyote attack at home while Cyrus was on tour.
Since Floyd’s death, her mother has given her a new puppy, named Moonie.
(Photos: Top, Miley in concert in Brooklyn; bottom, Miley with Floyd; via Twitter)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 8th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, attack, book, cause of death, clones, cloning, concert, coyote, dead, death, died, dog, dogs, floyd, grief, happy, lila, miley, miley cyrus, mourning, pets, public, social media, statue, tweets, ziggy
The United States’ first national monument to military working dogs was dedicated at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio on Monday.
The nine-foot tall bronze statue, built with private funds, features four dogs and a handler and is inscribed with the words “Guardians of America’s Freedom.”
Lackland is home to the U.S. Armed Forces center that has trained dogs for all branches of the military since 1958.
The sculpture features dogs of four major breeds — Doberman pinscher, German shepherd, Labrador retriever, and Belgian malinois — and honors all those who have served in all branches of the military over theyears.
You can learn more about the memorial, how it came to be, and donate to the cause here.
(Photo: Benjamin Faske / U.S. Air Force)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 30th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: air force base, american, belgian malinois, doberman pinscher, dog, dogs, freedom, german shepherd, guardians, handler, labrador retriever, lackland, military, monument, national, san antonio, statue, war, working
“The beaches are clean where once they festered with fish guts and flies. The canneries which once put up a sickening stench are gone, their places filled with restaurants, antique shops and the like. They fish for tourists now, not pilchards, and that species they are not likely to wipe out.”
John Steinbeck’s return to a much-changed Monterey in 1960 was more bitter than sweet — he found it much improved cosmetically, and economically, but its old fishing character and its saltiness were gone.
It wasn’t home anymore.
The town’s transition from a sardine-based economy to a tourist-based one was well underway by then, and while that would ensure that Monterey would continue to thrive, seeing how much had been erased — fish guts and all — returned Steinbeck, a native of the area, to the kind of funk he seemed to teeter on the edge of, periodically, in “Travels with Charley.”
“My return caused only confusion and uneasiness,” he wrote. “… Tom Wolfe was right. You can’t go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.”
If he were to return again today to this spic and span city by the sea, he’d likely be even more displeased. Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf are now full-fledged tourist attractions that, while giving nods to the past, no longer have much connection with it.
And, quite possibly, he’d be downright irate over how his name and likeness have become an integral part of the area’s business and tourism marketing.
He probably wouldn’t think much of the way his name has been seized by business operations large and small: Steinbeck Garden Inn, Steinbeck Jewelers, Steinbeck Mortgage, Steinbeck Travel, Steinbeck Credit Union, Steinbeck Country Bail Bonds.
Steinbeck shunned publicity. In fact, he once moved out of the area to avoid it. Maybe he’d be OK with his bust being on display, in Steinbeck Plaza, but to see his face flapping in the breeze on banners above the streets in Cannery Row? I’m guessing he wouldn’t care for that.
The Steinbeck bust is right in the middle of things, and tourists regularly stop and have their photos taken with it. It faces away from the bay, toward the traffic, which probably wouldn’t have been his preference, either. He stares, somewhat solemnly, into the distance. Not even Ace could get him to break into a smile.
Monterey, and the surrounding area makes much of its Steinbeck connection — Steinbeck Country, they call it — from the flatlands of Salinas to the hilly bayfront of Pacific Grove.
It was in the family cottage there, purchased by his father as a family retreat, that Steinbeck wrote several novels and got started on “Of Mice and Men.”
He visited old haunts, at least those still standing, and old friends, at least those who were still around. Between the people who had died or moved away and the makeover the city had received, Steinbeck felt out of place.
“The place of my origin had changed, and having gone away I had not changed with it. In my memory it stood as it once did and its outward appearance confused and angered me.”
Monterey was a new place. And Carmel, he wrote, “begun by starveling writers and unwanted painters, is now a community of the well-to-do and the retired. If Carmel’s founders should return, they could not afford to live there…They would be instantly picked up as suspicious character and deported over the city line.”
Ace and I visited Cannery Row, then drove by Steinbeck’s former cottage in Pacific Grove to snap a quick photo. We found a nice spot, cliffside, near Lover’s Point, to rest our weary paws.
We walked Fisherman’s Wharf, which once served as the major port on the Pacific and whose fishermen once set off daily on quests for huge whales, and later tiny sardines — until overfishing brought the sardine industry, which thrived during the Depression, to a grinding halt in the 1950s. By 1960, as Steinbeck noted, tourists had become the city’s salvation.
In the 50 years since, the supply of them has not depleted. I’ve visited Monterey several times, first in 1987, and a couple more times in the early 1990’s, once for a story at Ford Ord, the once massive military base that was shut down in 1994. This visit, I was surprised to see mostly emptiness on the massive Army base by the sea, built in the 1940s to train soldiers for World War II. And surprised, too, that, given our times, it hadn’t been reopened.
Funny how sardines are limited, but we seem to have an endless supply of wars. Even over-warring doesn’t seem to bring an end to that industry.
Ace and I stayed at Motel 6 near what used to be Fort Ord, in a town called Marina, which I don’t even remember existing when I was last here. But we spent most of our time in Monterey, which, despite all the tourists trappings, despite never being my home, still never fails to touch my soul.
It’s not because of anything man has built; it’s not because John Steinbeck slept here. It’s the pockets of nature that still exist between the seafood restaurants and wax museums and souvenir shops and boutiques. It’s the topography, the way the peninsula stretches into the bay, and the wildlife that, despite all man’s tinkering, still call it home.
The pelicans, the gulls, the seals and sea lions and all the other squirmy sea life you can see, not just in the confines of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but in their natural habitat.
If I ever return — and I hope I do — that will be why.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 24th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, bay, business, bust, california, cannery row, carmel, coast, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fisherman's wharf, fishing, history, home, home again, industry, john steinbeck, legacy, memorial, monterey, name, nature, pacific grove, pelicans, pets, salinas, sardines, statue, steinbeck, steinbeck country, tourism, tourists, travels with charley, wildlife
Once upon a time in Butte, in a huge and barren expanse of waste that’s part of the nation’s largest Superfund site, there lived a dog.
Nobody knows how he got there, why he stayed, or how he managed to remain alive in the toxic confines of what’s known as the Berkeley Pit. But live he did, for 17 years — during times of active mining, during its suspension, during its limited restart, during the ongoing clean-up effort and right up until the pit transitioned into one of the country’s oddest tourist attractions.
He just showed up, back in 1986. Once miners figured out that the ghostly white image in the distance was a dog, they named him “The Auditor,” because of his tendency to appear when he was least expected.
With matted ropes of white hair covering his legs, The Auditor — a Puli — sometimes appeared to be hovering when he moved, and he seemed to want nothing to do with humans. The miners would leave him food, and build him a house, and even started sticking baby aspirin in his food when they noticed he was limping, but The Auditor was mostly unapproachable up until the end.
He died peacefully in his dog house in 2003, but The Auditor — like mining — would leave a legacy. His name would live on — in statues, in science, and as a symbol for, well, lots of things.
Appropriately enough, for a mining site in the midst of a massive EPA clean-up that will continue for generations, The Auditor had a coat like a mop.
His yellowing dreadlocks covered his eyes, too, limiting his vision — similar to the blind eye Montana once turned to the environmental havoc mining would wreak on and beneath its landscape.
But perhaps more than anything else, the mysterious white dog became a metaphor for Butte, and its ability to survive hard times — of the hardy stuff of which Montanans are made.
Butte’s still kicking — though not the way it once kicked. It’s about a third of the size it was in its heyday. Once called the “Richest Hill on Earth” for its massive copper deposits, Butte in the early 1900s, boasted a population of 100,000.
When the mines shut down by 1982, Butte was left economically crippled and environmentally contaminated. Piles of mine waste and years of smoke from smelters contaminated the land and water around Butte with arsenic, mercury, lead and other metals.
In the 1980s, the Berkeley Pit and Butte’s historic Uptown District were declared a Superfund site — one that extends 130 miles downstream due to tailings that settled along the Clark Fork River.
The Auditor lingers too. After the local newspaper brought him to the public’s attention in 2003, a campaign began to honor him with a series of statues, three of which now sit in various locations around town, honoring him not for any heroics, but solely for staying alive in a place where not much does.
Berkeley Pit lies just a few blocks from the center of Butte. It stretches a mile-and-a-half across and is almost 2,000 feet deep. Barren soil surrounds a lake laden with heavy metals. In 1995, a flock of migrating geese landed in the water. The next morning 342 were found dead.
How The Auditor managed to survive all that time is as mysterious as the dog himself. Maybe his rope-like locks, instead of soaking in the toxins, kept them from reaching his skin. Maybe the toxins weren’t as toxic as thought. Maybe, as dogs do, he adapted to them. The only company still in operation at the site — after mourning his loss — had The Auditor cremated.
Normally, that would slam the door shut on the mystery — but Holly Peterson already had her foot in it.
Peterson, an environmental engineer at Montana Tech in Butte, saw the article about The Auditor — 16 years old by then — in 2003. It tugged at her heartstrings as well as her scientific curiosity.
“How can that not touch you?” she said over the weekend, sitting in her office, which is decorated with photos of The Auditor. “I kept wondering, how can that thing survive? With all the contamination in Butte, I started thinking, how can we study that in a different way?”
With her students, she began getting samples of hair from dogs in Butte and the surrounding areas, and when she ran into an official from the mining company, Montana Resources, at a presentation, she asked about getting a sample from The Auditor.
The Auditor was first seen roaming the mine in 1986, the year Montana Resources started its operations. The company, due to plunging copper prices, shut down operations there in 2000, leaving only a skelton crew, but reopened in 2003.
After getting permission from the company, Peterson went to the site, where a mining company employee, wearing gloves, approached The Auditor, on his last legs by then, and snipped off a few locks of hair.
“You could tell he just wanted us to leave him alone,” Peterson said.
Tests on the sample in July of 2003 revealed “elevated levels of almost every element imaginable,” Peterson said, including 128 times the amount of arsenic in a typical dog’s hair.
Peterson’s research project would expand from there, shedding new light on the extent of environmental degradation in Butte and introducing a new, if not conclusive, way to measure it and the continuing efforts to clean it up. Her work marked the first time pet hair has been used to monitor toxins in a residential Superfund site.
Since then, the project has moved on to testing the hair of animals in Australia and Nairobi, and sampling the hair of animals bagged by hunters back home in Montana. Through taking samples at hunter check stations, they found far higher levels of metals in animals shot in the area around Anaconda, once home to a huge smelting operation.
The Auditor, as it turned out, inspired Peterson on several levels. She was the one behind the effort to install statues of him — created by a Texas sculptor — at several locations around town, including the one she showed me at the Butte Plaza Mall.
It’s made of bronze, with a copper patina that has worn off in spots from people petting it. Most of funding for the sculpture came from a California couple, who read of The Auditor in a Puli Club of America newsletter.
Peterson’s hope was that The Auditor — after his death on Nov. 19, 2003 — would become a mascot for Butte, or a mascot for environmental causes, that his legacy would serve as inspiration to others, and as a reminder to not abandon pets, or abuse the planet.
What she wasn’t planning on was her own little Auditor.
Living with her 86-year-old mother, she didn’t see a dog fitting into her life.
But after publicity about The Auditor, and connecting with the Puli Club, she started getting emails when a Puli would show up at a shelter in need of rescue.
“I couldn’t pass him up when I saw the picture of him,” Peterson said.
Birke-Beiner, who earlier in the day had gone to a Halloween Party — as a basket of yarn — came along on our trip to the mall, much of which he spent draped over Peterson’s shoulder, looking something like a Lady Gaga fashion accessory.
Peterson says some people call him Little Auditor, but Birke is his own dog — playful, people-friendly and, one gets the impression, destined to live a happy and non-toxic life, far away from a giant hole in the ground known as the Berkeley Pit.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 2nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, animals, arsenic, auditor, berkeley pit, butte, contamination, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, environment, epa, hair, history, holly peterson, levels, memorial, metals, miners, mining, mining waste, montana, montana resources, montana tech, pets, puli, puli club of america, research, science, site, statue, stray, superfund, testing, tests, the auditor, toxic, travels with ace
We often hear of dogs finding their way back home, but it’s even more impressive when that dog is a statue.
The artwork, called “There is Honour in Being a Dog,” was taken May 20 from outside the east entrance of Purdue University’s Lynn Hall of Veterinary Medicine, according to the Journal & Courier in Lafayette.
Cox said it appeared that someone used a wrench to unbolt the piece, which is part of “The Dog Days of Summer,” an outdoor exhibit put on by the Purdue Veterinary Medicine Department and the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette.
John Cox, chief of the Purdue University Police Department, said an officer spotted the dog late Wednesday on one of the floors of the Northwestern Avenue parking garage, not far from where it was removed from its concrete base and taken.
“We’re guessing that the dog was in someone’s apartment and they got scared. It probably had a lot to do with the news coverage of the missing dogs,” Cox said Thursday. “We do appreciate that it came back undamaged. It means a lot to the art foundation.
” … From what it looks like, someone waited until no one was in the garage and took the dog out of their car and set it there.”
“Honour” is one of 41 decorated dogs in the exhibit, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the veterinary department and the 100th anniversary of the museum .
“It’s in excellent condition, just a small scratch by its ear, but it should be easily touched up,” said Kevin Doerr, a member of the Dog Days of Summer committee and director of public affairs for the veterinary school.
At least three dogs in the exhibit have been taken, and some vandalized. “Alfie, the Alpha Dog” was stolen on May 10 and remains missing. “Give a Dog a Bone” was stolen the same night but was later found in some shrubbery.
“Dog Days” runs through October, and the dogs will be auctioned off when it ends.
Exhibit officials last week removed 18 dogs from the Purdue campus and West Lafayette sites because of a series of thefts and vandalism. Those and the one recovered Thursday are being stored indoors until safer ways can be found to place them back on display.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 31st, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: art, artwork, dog, dog days of summer, exhibit, indiana, lafayette, purdue, returned, statue, stolen, university, veterinary deparment, west lafayette
It’s the “more” that seems to be bothering some people.
Artist Scott Donahue of Emeryville, Calif., was paid $196,000 by the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission to create two large statues, one at each end of the bridge. At the base of one, he attached medallions showing humans engaged in human activities, such as kite flying. At the base of the other, he attached medallions of dogs doing the things dog do.
Those, as you may have guessed by now, include dogs-a-pooping and dogs-a-humping.
Some citizens are grumbling about the taxpayer-funded artwork, the designs for which didn’t reflect the objectionable — to some — dog activities, according to a Fox News report.
Berkeley civic arts coordinator Mary Ann Marker doesn’t seem fazed.
Donahue says he stands by his work — the, uh, thrust of which is “celebrating life’s vitality.”
“The sculpture is on the one hand serious — you’ve got these big sculptures — and on the other hand it’s playful. It’s both serious and playful simultaneously.”
The pedestrian bridge spans Interstate 80 in Berkeley, and the artwork — about 1.5 percent of the bridge’s total cost — was part of what taxpayers paid for its construction.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 13th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: art, artist, arts, artwork, berkeley, bridge, california, civic arts commission, complaint, dogs, humping, medallions, news, ohmidog!, pedestrian, playing, pooping, running, scott donahue, sniffing, statue, statues