The Story of Shep the Cemetery Dog
There are many murals on buildings all over Erie County. One of my favorites is one in downtown Girard. There's one part of the mural that has always intrigued me.
It's the part that features a dog sitting on a chair by an iron gate. Who is this dog and why is he included on a mural that showcases icons of Girard from years gone by? I contacted local historian Stephanie Wincik. She met me at the Girard Cemetery. She told me the dog sitting in the chair by the gate is a monument that once was located inside the cemetery.
"It was 1881, I believe. A lady from Lake City, her name was Mrs. H.C. Davis. She commissioned the statue to be built after her husband passed away. The dog was her husband's,” explained Stephanie.
The memorial of the dog was located at the section of the cemetery that runs along Church Street. For over 100 years people traveled by the locally famous monument. No one knew the true story of the dog or even its name. Generations of people in Girard just called him Shep.
"Some people thought the owner died and the dog wouldn't eat. So he died and they were buried together. None of that was really true but we all had a story,” remembers Stephanie.
On September 30, 1993, the unthinkable happened. Thieves stole the Shep monument from the cemetery. Police could not find the statue. Four years later, Girard police received a call from an antique dealer who believed he just bought some stolen property. The dealer was in New Haven, Connecticut.
"It was a long story how it ended up there but apparently whoever stole it sold it to an antique dealer who sold it to someone else. By the time it got to the person in Connecticut, he had paid $20,000 for it,” says Stephanie.
The Shep statue was returned to Girard. Happy citizens raised $800 in 1997 to have their beloved monument shipped home. No one wanted to see the statue stolen again so it was decided to place Shep inside the lobby of the Girard Municipal Building. And there he sits, greeting people as they walk inside. Rob Stubenbort, Girard Borough Manager, likes to watch visitors' reactions to the statue.
"It's even said that if you rub Shep's head, it's good luck,” says Rob. “So, a lot of people come in, they pay their bill and what have you, and they rub Shep's head before they leave."
Shep died eight years after his master. The amazing thing is neither the dog nor its owner were ever buried in Girard Cemetery. There's more interesting stories from Girard Cemetery. You can find out about them during a spooky Cemetery Walk held on the nights of October 6 and 7. For more information, call 814-490-5078.