|My name is Linda Shaw and I’ve been actively involved with the German shepherd breed since 1970. I’ve finished several breed Champions, all of them Group winners with majors from the classes, and several obedience titles, including tracking and Schutzhund 3. I have absolutely no interest in breeding or selling dogs, and have been involved in the very occasional litter only for a dog for myself. My dogs have never been kennel dogs and there have never been more than three permanent dogs in my home.I became interested in the breed before the show/working and German/American splits in type and temperament. My first shepherd was an extraordinary female and great granddaughter of Grief Elfenhain (Hein), Nick Preussenblut, Hein Richterbach and Hessian’s Saxon. She was very like Grief in type, and her strength of character was beyond reproach. Maxine of Lintricia travelled with my family all over the United States and Canada and made us proud wherever we went. She had bottomless drive, an iron grip, was absolutely stable with children and strangers, and I always felt safe with her on our long walks after dusk.
Some years later when I decided to buy a male I went to a top Eastern breeder, Mirheim Kennels near Toronto. We had moved across the continent and the breeders of Max had retired. Mary Vurma had a pretty black and tan male nearly three months old with lovely movement and a nice head. Heiko was a sweet dog, and very beautiful, but unable to cope with the world. Whatever the stress he would tuck tail and run. Mary meant well I suppose, but I eventually realized that there wasn’t a solid dog in her kennel, and that sidegait was the priority.
Another successful kennel was literally down the street; Hermsdorf. At the time their young Grand Victor Condor was mopping up at the shows. He was a very good looking dog, and seemed sound enough. I took his half-sister, on a co-ownership, by the famous American stud Cobert’s Sirocco of Windigail ROM. Brynn was a beauty who moved like silk, and she finished her championship with three five point majors, defeating a GV and several Selects. Unfortunately she was both dysplastic and mentally unstable. I finished her CD at the National a couple points short of HIT, and that year she was the recipient of the GSDCC ‘Champion in Work and Breed Award’. It was gratifying, but I realized how little that award meant. The day she finished her championship with five points at a large speciality show was something of a letdown. I loved her, but I knew she should never be used for breeding.
I also knew how many of her competitors were no different. Over a period of a decade I watched almost every Grand Victor at the GSDCC National display obvious nervous instability. I lost count of the dogs that crouched, shied, cowered and trembled before judges who evidently didn’t care. The occasional German dog that showed up was so obviously superior in temperament that I couldn’t understand how the judges could ignore it. Apparently side gait was more important. Brynn matured into a truly beautiful female, and with the work I put into her she finally relaxed and enjoyed showing. There seemed little doubt that she was headed for a Select rating.
About the same time I lost my Max, a feisty old lady of 13, healthy and active but for the tumor in her liver. By now I knew that her bloodlines were extinct and that my old spayed pet had been a far superior representative of the breed than her lovely champion housemate. Her passing left a huge void. A year later, two year old Brynn bounced into the kitchen for her cookie, slumped to the floor and died. Her heart had stopped. Not long after, I discovered that her sire, Cobert’s Sirocco of Windigail, had sported a heart pacer so he could continue with his breeding career, and had just died prematurely because of it. His owner, Sprock, assured me it wasn’t hereditary. The pathologist rolled his eyes. Whatever faith I had that breeders, judges and breed clubs in North America were committed to breed improvement evaporated right then.
Over the next few years various dogs have shared their lives with me. I finished my CH Wiesental’s Enrico who, before I found him, had spent several years confined to a stair landing and never really viewed the world with much confidence. With work he blossomed from a scrawny scarecrow into a gorgeous male almost the equal of his full brother, Multi Select CH Wiesental’s Falco OVC, a dog who remains one of my favourites. Rico succumbed to degenerative myelopathy at age seven, as did his sire, CH Wencinshell’s Eros ROMC. A year later I euthanized a lovely young sable girl named Mandy, of largely Hawkeye breeding, due to acute juvenile kidney failure. Several other dogs displayed unacceptable temperament problems. By now I was beginning to look on the Malinois as a sounder alternative.
In the late 1980s I volunteered to retrieve a puppy flying into Toronto International, a tiny black and gold boy named Mensenredder Corry Wiesental. I left several messages with his new owners that were not returned and after a couple of weeks decided to keep him. Corry is the dog that appears on the left side of the header for this site. He was one of the best looking shepherds I ever knew, his hips were perfect even late in life, and he had a sweet, gentle nature, medium high drive and great sense of fun. He was intelligent, sensitive and sported an independent streak. We fooled around with French Ring for a time, and while not a hard dog he was certainly the equal of the better German showline dogs I’ve seen. He was also a beautiful moving dog who finished at the Group level. He was used only once, by me, and produced a SchH3.
Eastern Europe began opening up and the DDR dogs were beginning to come to North America. Carmspack was the first Canadian breeder to use a DDR stud, the beautiful black sable Grando Mecklenberger Buffel SchH3. I saw most of the resulting litter grown and it was uniformly outstanding, including Canadian Police Dog of the Year Carmspack Keno PSD of Toronto. These dogs seemed to have everything, and reminded me so much of the magnificent old lines of Lintricia. I wanted one, of course. Katya, an Ulf v Haus Iris SchH3 daughter, solid black, ears up at one week, came home with me. Katya was a powerhouse. Everything about her was strong – drives, energy level, physique, immune system. She could cope with anything, and would tackle anything. Her very first experience tracking was in a plowed field, 300 yards with a brass shell casing as article. She did it. She was friendly with people, dominant with other dogs and adored Corry. Corry carried two lines to Klodo Eremitenklause, so I thought, why not? The result, aside from six other good dogs, was the dog of my dreams, my Tim.
Tim was the bicolour baby who toddled out to the property line where I was hiding in the bushes, to confront the intruder with baby threats and protect his siblings. He was mightily relieved to find it was just mum, but I knew he was my keeper. He took the best from both parents, showing the gentle nature of his father and the high drive and extreme desire to work of his mother. His structure was athletic and correct, and carried him through many years of gaiting 40 miles or more a week beside my bike. He jumped like a deer, was reliable, beautiful, healthy and my constant companion. After I finished up seven years of university, we turned to schutzhund when he was eight, and he finished his SchH3 two summers later. He retired at 10 and enjoyed four more years of active, healthy life, hiking in Algonquin Park and tracking for fun. He died two months into his fifteenth year, in his sleep in my arms, at dawn. I miss him every day. He was perfect.
For many years his two sons filled my house with their antics. Zack was a big, beautiful black fellow with wonderful movement who loved to track and showed a pronounced flair for herding. He passed away from cancer at the age of ten. Kato was a fearless little firebrand who came to me as an adult when his pet owners couldn’t stand him any longer. He has everything a working dog should have: beautiful structure, drive up to here and an energy level that at times left me breathless. He loved schutzhund, and was good at it, but I’m no longer active in dog sports at the moment; professional obligations – and Paris – take more of my time. Today he is an elderly fellow of 12, healthy and beautiful, going for his 2km walks every day and spending his hours frolicking with his new schipperke girlfriend, Katie.
As an experienced commercial illustrator and artist, I have become very familiar with the structure and gait of many breeds of dog and many species of mammal. I know what I am observing, and I’m able to translate what I see into accurate drawings. I have illustrated the standards for many breeds, and I have been doing this for many, many years. I have also spent many years observing how purebred dogs have been altered for the show ring, not always for the best. The show ring is not the optimal place to judge sound, working structure – or temperament. I am as interested in the temperament of the domestic dog as its anatomy, and how the demands and demographics of human society are altering many breeds and creating new ones. The German shepherd isn’t the only breed impacted by the changes of the modern world.
I am an alumnus of the Ontario College of Art & Design, and hold an honours undergraduate degree in History and a Master’s degree in Business Administration, both from the University of Toronto. My paintings and sculpture are in private collections across North America, Europe and the Middle East. My professional fine art site is www.linda-shaw.com. I hope you will enjoy it too.