The Homecoming

Mary Belle Adelman

Glendhenmere Kennels


As a breeder of German Shepherds over the years I’ve often wondered what happened to all those lovable balls of fluff packed off to waiting arms all over the country. Did that pup really grow up to be a pet, or is he a Champion waiting to be discovered in someone’s back yard in Phoenix? What happened to the show quality bitch sent to Texas and not heard from since? Did she fall apart and the people give up their dreams to show? Wouldn’t we all like to know?

Haven’t you yearned for the day when you could stand in the ring, side by side with the AKC judge as he points out each feature, good and bad, that he sees in each of your dogs as they move around the ring? Can you imagine how exciting it would be to know why one dog placed over another without having to guess or rationalize what prompted the judge to do as he did?

Well, there is one breeder I know who finds out all those interesting things on the one day each year she holds the HOMECOMING. And this year I went, and I want to tell you about it.

Scattered across the grassy field behind the spacious kennels of Shiloh Shepherds in Gainesville NY were dozens of dogs with their owners and families, accompanied with all the normal paraphernalia that goes with a dog show including vans, campers, x—pens, brushes, combs, chairs, food, and tons of story—swapping and dog comparing. The day was bright and sunny with just a hint of fall in the air: an absolutely perfect day for a dog show. The ring was set up with everything one expects to see at a match including ribbons, trophies, and an array of nervous ring stewards and PA workers. The flyer sent out in the Shiloh Newsletter announced from Dawn to Dusk — the Homecoming Fun Match — German Shepherds only, all entries judged by AKC Judge Fred Lanting of Willow Wood Kennels in Alabama. Mr. Lanting was flown in especially for this day. Each class offered ribbons, rosettes, or trophies. There was a Specials Class, which one seldom sees at regular matches, for CH pointed, winners, and reserve winners dog and bitch. The Specials class was also open, by special invitation, to dogs that are being considered for inclusion in the Shiloh breeding program. Now for the fun part: every entry, with two exceptions, were German Shepherds bred and sold through the Shiloh She p herd Kennels.

Shiloh Shepherds is the dream child of Tina, who after spending seven years devoted to training and showing Shepherds, started a breeding program aimed at producing the ultimate in her “type” of oversized, sound, working (total) dog. Tina has nursed the baby through many ups and downs over the past fourteen years. Now she and her husband Gary Levesque and their two sons and daughter run the entire operation as a seven day a week enterprise. Tina has always wanted to produce the kind of Shepherd her father taught her to love as a child before they moved from Germany to America. She believes in many of the old German breeding theories. Her old CH Campaigner’s Gunsmoke is an angulated but sound, old school German Shepherd. Most of her dogs reflect a breeding orientation toward big, sound, and solid.

The judging of the Homecoming fun match was unique. Fred Lanting judged each class as he would in any regular match, and made his placements. Then he allowed the breeders to come in and again went over the dogs, explaining each thing that caught his eye, both good and bad, and detailed his reasons for the placements he made. I was thrilled to be included in this exercise. I have been in German Shepherds for over twelve years and have attended hundreds of dog shows. I have pointed German Shepherds and finished Champions in other breeds, but I rarely have understood what the judge sees that I do not and what processes he goes through to arrive at the final placements. Which, I might add, in many cases I do not agree with. This was the most educational experience I have ever received. From the position of the judge and with a competent, articulate AKC judge to explain, show, and let you learn through a hands—on experience, for the first time in my career I really understood how to evaluate a good lay—back. I guess I am just a slow learner, but up to that point no one had ever really shown me how and had me do it correctly.

That seemed to be one of the highlights of the match for the exhibitors, the evaluation of their dogs by a professional and an opportunity to find out if they really got the dog they thought they did. For the breeders, it was an education that could never be equaled by reading or looking at pictures or even sitting outside the ring and watching what was going on. It gave Tina, myself, and other breeders present a chance to evaluate our breeding programs in light of what is being produced and to chart new courses with the assistance of someone who is both knowledgeable and respected in the field.

 After the match, wins were photographed, everyone finished talking to the judge, and we took a lunch break. A nice police officer with his dog, (a member of a Search and Rescue squad) stayed at the match site to guard the dogs and equipment. Most of the group adjourned to the meeting room of the Gainesville Fire Department for the slide presentation on Hip Dysplasia given by Fred Lanting, who is also the author of Canine Hip Dysplasia and Other Orthopedic  Problems, the most widely read book out on Hip Dysplasia. Following the slides, Mr. Lanting opened the floor for questions and answers. If you have never been to one of his programs on HD, you have missed a really well laid out presentation.

Getting back to the kennel gave everyone a short break and a chance to stretch their legs and exercise their dogs. But only a short break was allowed, as I had a full two hours of obedience and tracking ideas to pass on in addition to some basic introduction to Schutzhund. The Winner’s Dog was used to illustrate the standard protection routines. Gary also worked his trained dogs, showing the difference between a ‘Guard Dog’ and a well trained, fully controllable ‘Protection Dog’. I had planned to have my Sch III German Shepherd Wulfgar von Stalwart with me, but he had taken ill on the trip and was recovering in Troy, OH. So, I had to substitute. Everyone was impressed with CR Tallawong Blue Jeroa’s performance, but felt that a short blue German Shepherd (he’s an Australian Cattle Dog) just didn’t fit in with their breeding program. However, he did an excellent job of illustrating the sit—bark exercise, the attack on the handler, and guard and escape. They got in a few good tease remarks about my breeding program that produced such funny looking German Shepherds, but on the whole everyone seemed to enjoy it.

I introduced my new Optimum Placement Technique (OPT) program which received a nice reception from most of the handlers who were rather new at dog training. It is a simple approach which is extremely easy for beginners. We did a few sample tracking exercises, but began to lose the light and had to stop before anyone was ready. I answered questions until dark. We finally left the field and all the stragglers gathered around the kitchen table and finished the evening talking dogs and eating chicken wings: the NY specialty.

Everyone left promising to come back next year and keep in touch between now and then. There was a feeling of camaraderie only generated by people who have good feelings about themselves, their dogs, and are happy among the group they are with.

During the day as people came and went through the paddock between the kennels, there was a good deal of interest in the many new constructions. Pictures were taken of various kennel construction techniques to take home and use to upgrade or add onto present facilities. Gary is a very creative kennel builder and many of his ideas translate into very inexpensive but durable and attractive facilities.

Throughout the year Shiloh Shepherds puts out several Newsletters to keep the people who own Shiloh Shepherds informed as to what’s going on. The current flyer features 95 color labeled pictures of the dogs that are found on the pedigrees of Tina’s dogs. It also includes one of the best statements on Temperament and Hip Dysplasia around, according to several novice owners and a few old hands. She has a very specific statement of guarantee as well as a rundown on the programs available at Shiloh on the brochure. The last newsletter contained two or three paragraph descriptions of each of the dogs used in the breeding program, listing known good and bad breeding results of each dog. That is something I have never seen on any major breeder’s advertisement. They always give a list of the good, but not a list of the negative.

There was no drinking, no fussing, no one was rude to anyone. There was a lot of laughing, talking, socializing, dog showing, and all the fun stuff you look forward to when you plan a day out with the dogs. The Homecoming is an idea whose time has come. Breeders who sell more than five dogs a year should certainly consider adding this to their list of services for their customers and, most of all, for themselves.

Site Map | 1983 Homecoming: Gone to the Dogs | Our First Homecoming | A Message from the Judge | The Homecoming by Mary Belle Adelman | Remember the Homecoming

Yearly since 1974, Shiloh Shepherd™ owners and fanciers from across the continent (and beyond)  have had the privilege of attending Homecoming, an event started by our Breed Founder, Tina Barber, and sponsored, since 1991, by the Shiloh Shepherd™ Dog Club of America, Inc.

Unfortunately we have not been able to share the original pictures taken prior to 1998 due to the tragedy that befell the original Shiloh Shepherds farm, but some of them may still be seen inside of the old Newsletters!!

Thanks to Rich Lewis and Karen Ursel, we have been able to recreate ALL of the recent years, since 1996, and would like to share these pages with you!

Remembering Homecomings Past | Homecoming from a Newcomer's Perspective | 9th Annual Homecoming 1983  | 21st Annual Homecoming 1995 | 22nd Annual Homecoming 1996  | 23rd Annual Homecoming 1997 | 24th Annual Homecoming 1998 | 25th Annual Homecoming 1999 | 26th Annual Homecoming 2000 | 27th Annual Homecoming 2001 | 28th Annual Homecoming  2002  | 29th Annual Homecoming 2003 |30th Annual Homecoming 2004 | 31st Annual Homecoming 2005 | 32nd Annual Homecoming 2006 | 33rd Annual Homecoming 2007 | 34th Annual Homecoming 2008 | 35th Annual Homecoming 2009 |

Please plan to join us in sharing pictures and stories from previous and future HOMECOMING celebrations!

Join Us For Our 36th Anniversary Homecoming Celebration!