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Ch. Shelterock Merry Sovereign

By Amy Fernandez

Gazette editor Arthur Fredrick Jones loved to get on his soapbox.  And his June 1962 reprisal of Shelterock Airedales provided an ideal opportunity to pontificate about one of his favorite topics. “American breeders are roundly criticized for spending fortunes on imported stock and the wasting the valuable bloodlines brought from Europe. This is a valid commentary for so often there is a great hurrah for a big winner and then, once the star retires there is deep silence unbroken by any sounds from the winner’s sons or daughters.”  Jones had watched this frustrating scenario carried to its wearisome conclusion by an endless stream of wealthy dilettantes. From his perspective, the history of Shelterock Airedales ranked as an ironic exception to this phenomenon.

Billy and Harry Livesy and Bobby Barlow deserve all the credit for making Shelterock such a force in Airedales. Its impact revived the breed when its popularity was waning, and its 1933 Westminster BIS was only the beginning.  Bob Barlow selected Warland Protector and his future mate Covert Dazzle for Stewart and successfully showed the pair in England before bringing them over just in time for Westminster.

Their fabulous American show careers were followed up by the birth of their equally fabulous pup, Merry Sovereign. His American show campaign culminated with the AKC award for Best American Bred Terrier of 1936. A few days later he was on the boat headed for England. Released from quarantine on September 10, three weeks later on Oct. 7 Barlow handled him to BIS at the prestigious Kennel Club show. “To Ch. Shelterock Merry Sovereign belongs the distinction of being the only American-bred dog ever to go best of all breeds at England’s premier canine event.” (AKC Gazette, Dec. 1937)

Arguably, without the boots on the ground support from Barlow’s Crackley team in England none of this would have been possible. Moreover, he knew the drill. In the early 1930s Wires were so big, it wasn’t easy to shake up the competition. But R.C. Bondy managed to grab national attention for his Wildoaks kennel (thanks to Barlow). Money was no object for Bondy, the mega-rich owner of the General Cigar Company who established Wildoaks Kennel in 1924.  Like his competitors, he relied on Barlow for a steady supply of superstar imports. Then, in 1932 they decided to send a few dogs in the opposite direction.

Ch. Bobbie Burns of Wildoaks made history as the first American-bred Wire to earn both AKC and KC championships.  That was Act I. Bondy then sent Beau Brummel and Gallant Fox who did equally well. It was an unprecedented accomplishment for American Wires, and for people like Bondy, cost was inconsequential. However the risks associated with shipping and quarantine might not only end a dog’s career, it could easily be the end of the dog. But Barlow traveled with the dogs, oversaw their six-month prison sentences, and safely escorted them home. By 1937 Barlow had this down, and amidst great fanfare Merry Sovereign embarked on his British adventure.

He outdid Bondys dogs, which must have been supremely satisfying. But even Barlow’s best-laid plans couldn’t navigate around the sudden, drastic political strife that engulfed Europe within a year. Transatlantic travel halted.  As Jones explains, “Mr. Stewart’s original plan was to bring Ch. Shelterock Merry Sovereign back to the United States after the 1939 shows but war came.”

By war’s end, Stewart, along with most of his high-flying contemporaries, had faded from the Airedale scene. Merry Sovereign had sired a few litters before he left. Some of them went onto breeding and show careers at nearby Stanric Kennel in Danbury, Conn. But both here and in Britain, the Airedale world reverted to its former status of smalltime hobby breeders working with a few dogs, struggling to keep the breed alive through those terrible war years. And if they wanted to use Merry Sovereign he was there.

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Posted by on Aug 27 2015. Filed under Current Articles, Dog Show History, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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