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Looking Back With Lee – Remembering Shirley Thomas

From The Canine Chronicle,  May, 2013 Archives

By Lee Canalizo

Shirley Thomas

When news of the passing of Shirley Thomas reached me, my immediate thought was I had to write a little something about a friend I knew forever! But as quick as I could get my thoughts forming, I saw a very nice retrospective on her in an online article…one very near and dear to this very publication ( to be exact) Yes, another writer got the scoop on me in our mutual Canine Chronicle affiliation…but there is a distinct following to each medium and room for both perspectives.

So I decided to move forward with a look back to Shirley and, in the process, another great dog personality kept coming to mind via our common associations. So this article will feature Shirley and Jimmy Trullinger as well.

Both Shirley and Jimmy predate my entry in the sport of purebred dogs. Jimmy was known to have judged his first dog show as a very young man in 1929; and that means I wasn’t even born yet! Shirley may have been around then, but we ladies never discussed that sort of thing! Both Shirley and Jimmy had major relationships with the Pug breed. Both wrote excellent books many years apart. Both would call Queens, NY home for most of their years. Jimmy was in Forrest Hills, Shirley in Flushing and I was born in Rosedale, all locales within miles of one another. Shirley and I had shared memberships in some of the local kennel clubs. She would dedicate a serious amount of time to her clubs…if the truth be told, she made a career out of it. And if one chose to become so ingrained, it would be no surprise that she was a very firm (some would say strong) leader of these many clubs.

We both had hard working husbands that gave their time to our club functions when they could. The guys (Jim and Rayne) would often be caught off somewhere sneaking a smoke when they probably shouldn’t have been.

Shirley (or our shared fiend Marco Leynor) would introduce me to Jimmy Trullinger at some point in time. As the years blended together and my interests started to shift from exhibiting towards judging, both of them would share some of their knowledge.

Independently, they were very different from me. Jimmy was very much a senior and his tall and distinguished demeanor was a bit foreboding. Jimmy didn’t drive and when possible we would go together to some local shows. It was not unusual for me to have a few stops in those days as Marco was another non-driver and would also be a member of our gypsy tribe! But he loved to tell stories and on many of our travels he would delight me with his vast life history. Sometimes this very dog specific and sometimes more of a titillating vibe…which, of course, I loved! Sure, I remembered his directive that the Pug should be absolutely “flat” in profile. I never actually would take out a pencil and lay it on the layback of the face to be sure little or no light was detected (like he did as a rule), but I would slide a finger there to check one when I had a question on that detail.

Ch. Gore’s Jack Tarr Judge Shirley Thomas – Owner Russell Hicks

Oh, how I remember Jimmy sitting with me during Best In Show at Westminster when a dog with a missing piece of this anatomy (the ear) was awarded the highest prize. Yikes! He was most upset and equally verbal in his dissatisfaction of that selection. The old guard was never timid when they felt strongly about something. I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell him that I leaned more to that being a “mark of valor or acceptable for a working pack breed”. Looking back now, I can’t help to realize that the ilk of Jimmy is pretty much gone. Many wouldn’t have known it, but Jimmy started out as a very serious breeder. His first (of his many) breed(s) was Dachshunds (all coats) and he maintained a kennel of 50-60 of them back in the day. He had close associations with Alva Rosenberg and Eno Meyer, two greats of the dog sport from the same generation. I often wondered if there was any competition between Jimmy and Alva. I could pick up a bit of that from our chats, and I would think it had to be hard to live in the shadow of the greatness of Alva. Jimmy was a worldly judge but I’m not sure he had the uncanny perspective and perception that Alva did. Sadly, Jimmy struggled during his last years and may have tarnished his reputation for having gone on a bit too long. But to be fair, some would say the same thing about Alva, too. I’ll share with you my favorite saying Jimmy shared with me about judging. He told me, “The minute I enter the ring and don’t feel nervous, it’s time to quit judging”!

Shirley may not have had the same depth as a judge. She was more aligned with a steady breeding program and managed to juggle both for a good long time. She did all Toys, some Non-Sporting and some Sporting breeds. I know she had Poodles, Labradors and even a Scottish Deerhound at one time. Shirley also had a brother who was very active in dogs. Her brother was Al Mishirer, who had a presence in the Doberman breed until some misguided actions brought a permanent suspension upon him. The two shared a lifelong interest in the dogs foster by that of their parents who were also active in the game. As I noted at the start, Shirley was a club member extraordinaire. I lost count of all the positions she might have had in a conglomeration of breed and all-breed clubs. Her work ethic for her clubs was legendary. I’m not sure many could have done what she did. With all that she took on, much which yielded great success, there were those who called into question some of her tactics required to get things done. My son, Michael, worked with her when her Progressive Toy Dog Club and our local Afghan Hound Club both lost their Westminster weekend sites. They were leading principles that helped build a major combined set of breed clubs to hold a three day event in the heart of Manhattan for many years. These clubs (and many others) still hold their events at that time, but without either of them in the same capacity.

Shirley did a good amount of international judging and was always sought after to help establish a breed in some of these emerging countries. This connection allowed her to bring in many international judges that were new and interesting. I know she was highly regarded in the Philippines for seeing some good stock being sent there. Shirley was old school in our dog world. Love her or not, she brought something to the sport that will be remembered. I choose to remember all the good she had in her and never let her bark override that gift.

Ch. Reinitz Frantic Joy of Gore Owners: Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Reinitz

I think it’s hard to imagine the likes of Jimmy and Shirley to be universally accepted in the current showing arena, but I guess 50 or 60 years from now they will be saying that about me!

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Posted by on Aug 8 2020. Filed under Current Articles, Dog Show History, Featured, Remembering Our Past?. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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