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Looking Back With Lee…Remembering Bea Godsol

From the archives of The Canine Chronicle, March 2011

By Lee Canalizo

There are few true legends in our sport. This article will look back at one that will still be at the forefront of our sport for decades to come. She will always be remembered.

I shared an article on Alva Rosenberg not long ago, and this month I will bring his female counterpart into view.

Does the name Bea Godsol mean anything to you? If it does only because you’re chosen breed is the Newfoundland, then you need to get a little research time under your belt.

Many of the keenest minds whose opinions you prize will freely admit much of what they learned (and more importantly…carry into their judgments on a regular basis) were gifts from this great sportswoman. Bea started in dogs in the early 1930s with her “Coastwise” Newfoundlands. She also had success in other breeds which included German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Shetland Sheepdogs, and both Sealyham and Dandie Dinmont Terriers. When I say “success” in these chosen breeds, I say it as humbly as Bea would have; she won National Specialties in each of those breeds over her years of her involvement.

The Herding breeds and Goldens were most likely a large part of the success she had in Obedience, of which she was an avid competitor. Her Newfs were the first to have titles at both ends “back in the day”, and Bea was instrumental in starting Obedience on the West Coast circa 1938.

Not to be idle for a second, Bea was also an active club member in no fewer than three prominent clubs on both coasts: Santa Barbara, Long Island (or maybe Westbury, I can’t recall exactly) and she was a long-time officer of the Newfoundland Club of America. She was quite amazing to maintain such a level of activity. She also wrote the definitive book on the Newfoundland and was an AKC Gazette columnist for decades. She shared most of her dog life with her husband, Major, who along with their showing and breeding activities took time to be an AKC Rep for many years.

Both Bea and Major went on to become popular All Breed judges but, to me, Bea stood out as one of the finest judges of my beloved Afghan Hounds and, naturally, I was always atuned to who, what and when she passed judgment. It was not lost on the dog world that this woman knew how to make a statement and she didn’t back down from her convictions in any way, shape or form. As only the second woman to select Best in Show at Westminster, her point to the electrifying Afghan Hound  as Best In Show on the occasion of his first Hound Group win that night might have been the singlehandedly the most influential win in the history of our sport. The dog was a young homebred, shown by his owner, Miss Sunny Shay of Grandeur Kennels, and the fact Bea recognized him for an awe-inspiring performance in a field of “Great One’s” gave every breeder-owner-handler a huge boost of confidence at a time when it was most needed. For that we all owe Bea our thanks.

When we look back at some we consider to be members of the “Dean of Judges Club” Bea shared her insight and they in turn took time to pass it on. I can still hear Annie tell us in lectures about Bea reminding them that they (and us as new judges) would have to “learn on the customers” and that would be okay. And Frank will tell anyone that Bea (who might have been closest to him than anyone I know…hint: talk to Frank about Bea, it’s worth the price of a dinner!) taught him that no dog was without flaws…but it was the greatest ones that carried them lightly.

I watched Bea “retire” in 1972 doing the Afghan Hound National in the Staler Hilton (now Hotel Pennsylvania) and the Terrier Group at that year’s Westminster. She walked into the ring and out of the ring with the everlasting authority, charm and humility that she wore since day one! I can’t say if there was anyone ever to compare to Bea. A few might have and I will write about them another time.

From the archives of The Canine Chronicle, March 2011

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Posted by on Jun 29 2020. Filed under Editorial, Featured, Remembering Our Past?. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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