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Looking Back With Lee-Remembering Steve Shaw

From the archives of The Canine Chronicle, March, 2010

By Lee Canalizo

February 14, 1972 Steve Shaw with Ch. Balachan Naughty Gal

Steve Shaw was such a complex man. He was an orphan, brought up by cousins. He served in the United States Army, was a successful dog handler for many years, and ultimately an all breed judge.

Steve was also a good friend of mine. We were there for each other for a long time during some very rough times for each of us.

On the outside he was abrupt, aloof and sometimes downright unfriendly. He was everything I wasn’t. But beneath this exterior was a very fragile, sensitive, feeling man. He was a faithful partner to Fred D’Amato for over thirty five years. Together they created a beautiful, artistic, antique filled home, decorated in many bright, lively and beautiful colors. They both had vast knowledge of the canaries they bred and all things horticultural. He loved his garden and it reflected his and Fred’s care and attention in a most beautiful way.

He was a professional handler who took his craft seriously. His charges were shown to perfection in top notch condition. He was kennel manager and private handler for some of the top owners of the day including Mrs. Harriet Long of Corgi fame. Steve showed her Champions Red Jacket, Sun Dew, and Ehrstag Gage, among others, to many prestigious wins. He actually began handling for the Newfoundland kennels of Mrs. Elizabeth Powers and he was the breeder of the very first blue Newfoundland. Steve also was a private handler for one of the pioneer Afghan Hound kennels and showed many of the Arkden Kennels foundation dogs.

Steve later became a judge and was just as no-nonsense in this arena as he was in handling. Perhaps, even more so! Ask my son, Michael, who steadfastly refused or as he put it “tried” to avoid showing to Mr. Shaw for the longest time. Actually, it was when he came to find out that Steve had intimate knowledge of the Afghan Hound that allowed him to test the waters! Lo and behold Steve’s ability to grasp and interpret a standard in such complete detail made a profound impression on Michael. Steve knew the intricate nuances of every breed he judged and his intense examination could easily be perceived in different ways. He was not afraid to blatantly show faults and God forbid they were masked by a foreign substance….Ouch! Regardless, his exam techniques followed his persona, impeccable and carefully crafted. His ring protocol was just as exacting. It was common knowledge that AKC Reps were trained on his orderly procedures and many a new judge was advised to watch his ring as a learning experience. Handlers often had experiences of a different sort, but we won’t go there! Suffice it to say, Steve did not tolerate deviation from his directions and took his responsibilities in the ring very, very seriously.

During the early eighties, Steve developed health problems and it was during this time that he and I really became closer friends. We lived within fifteen minutes of each other and would meet in a nearby park to walk three or four times a week. It was good for both of us in many ways. We would discuss the weekend shows, awards, dogs, and standards, etc. for the duration of the walks after which we would stop for coffee or lunch…dutch treat, of course. No spendthrift, Steve!

He was a great teacher during these walks. I learned so much about all breeds, especially Terriers, during this time. This group was his favorite (especially the Scottish Terriers). We judged on the same panel as often as we could as we enjoyed our exchanges and, sometimes, friendly disagreements! I was very proud of him as he judged the Terrier Group at Westminster and he was just as proud of me when I judged the Hound Group at that famous venue. We were somewhat of an odd couple, he being the “teacher” and me being his “sunshine”.

It was a sad day for both of us when I moved to Florida. Steve came down for a visit and looked at new homes but felt that he was just not up to starting anew in Florida. That’s about the time Michael’s handling career was ending and I watched as Steve got under Michael’s skin. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the two of them would share the type of friendship that Steve and I shared. I saw the closeness between the two of them develop. I often sensed Michael was getting to be like Steve in many ways when it came to judging responsibilites…most of which was a good thing!

Steve was not shy about his opinions on “anything”. He had great respect for the American show dog world, the breeders and the AKC. Not common knowledge to many was the strong support Steve had from the average hobby breeder. He was always a top consideration as a judge for National Specialties. The breeders who showed to him appreciated his being well-versed in every nuance of their breed. While he might have been a retired professional handler, he never let that influence his decisions in the ring. Most handlers reluctantly had a latent respect for his judgements. (Sometimes it took a few minutes to get over the results for them to remember that part!)

Steve shared so many words of wisdom with me over the years. He once told me, “Don’t aspire to be an all breed judge!! The reason being that you never get to judge the breeds you love the most, just the ones the clubs need you to do to fill in the gaps.” Another was, (and this is such a hard, but imperative part of judging) the need to be able to look at an entry as if you never saw it before. That meant it didn’t matter if you gave that entry 10 Best in Shows or beat it 10 times in the Breed… you HAD to look at it at that moment as if you never saw it before. Try it sometime…not an easy thing to do…but every judge needs to wrap their mind around that concept…it served Steve well and is still good advice to this day.

Steve Shaw was a difficult man to get to know, but the Canalizo family DID get to know him in many special ways, not only in dog show ways, but during holidays, illnesses, good times and bad times and he was a beloved part of our lives… I miss him!


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Posted by on Sep 2 2020. Filed under Current Articles, Dog Show History, 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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