A MESSAGE TO SHILOH
by Fred Lanting, "Mr. GSD"
Barber Levesque - “Ma Shiloh” - passed away May 30th, 2011. She was the
founder of a new breed, the Shiloh Shepherd
Shiloh Shepherd is actually a sub-family of the American-bloodlines German
Shepherd Dog. Tina Barber was its shepherdess for more than three decades.
We were friends even longer than that.
Of all dog fanciers still alive and active
in the sport, I am probably the one who had known Tina the longest. In the
mid-1960s I started training and exhibiting German Shepherds, and because I
could run and win, I became a very successful weekend professional handler.
Living in Toledo at the time made it easy to show in Ontario, so I soon
became an all-breed handler. (In those days, the AKC licensed handlers in
the U.S., so the Canadian experience was invaluable to me and my eventual
future as an all-breed judge."
one of those weekends in Leamington (south of Detroit and across Lake Erie
from Ohio), I set up my tent next to that of another GSD exhibitor named
Tina Barber. This was the beginning of a long and interesting friendship,
during which I witnessed her growing disappointment with not winning very
often, and with the direction that the American GSD was taking. In the years
that we ran into each other at shows in Canada and a few winter shows in the
States, the face and type of our beloved favorite breed changed. What had
previously been indistinguishable from the international (German) style dog
was now becoming problematical to us old-timers (I got my first GSD in
1947). Lance of Fran-Jo won the title of Grand Victor, and very rarely after
that did a “Germanic” German Shepherd Dog get into the top of the ranks of
the GSDCA, AKC, or CKC.
Lance was tall, very straight in shoulder
(upright, not well-angled), rather weak in temperament (“soft” was the term
used), and he had missing teeth, which problem was multiplied in many of his
descendants. He was handled to his wins by a young man who was to become the
Number-One GSD handler in the hemisphere and helped to establish Lance as
the predominant German Shepherd sire in North America. One of his offspring,
Eko-Lan’s Paladen, became Tina’s primary foundation stud and his influence
remained strong to the present day. Another dog, named Eko-Lan’s Shiloh, was
to have at least a subliminal influence on her breeding program, although
her eventual kennel name was more a reflection of the Biblical “Shiloh."
Tina, in the early days of competition, was
getting more and more discouraged about two things: not winning, and not
liking what was happening to the breed she remembered from her childhood as
a big, strong, robust, lovable animal. This led to her developing a strain
(the term used for a family within a family) of German Shepherd that she was
molding into the shape of those she remembered or fancied.
In years to come, she would break away from
the AKC and futile competition against the pro handlers and the direction
the breed had taken. A little under a decade after we met, Tina decided to
become a Christian in the original sense of the word, “a slave of, or
belonging to, Christ” —not just the world’s usual but erroneous definition
as “someone who is not a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, etc.” She chose to use
the kennel name that eventually turned into a breed name, the word Shiloh
meaning “to Whom [God] it belongs.” She wanted her breed to be dedicated to
her Lord, as she now was.
a Christian, in the mystical sense of the word, is becoming a new person
with soul-ownership being transferred from self to God, but the body and
much of the mind still is human and in the world. Thus, Tina (along with all
the new family of spiritual brothers and sisters) still carried her human
old-nature problems the same way she carried the burden of her body and
past. Now, she has given that burden to Jesus, and is free of the problems
we all knew her soul to have had while in the body. She has finally reached
the state of perfection that she wanted, one which all born-again Christians
so dearly desire and look forward to.
Tina’s dream of striving
toward perfection in her favorite part of God’s creation, the
companion dog, was as flawed and imperfect as any human earthly hope or
endeavor is. But it is our duty to tend God’s marred-by-man creation just as
it was for Adam who was charged in tending the unblemished Garden of Eden. I
hope that all Shiloh Shepherd dog lovers will try to keep that central goal
in mind, the one that Tina tried to hold in view: the husbandry of a
strain-turned-breed, the “gentle giant” that she cherished and so many
others continue to love.
Now that Tina has shed
the weight and flaws of mortality and has been welcomed into perfection, I
hope that all those to whom she left her bequest, her dearest possession,
will not only cherish their individual dogs, but also strive to make peace
with others who love the Shiloh Shepherd. As Tina has left her mortal
problems and imperfections, I pray all the various factions that had split
from her dream of the perfect Shiloh Shepherd will also try to leave their
problems, try to get along and reunite in some way.
Tina Barber created the
Shiloh Shepherd out of love and she would indeed, be rewarded if her breed
and its people carried on to perfection.
to Shiloh Shepherd Information Index