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Anatolian Shepherd from Bodega wins best in breed at Westminster Dog Show

An Anatolian shepherd bred by a Sonoma County couple won best in breed this week at the Westminster Dog Show in New York at Madison Square Garden.

The competition for purebred dogs is considered one of the premier shows in the world.

Timaru Tallulah, an 18-month-old female who goes by Tallulah, was bred and raised by Lesley and John Brabyn of Bodega. The Brabyns also are the owners of Salmon Creek Ranch and Tallulah is a working dog, keeping their goats safe from wild animal attacks when she’s not traveling to dog shows.

“She loves going places. She loves being with people, but she’s also very content with the goats,” Lesley Brabyn said Friday. “We really believe that the dogs not only should look like what they’re supposed to look like. … They also should be able to perform the functions that they were bred to do, which in the case of the Anatolian shepherd is guarding livestock.”

Dogs bred to guard livestock act as a nonlethal method of protection, Brabyn said, noting the recent case of a Napa County family that shot and killed a mountain lion to protect their sheep.

“While our neighbors have lost huge numbers of sheep to mountain lions and coyotes, we have never lost any,” she said.

Of course, the Westminster show doesn’t judge breeds by how well they guard livestock. Brabyn said Tallulah won the competition Tuesday on factors including her temperament and conformation, a standard in which a dog’s appearance is judged against a written standard describing what Westminster judges consider to be the “ideal” look for a dog of each breed. For working dogs like the Anatolian Shepherd, the ideal is based on the physical characteristics a dog should have in order to perform the tasks the dog was bred to do, Brabyn said.

“Many of these breeds are ancient. They have been around for thousands and thousands of years,” she said. “When you’re a responsible breeder, you want the dog to adhere to the breed standard, so it looks like what you want it to do.”

Maintaining purebred dogs across generations ensures that breeds always will have an ability to do what they’re meant to do, and cuts down on unpredictability in the dogs’ temperament, Brabyn said.

“I really think it’s important that we maintain purebred dogs to a standard of excellent conformation and health and temperament,” she said. “Showing is one way to do that, because you’re competing against the best and you can measure your progress that way.”

Tallulah’s victory left them in such exuberance the Brabyns weren’t bothered when they ran into some trouble on the way back to Sonoma County from the show.

“Our plane was delayed six hours out of Newark (New Jersey), all the roads were closed coming back to Bodega because of the storm,” Brabyn said. “But we won. We don’t care.”

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or at andrew.beale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @iambeale.

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