Remembering Julie Desy

Julie Desy
Remembering Julie Desy
Julie Desy Ilemist 1946-2021

On February 29, 2020, Julie Desy entered my ring at the Chicagoland Shetland Sheepdog Specialty Show. It had been some years since we had seen each other and I will always remember what I said to her as I reached the table to examine her dog: “Wish I could give you a big hug right now!” Of course, that was not possible, but I said it anyway. (Julie was the only one who heard me and, yes, I know that may not have been an appropriate thing for a judge to say to an exhibitor.) It wasn’t until the afternoon that we were able to catch up on hugs, but it was a treasured reunion between two old friends.

Also, on the judging panel that day was our friend, Brian Cleveland. Sadly, the Chicagoland Shetland Sheepdog Specialty turned out to be the last Specialty show attended by these two great icons of the breed. In less than a year, the dog world lost both Brian Cleveland and Julie Desy.

Julie Desy’s passion for Shelties spanned more than 60 years. She finished her first champion at the age of 12. As a small hobby breeder, she went on to breed or co-breed nearly 60 more champions, including four Register
of Merits:

  • Ch Ilemist As You Like It ROM
  • Ch Ilemist Gorgeous George CD ROM
  • Ch Ilemist Impossible Dream CDX ROM
  • Ch Jade Mist Memorandum ROM

Her devotion to the breed and to the sport extended well beyond her own kennel. She was an accomplished handler, an active and longtime contributor to the American Shetland Sheepdog Association as well as a dedicated educator and mentor to fellow breeders and judges.

As a handler, Julie finished well over 300 champions for clients, and she successfully campaigned seven Century Club Winners:

  • Ch Starphire Lochlyn Takin Over 3CC (359 BOB’s)
  • Ch Brandywine Imprint 2CC (215 BOBs)
  • Ch Sundial Midas Revelation ROM 2CC (233 BOBs)
  • Ch Willow Layne Makin Out ROM CC (138 BOBs)
  • Ch Norwood Nenana CC (101 BOBs)
  • Ch Marikohill Sunblest Captiva CC (106 BOBs)
  • Ch JusDandy Devine Ms M CC (119 BOBs)

She was a 50-year member of the ASSA and served the organization faithfully since joining in 1968; as a Board Member (1968-1970), Recording Secretary (1989), Life Membership Committee Member, a member of the Judges’ Education Committee (2008-2021), and Judges’ Mentoring Program (2006-2021). Her greatest honors were to receive the ASSA’s inaugural Sportsman Award (2008), to judge the Futurity (1991), to be inducted into Life Membership (2015), and to judge the first Veteran Sweepstakes (2019).

Perhaps Julie’s greatest gift to the sport was as an educator and mentor. Formally, through her Objective Evaluation seminar and, informally, in countless ways, she inspired, guided, challenged, and supported generations of Sheltie enthusiasts. That will be her enduring legacy.

Remembering Julie Desy


“Perhaps Julie’s greatest gift to the sport was as an educator and mentor. Formally, through her Objective Evaluation seminar and, informally, in countless ways, she inspired, guided, challenged, and supported generations of Sheltie enthusiasts.
That will be her enduring legacy.”

Remembering Julie Desy
February 29, 2020, Chicagoland Shetland Sheepdog Specialty, Julie and Me.
Julie Desy
Gr. Ch. Neahm’s Kiss Me Kate
Remembering Julie Desy
Julie awarding (Ch.) Pocono Calico Lace Best in Sweeps with Betty Whelan
Remembering Julie Desy
Ch. Ilemist Impossible Dream CDX, ROM. Sired by Halston’s Peter Pumpkin


My tribute to Julie

Oh, the stories I could tell! With our friendship spanning almost 50 years, I could write a book! But, since this is a magazine article, I will just share a few of my favorites.

From the beginning, I knew Julie was special.

I was forced into learning how to handle my newly purchased Sheltie. So, I went to a dog show to observe exhibitors and ring procedure. I watched class after class after class, as the exhibitors did their best to show what was at the end of their lead. Although I was a complete novice, one person stood out from all the rest. It was Julie! I thought her presentation was the best. She gaited the dog smoothly around the ring, stood back from the dog so that it was in full view with its head up, looking forward, standing four-square, her non-interfering stance while being judged on the table; all this with a pleasant, but confident, look on her face. (This was the first time I saw Julie, and she was pregnant with Michael!) It was my goal and desire to become her friend, and to learn all I could from this powerhouse of knowledge. Little by little, I inched my way into her life. My prowess continued, and I was proud to be part of the Ilemist team.

Julie was not only a renowned handler here in the states, but also in Canada, Japan, Korea, and China, showing dogs that came from all these countries. Mrs. Hiyama, a breeder of Shelties from Japan, had a handsome champion blue merle male. It was her fervent desire to have “Sam” become an American champion and have Julie show him. Mrs. Hiyama contacted Julie, and it was “a go.” Sam achieved his championship rather quickly and became Julie’s special. He was Am. Jap. Ch. Kencherry Keep Top.

The following year, in 2003, the Sheltie National was held here in Michigan. It was to be Sam’s last show. Mrs. Hiyama was flying in to take him back to Japan after the National. He had a glorious ending to his show career in the States by going Best of Breed with Meredith (Julie’s daughter) showing him for his “grand finale!”

When Mrs. Hiyama decided that it was time to retire Sam from his show career, she invited Julie to fly to Japan and show him for his last go around the ring. She could also bring one companion. Meredith was her first choice, but luckily for me, she could not go. So, I became the companion! Sam retired from the ring by going BOB, which delighted Mrs. Hiyama and his cheering fans no end!

A cute story about Sam’s last trip around the ring… The Japanese, unlike us, run their dogs around the ring. Julie was running and keeping up with the rest of the specials. Mrs. Hiyama motioned for her to go faster, faster, faster! Julie told me to tell her that if she goes any faster, she will fall on her face! Mrs. Hiyama said, “It’s OK. Someone will pick up!”

We had a fantastic time visiting the sights and learning about the culture. Julie even mastered the art of eating with chopsticks! I never could. We were treated like royalty and, to them, Julie was.

While at the show in Japan, we met a young woman who had been to our National for the previous three years. Each year she would watch Julie groom and handle her charges, but she was too shy to introduce herself. She owned, bred, and handled Shelties in Japan for many years. Her big dream was to come to the States and have Julie be her “teacher.” After much translation and discussion, it was decided that she would come to the National the following year, stay about three months, and begin to fulfill her dream. She would live with Gini and study under Julie. This was our dear friend, Aiko Wakasugi. I became her American “mom” and Julie was her “teacher.” She adored Julie and continued to come every year for the next nine years. She perfected many of her skills under the tutelage of Julie. Aiko was a “natural” and became an awesome handler and groomer.

Aiko’s favorite story about us was the time we’d left her at a gas station. We were coming from a show, and it was late at night. Julie was driving, I was co-pilot, and Aiko was asleep in the back of
the van. We stopped at a gas station and called to Aiko. No answer, so we let her sleep. We filled the tank, used the restroom, got snacks, and were on our way. About five minutes down the road, Julie’s phone rings. “Hello.” A small voice asks, “Julie?” “Who is this”? “It’s Aiko. You left me at gas station!” Poor Aiko! We had no idea she had gotten out of the car and was still in the station when we’d left. I dread thinking about what would have happened if we did not have cell phones. From that time on, our constant question was, “Aiko, are you in here?”

In 2010, the SSC of Hawaii invited Julie to present a grooming seminar and judge a fun match. Again, I was the fortunate one who accompanied her. They were so impressed with all the knowledge Julie shared that they did not want her to stop talking. She had the same effect on others when presenting her seminars. They just did not want them to end.

Most of my Shelties were either bred by or co-owed with Julie. A little bi-black bitch that we co-owned was a definite favorite. At our club’s (SSCGD) Specialty, we entered “Annie,” MBISS Ch. Kell Lil’ Sure Shot, 2 AOM, in Specials and her daughter, “Noire” (Ch.) Kell’s Little Black Dress, in Sweeps. Since Julie had client dogs to handle, I showed our girls. To my delight, I won both Sweeps and Breed! Julie was there to cheer me on, which was a complete role reversal.

With Julie, it was not all about winning—though she could and did compete with the best. She was joyous and considered it a win when the dog that she was showing had learned to walk in a straight line or would stand back and bait for her. She always tried to teach the dogs to do (and be) the best they could.

I was blessed having Julie as my mentor, my friend, my sister. Through the years, we shared the joys and sorrows of life and aging together. I will miss her voice of reason, driving to shows and singing to tunes on the radio, getting lost and turning it into an adventure, discussing everything from all about Shelties to solving world problems. I will just miss all of her!

I hope Julie is basking in the glory of all she has accomplished for the Sheltie community. Her journey has ended. She will live on as an icon and a legend. To many, she was a Champion. To me, she was Best in Show!

Gini Shaw | Shallimar Shelties


Remembering Julie Desy
Julie’s Loving Family… Daughter Meredith and Son-in-Law, Hector Hector, and Son Michael Maust

“You were an icon and an inspiration to many. You will be well- and long-remembered as a highly successful breeder, handler, educator, and mentor—rightfully so.”


You were an icon and an inspiration to many. You will be well- and long-remembered as a highly successful breeder, handler, educator, and mentor—rightfully so. Your numerous accomplishments and contributions to Shelties and to the sport are well-documented.

But we want to acknowledge and celebrate some of the personal qualities that made you so special:

  • Your Appreciation for Beauty
  • Your Love of Dance and Music—from Classical to Pop to Motown
  • Your Strong Will and Determination
  • Your Sharp Mind and Deep Curiosity
  • Your Wonderful Humor and Great Wit
  • Your Constant Striving for Excellence
  • Your Single-Minded Pursuit of Your Passions
  • Your Generous Spirit
  • Your Grace and Quiet Dignity
  • The Twinkle in Your Eye and that Mischievous Grin

You are dearly loved and deeply missed.

Until we dance again.


Meredith, Michael, and Hector


Remembering Julie Desy
Julie mastering the art of using chop sticks.

I knew Julie from the time we were young Sheltie fanciers. There was a group of us who competed in Junior Showmanship, drove long hours to Sheltie Specialties, and were passionate about the breed. We were all young and a bit silly. We liked to joke around. We helped each other and we competed with good humor. I routinely drove the 10 hours to the Cleveland Sheltie Specialty, which was held outdoors, often driving my mentor, Mary Van Wagenen, of Sea Isle fame. We so often all showed up to what was a huge specialty; Julie, Joe Molloy from Pennsylvania, Elaine Fraser. I think, even Brian Cleveland. Then we showed up in Milwaukee for specialties and, of course, the National was a meeting place every year.


Julie Desy
Gini Shaw trying to master eating with chop sticks.
Remembering Julie Desy
Walt Christensen, Julie, Charlotte McGowan, Sandy Stanfill, and Mary Christensen

Over the years, we all continued to talk dogs, seriously evaluating each other’s dogs, and we talked about our passion for the breed and the sport of purebred dogs. We talked about life. We grew up together. Linda More was another of our group, and Pepper Power too. We all talked on the phone, competed, kept in touch, and did a few silly things together the way long-term friends do. Julie was one of the most diplomatic people to be found. She spoke with kindness and care. She was entirely genuine. She became, probably, one of the best Sheltie handlers we have ever had. Her deep love for the breed extended to kindly telling a potential client that, perhaps, this was not the dog to show. She tried to help people, to educate; and always cheerfully. Once social media came along, she would comment with well-chosen words about what she saw in the breed and the trends she felt were not positive. She was always putting the breed and its betterment foremost, diplomatically. She was a great friend and a person of great integrity and character. I will always miss her.


Charlotte Clem McGowan

Julie and I first met as teenagers in the Sixties. We were both interested in Shelties and, obviously, this remained the case for almost sixty years. Back then, I would fly to Detroit in March for the Specialty at Cobo Hall. After the show, I would stay for a couple of days to go kennel hopping, and to spend time with Julie and the local breeders. There were hours of “dog talk” that included ideas and goals for the future.

Fast forward, we both became active breeders and, eventually, professional handlers. Over the years, Nioma and I sent many of our own dogs to Julie to show, to avoid conflicts with our clients’ dogs. We could always count on Julie for great care and skillful presentation.

For years, we sent in our grooming space reservations for the National in the same envelope so that we could set up together and cover each other’s dogs when necessary. It was quite the scene, with wall-to-wall Shelties, but we always made it through the week. Several days after the show, we would always “debrief” on which dogs in the entry impressed us and which ones seemed to be producing well. These conversations were so valuable and we, usually (though not always) saw things just the same way.

Fast forward about four decades and, somehow, we found ourselves as mentors and teachers. I remember clearly when the two kids from the ‘60s presented Shelties at the AKC Herding Institute in Chicago. Julie’s own seminar, “Objective Evaluation,” was excellent and thought-provoking. She was a gifted mentor who influenced so many newcomers with kindness and patience.

Several months ago, Julie called and was excited about the idea of applying for her judge’s license. We really encouraged her. What a great opportunity it would have been to show your dog to a successful breeder/handler with 60 years’ knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, due to health issues, this was not to be.

Julie’s passing is a huge loss to the sport of dogs. She represented what was the very best of competition and sportsmanship. The Sheltie world has lost an icon and I have lost a lifelong friend.


Tom Coen

Julie Desy
Am/Can. Ch. Ilemist Impossible Dream, ROM CDX

In Memory of Julie

I first met Julie at a local Detroit dog show when we were both teenagers and showing our very first Sheltie. Unbeknownst to me at the time… my dog was a pet. Julie finished her first Sheltie, Ch. Lindhurst Lovely Lullaby, with four majors, and she became Julie’s early foundation bitch.

Julie Desy

Right from the beginning, Julie and I became best friends and would talk on the phone for hours about dogs. As a few years went by, Julie kept coming up with beautiful Shelties to show. I, on the other hand, could not find one that matured to show standards. Fortunately, Julie came to my rescue. She bred her lovely Ch. Lindhurst Christmas Carol to the young Ch. Halstor’s Peter Pumpkin and offered me a puppy from the anticipated litter.

Julie and I were both partial to a little male in the litter with a beautiful face. So, I took him home and hoped for the best. This puppy became Ch. Ilemist Impossible Dream, CDX, ROM… “Alfie,” a multiple Specialty and Working Group winner. Thank you, Julie!

Alfie opened many doors for me and started my lifelong love of breeding and showing dogs. I even credit Alfie for helping me find my husband of forty-eight years, John Frazier of Someday Shelties. Over the next couple of decades, John and I had the privilege of co-breeding and co-owning many beautiful Shelties with Julie.

Julie Desy
Charlotte McGowan, Joe Molloy, and Julie Desy, competed in junior showmanship together.

Even as a young girl, Julie’s dream was to become a Sheltie handler—and she became a handler extraordinaire. She had a magical rapport and a love for every dog she handled. She always brought out the best in them.

Julie always worried about the future of Shelties, but she has left that in the very capable and talented hands of her daughter, Meredith, and son-in-law, Hector.

There is one more person who has been instrumental in Julie’s and my life for almost fifty years. That someone is Gini Shaw. Gini has always been there for both of us through all the ups and downs. Thanks Gini—you have been our lifeline.

I am glad that Julie got to live out her dream for so long… and she did it so amazingly well.

Elaine and John Frazier | Someday Shelties


Julie Desy
(Gr. Ch.) Neahm’s Kiss Me Kate with owners Walt and Mary Christensen

Our Beginnings with Julie

Mary and I have always had dogs, everything from Longhaired Dachshunds and Miniature Schnauzers to Parti Cockers and Rough Collies. Back in the mid-’90s, we decided to get a new dog after our last dog had passed away. We pondered which kind of dog we wanted and, after reviewing all the previous dogs we’d had, we decided that we wanted another Collie. However, because our new yard was smaller than our previous one, we wanted one of those “Mini Collies.”

Remembering Julie Desy
Breed j. Katie Gammel, Gini Shaw, Julie, Sweeps j. Anita Paull, “Annie” and “Noire

So, we asked our vet if he could recommend someone to get a Mini Collie from. He gave us a woman’s number. So, we called up and this person said, “You mean a Shetland Sheepdog.” We replied, “No, a Mini Collie. We have seen them.” She began to tell us there was no such thing as a Mini Collie. We were quite upset because we had seen them around and we told her so. She recommended that we go to the library and research Shetland Sheepdogs. We said that we did not want a big sheepdog; we wanted a Mini Collie! Well, she persisted that we should go to the library and research Shetland Sheepdogs.

Julie Desy
Julie and Aiko Wakasugi

After going to the library and getting a book on Shetland Sheepdogs, we decided that the breed was exactly what we wanted. We found a groomer at Super Pets, who turned out to be Trisha Fausel, and asked her if she thought “Monique” was good enough to show. She suggested that we come to a dog show at the Michigan State Fairgrounds and look around. We went and saw all the dogs, and how there were all these families and couples there. So, we decided that maybe this “dog show thing” could be the next thing that we could “DO together.”

Tricia’s friend (whose voice sounded awfully familiar) went over our little girl and said that she had “nice feet.” (We learned later that she would say this when she really had nothing better to say. It was synonymous with “kiss of death” … he he!) We could do better, she said. If we were serious about starting to show dogs, she would introduce us to a couple of local breeders. Later (after we were hooked into the show world), we started following the groomer’s friend around. Once, we even went all the way to a show in Lexington Kentucky, when Julie Desy was campaigning “Jay Jay” to his 200 BOBs.

We were showing a couple of dogs that we’d acquired at the time, and were making sure that we were at the show site early so that we could help Julie and others. We became “very helpful,” with Mary pre-preparing lunches for the shows and Walt hauling the gear and helping to set up, etc. After months and months, it became apparent that we were serious about this, so Julie took us under her wing and started mentoring us. More time went by and Julie saw that Mary had an “eye” for grooming. So, it was decided that, maybe, Mary could actually go on the road and help Julie at the shows with the Ilemist Dream Team.

Julie DesyThe following week, Mary went to her first shows with Julie. It was a five show cluster in Kenosha Wisconsin. There were two Breed Specialty Shows and three All-Breed. It was a momentous weekend. Julie said that she had never lost so much is such a spectacular fashion. They did not think they’d even won a class. Mary called me several times during the weekend, wondering if she was ever going to be invited to travel with Julie again!!! (It was already planned for Mary to go the following weekend, but then everyone started wondering if she was “bad luck.”) That weekend, however, their luck was a complete reversal of fortune and the girls were victorious every day of showing.


Julie Desy
Julie with Tom and Nioma Coen at Eukanuba, Orlando, December 2015

One of Julie’s favorite conversation starters at dinners during these weekends with friends at the shows was to ask about where you want to see yourself in the future with dogs or how you got started in the sport. At one of these dinners, the conversation starter was, “How did you get your start in dogs or in the sport?” Mary shared the story about looking for a Mini Collie; how she was calling around; how her vet had given her a woman’s number; and how she’d argued with the woman about wanting a Mini Collie and not a Sheltie. While she was recounting the story, Mary and Julie looked at each other. They both realized that that was the first conversation between them.

Julie was instrumental in everything. Our relationship grew over the next 20-plus years. If it were not for Julie Desy, we would not be as active in the breed as we are now. She was our mentor, our friend, our family.

Mary and Walt Christensen | Neahm Shelties


Tribute to Julie Desy

It is almost impossible to capture all that Julie was to the sport of purebred dogs and her beloved Shelties. She was truly an icon and one of the most unassuming people I have ever met. She dedicated her life to her breed and was passionate about it on so many levels. She always had a soft spot for the junior handlers and she wanted to be instrumental in giving them tips or lessons to help them succeed. Sometimes it was not just the mechanics of handling, but empowering them to believe in themselves and their dog. She wanted them to aspire to be great caretakers of the breed and to love the sport as she did for over six generations.

I truly admired that Julie was a woman of conviction and was not afraid to stand alone for what she believed in. She also had one of the kindest hearts and quickest wits, and she made spending time with her memorable. Julie was intelligent, confident, honest, inspirational, and so much fun. She gave back each and every day. These traits served her well in her chosen profession, and she was a steadfast and fiercely loyal friend. She was proud of her children and she loved her dog, Buddie, more than life itself.

On a personal note, my life in dogs will never be quite the same without my mentor, dear friend, and confidant. She will be missed more than I can express in words, and her influence on myself and on others will be everlasting. It is still difficult for me to believe she is gone, but I have to accept that she left us on her terms while gifting those who loved her with countless fond memories and a legacy that makes us feel grateful to have known her.

Kim Furlong | Masterpiece Shelties/Stirling Bichons

My heart was shattered yesterday morning upon the news of Julie Desy’s passing.

You would be hard-pressed to find a person more beloved in the Sheltie community than Julie, and it was for good reason. An amazing handler and master dog woman, Julie contributed an infinite amount of knowledge to the breed that she shared openly with both newcomers and seasoned competitors. While this alone would be an incredible legacy to leave behind, it is rightly outshone by the model of integrity, sportsmanship, and joy of life that she promoted
and embodied.

My prayers, love, and condolences go to her family—Meredith and Hector—and to all of those who called her a friend and mentor.

Julie… minutes spent with you would change my life in deep and profound ways. You always talked about being a woman of action. So, here are the actions you taught me that I will continue to practice in your memory:

  1. I will use my voice, speak up, and share
    my observations.
  2. While loyalty to the standard is important, I will never sacrifice in my line the qualities of Shelties that make my heart flutter.
  3. I will work hard when necessary, but I won’t make more work for myself.
  4. I will always embrace curiosity; from thoughts on current politics, trends in the show ring, and just seeing up-close the pattern on someone’s sweater.
  5. I will create a safe space to have messy dialogue that invites ideas, thoughts, expressions, and views that are different than my own.
  6. I will hand out genuine compliments of others’ dogs, joyfully and willingly—especially when their youngster isn’t finding themselves in the ribbons yet because they need time to mature.
  7. I will do what I love, and then actively work to continue loving what I do.And most importantly…
  8. I will embrace laughter, joy, and dancing at every opportunity. If we cannot have fun, then why are we doing this anyway?

Morgan MacDonald Manion

For Our Dearest Julie,

At the rising of the sun and its going down, We remember you.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of Winter, We remember you.

At the opening of buds and in the rebirth of Spring, We remember you.

At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of Summer, We remember you.

At the rustling of leaves and the beauty of Autumn, We remember you.

At the beginning of the year and when it ends, We remember you.

When we are weary and in need of strength, We remember you.

When we are lost and sick of heart, We remember you.

When we have joys we yearn to share, We remember you.

When we have decisions that are difficult to make, We remember you.

When we have achievements that are based on yours, We remember you.

As long as we live, you too shall live, For you are a part of us, as we remember.

With all our love,

Pamela and Andre Buckles and Marsha Powell

Julie, as a Mentor and Friend

I began helping Julie at shows, off and on, when I was about fifteen years old. One of the first show weekends that I can remember spending with her was in Troy, Ohio. I didn’t have a dog to consistently show in Juniors at the time, and Julie wasted no time in letting me know that the dog I had brought with me was simply unsuitable. Less than 24 hours later, Julie called me into the hotel room after walking dogs and asked me to take a specific bitch out and see if she would show for me.

Those who know Shelties know that being asked to do anything by a stranger is generally not their cup of tea. This bitch, however, was more than happy to oblige. Not more than a minute passed before Julie said, “Okay, that will do.” She went back inside and, a few hours later, Julie said that she had a proposal for me.

The bitch in question was owned by Nancy Ager and was co-bred by Nancy and Julie. Julie had already talked to Nancy and they agreed that “Ollietta” would come home with me on loan, because she was the dog for me—there was no question about it. That was the arrangement. Those who knew Julie know that if she came to you with a plan, you made absolutely sure that you followed through without question.

Prior to that weekend, my mom had instituted a strict “no more dogs” rule, which I had begrudgingly told to Julie. She was unphased and told me to call my mom. She would talk to her. I don’t think their conversation lasted more than a minute. In Julie’s typical direct manner, she told my mom that this dog was the perfect fit for me and that she needed to come home with us for a few months. Much to my shock, my mom quickly obliged. As you may have guessed, Ollietta lived out her life with us, eventually becoming GCh. Starphire Ollietta. I showed her to her championship, and we qualified for Juniors at Westminster, all under Julie’s guidance. She won several Groups and Specialties as a veteran, shown by both Julie and me.

I love this story because it highlights some of my favorite things about Julie. She was so willing to teach anyone who was prepared to learn, as long as they were willing to put in the work. She was decisive and didn’t waste time hemming and hawing when she knew something was right. She was the best kind of mentor; the kind whose greatest reward is watching those she’d help to succeed, whose motivation was never praise or recognition. She seemed to always be there for Ollie’s most notable days, yet she never took any credit for her role in bringing this dog into my life. I can remember her spending all day at a show in ninety-degree heat just to watch her in Best in Show, but she never once referred to this dog as anything other than mine. She was always there to support us. Like any truly great dog person, her actions were motivated purely by her desire to give back to the breed that we all love.

Katie Grohowalski


“She was so willing to teach anyone who was prepared to learn, as long as they were willing to put in the work.”

Julie Desy
Ch. Ilemist As It Should Be, Armitage Adelaide O’Barwood and (Ch.) Starlites Echelon Take Command

My husband, Len, and I met Julie Desy in 1985, when we were know-nothing wannabe dog show people. We had traveled from the Chicago area to Kalamazoo, Michigan, for a match with two Shelties, which we thought were good prospects. Julie treated us so nicely. She told us to find our local specialty club and attend shows to observe the Shelties and talk to other breeders. That is the type of leadership and quiet personality that Julie had through the years. There are many adjectives, nouns or verbs to describe her. However, the thing that I admired about her the most is that she could admit her weakness and send you to the person who knew the “how to” or had the answer you needed. Julie did the same when describing her dogs. She would show you their attributes, but also let you know where they lacked—and why, overall, they were quality specimens. It has been our great honor to have had Julie in our life as a friend, a mentor, and occasionally, as a handler. We credit Julie for improving our dog-related skills, and for our still being involved to this day; all because of that first meeting and the many interactions over the last 35 years.

Linda Kunicki | Starlite Shelties

Special Blessings

There are two definitions for the word “special.” One is “regarded with particular esteem or affection” and the other is “superior in comparison to others of the same kind.” I think they both describe an inherent specialness of each person that this is ascribed to.

When I think of Julie Desy, “special” is the first word that comes to my mind. Long before I met her, I knew “of” Julie from friends that we had in common. I looked forward to meeting her in person because of all the wonderful things these friends had shared with me. When the day finally came, although it was a short encounter, I could tell even then that there was something special about this person.

It’s funny… but a few decades later, whenever we would have the opportunity to meet, I would have that same reaction of feeling that I was in the company of a very special person. And, after those opportunities to visit, I would often come away wondering just what it was that made her so “special.”

Was it her vast knowledge of Shelties and dogs in general, or was it because she was so open-minded and honest in discussing these? Was it her great reverence for some of the great breeders of the past whom she held up in such high regard? Or, was it, perhaps, her magical ability to take these Shelties and create a relationship with them that few could challenge, and then show them in such a way that the duo became a magnet for ringside—and the judges’ eyes—displayed in such a way that their natural beauty and character literally emanated from the end of her lead? All of this is so true, as Julie was all of these things and deserving of all the accolades that were cast in her direction. But, I think what really made Julie stand out and what was so “special” about her were the qualities that came from within. She was blessed with a soft persona and personality that made her stand out in a crowd. And while she was competitive, she was always a true sportsman with a kind word for those in need. This too made her special… she watched and cared for people in general, and she generally knew when someone needed a kind word or a word of encouragement. If she liked you, you considered yourself blessed because… well, you just were. Maya Angelou once wrote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That fits Julie to a “T.”

On a few occasions, I was able to enlist Julie to speak on a panel that I was discussing. It took a bit of prodding, with her asking, “Oh, who would want to hear what I want to say?” That was typical of Julie; humble to the core. But the truth was, EVERYONE wanted to hear her, and her thoughts were deep and well-thought-out. I continued to encourage her to speak more often to the fancy, as she had SO VERY MUCH to offer. She is someone who could have written a best seller about the breed and the people she loved.

And while so much of these attributes came from the “inside,” what lit them up on the outside was her beautiful smile, accompanied by twinkling eyes when she was excited about a dog or a discussion. And on so many occasions, I would watch her flash that smile at members of her little inner circle whom she loved and adored, and who felt the same way.

A bright and beautiful light went out with Julie’s passing, but her memory will continue to shine on through all who loved her.

John Buddie

Tartanside Collies

Like so many others, I was heartbroken to hear of Julie Desy’s passing. She inarguably had an incredibly lasting and profound impact on our breed. More personally, she had a great influence on my personal character and outlook while growing up in dogs. I know I’m not the only one who has struggled to succinctly summarize her. However, wise, kind, strong-minded, genuine, honest, caring, and joyful are but a few of the adjectives that come to mind—though they still manage to fall short of honoring
her legacy.

Julie Desy
Young Julie with her Coliie ‘Duke’

I am so grateful to have had a role model like Julie to learn from while growing up in Shelties. I truly admired, adored, and respected her. I’m so grateful to have had such a classy and dedicated Sheltie lover and sportswoman to look up to all these years. It is so hard to imagine the Sheltie world and dog shows without her. In fact, we still have a couple of Starbucks’ Cranberry Bliss Bar Trays in our freezer (some of her favorite treats) that we picked up to send to her for Christmas, and it doesn’t seem quite right that they won’t be given to her. While we will all miss her presence in the years to come, I’m hopeful that in her absence we can all learn to emulate her class, grace, and humility.

While the dog community mourns her loss, my deepest condolences to those family and friends whose lives were brightened by her wit and her sharp mind on a daily basis.

Grace Sczcurek

Rosemear Shelties

To honor Julie’s legacy, the JULIE DESY MEMORIAL CHALLENGE has been established.

Julie Desy
Julie and her favourite dog Gr. Ch. Ilemest As It Should Be, ‘Buddie’

What is the Julie Desy Memorial Challenge? The Challenge supports the best ideas for improving appreciation of Sheltie breed history, understanding of the breed standard or participation and service in breed clubs (local or national). It does so by providing funds; up to five (5) awards of up to $500 each for selected individuals or clubs to complete a proposed project or event.

Why was it established? The Challenge was started to honor Julie’s legacy as a breeder, educator, mentor, and breed club contributor. Formally and informally, in countless ways, she inspired, guided, challenged, and supported generations of Sheltie enthusiasts.

Who is eligible to apply? The Challenge is open to individuals or to breed clubs. Individuals do not need to be members of the American Shetland Sheepdog Association to receive a prize, but the project must benefit the breed broadly or the national or a local breed
club specifically.

How does the application and selection process work? The application is simple. Just answer the following questions about your proposed project or event in two pages or less:

  1. What is your idea?
  2. What is your plan to make your idea a reality?a. Are you working with any other individuals or groups?b. How long do you think it will take?c. How much are you requesting to complete the project or
    event? How will you use the funds?
  3. How will you share the lessons you learn from your project or event?

Please submit electronically to Meredith Hector at

Selection Committee Members will review all applications received by the deadline. Selections for Challenge Awards will be based on
the following:

  • The strength and creativity of your idea and its potential
    for impact.
  • The feasibility of your plan to complete the proposed project
    or event.
  • The opportunity for other Sheltie enthusiasts or breed clubs to benefit and learn lessons from your project or event.

Challenge recipients will be asked to submit a progress update at the mid-point of their project or event timeline, and a final summary and lessons learned at the conclusion of the project or event.

When are applications accepted and winners selected? Applications will be accepted from September 1 to October 15, 2021.

Challenge recipients will be notified by December 31, 2021 and funds distributed by January 15, 2022.

Please see the ASSA website for additional details:

If you would like to donate funds to the Challenge, thank you! Any amount is appreciated.

Please make your check or money order payable to the ASSA in US funds. Designate the Julie Desy Memorial Challenge in the note section. Mail to ASSA Treasurer Merrylee Malanowski, 28608 W Roberts Road, Barrington, IL 60010-7017.

Julie is survived by her two children, daughter Meredith Hector of Davie, Florida, and her son, Michael Maust of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Meredith followed in her mother’s footsteps, entering the show ring in Junior Showmanship when she was only eight years old. Meredith, now an AKC Judge, is married to a former client of her mother’s, Hector Hector, who is also now an AKC Judge. How wonderful it is to see Julie’s love for the sport carry on into the future. Michael never got into showing dogs, but he most certainly inherited his mother’s eye for a good one.

We at ShowSight extend our love and deepest sympathy to Meredith, Hector, Michael, and special family friend, Virginia “Gini” Shaw.

Remembering Julie DesyRemembering Julie Desy

Julie DesyRemembering Julie Desy

Remembering Julie Desy






Remembering Julie DesyJulie DesyJulie Desy


Remembering Julie DesyRemembering Julie DesyRemembering Julie DesyRemembering Julie DesyRemembering Julie DesyJulie Desy

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