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Obituary - Mrs Shirley Aldenhoven (Courbette)


IT IS with great sadness I have to report the death of another Dalmatian enthusiast Mrs Shirley Aldenhoven. Her devoted husband Peter phoned me to say that Shirley had died unexpectedly at home on Thursday evening 19th February.

She was due to go in to hospital on the Friday and because of this her son Ralph and his wife had gone over to Somerset to see her, so at least they had been able to spend the last few precious hours with her.

Shirley had her first Dalmatian back in 1963, and whilst she never kept a large number of dogs they were all quality animals. She made up a couple of Champions: Tantivvey Hester, Hollycombe Polaire of Courbette (Hannah) and bred Ch Courbette Corinthian at Cragvallie, and his sister who did her share of winning in the USA, also Courbette Crusader who is behind many continental dogs. Hannah gained her title from Junior and was top Dalmatian bitch in 1989 and for another three or four years. She was Shirley’s special dog, and I don’t think that Shirley ever really recovered from the sudden loss of her dear Hannah. Shirley didn’t breed often but always produced something good - my two boys from Hannah, Ch Corinthian and Connexion (2 CCs), and her own beautiful liver bitch Charley were proof of this. Charley was superb and should have been a Champion but hated the show ring.

Shirley first awarded CCs at Bath in 1983 and postponed a quadruple bypass operation until she had undertaken this appointment. Over the years she had many more procedures carried out on her heart, two triple bypasses, a pacemaker fitted and three stents, but still continued to live life in the fast lane. She awarded CCs many times and was one of the judges for the Dalmatian of the Year in 2004; she also carried out appointments in Holland, East Germany and the United States of America. Fortunately she was also a first class steward, thankfully I had asked her to steward when I judged a Vizsla club show and wasn’t provided with a judging book. Shirley soon sorted this out in her usual efficient manner and created one from nothing in a matter of minutes! The British Dalmatian Club had her as a committee member for a good number of years, and I think she held the role of treasurer for a while. I know she had held positions on other dog club committees and was Secretary of Beckenham Canine Society for 10 years in the late 70s, early 80s.

Shirley was a keen horsewoman, and two of her early dogs were carriage dogs and gave demonstrations at shows with son Ralph riding whip.

Shirley was an accomplished seamstress and worked for Victor Steibel as a Court dressmaker creating outfits for Princess Margaret, Dusty Springfield and many film stars. She was an astute businesswoman and for a while ran her own outside catering company County Cooks producing banquets for up to 400 people, she never did anything by halves. Her cooking was brilliant and one was always assured of a warm welcome and delightful cuisine when staying with her.

For 15 years she ran a large kennels and cattery near Swindon which she built up from next to nothing in to a thriving successful enterprise. Even if the kennels were full to capacity Shirley would always find room for a rescue Dalmatian who would stay at Barkimber whilst being assessed and waiting for rehoming. This she did for the good of the breed without any fuss and trumpet blowing. She always boasted that any dog that came in to the kennels with fleas went home without them, they were always spotless, and all bedding was washed on a daily basis even if there wasn’t a speck of dust on it. When she and husband Peter decided to retire from the kennels, they went to Somerset near to where Shirley had been evacuated during the war. Even in retirement Shirley took on the role of editor of the local village magazine - she was not a lady to spend an idle moment.

Shirley was cremated at Barham in Kent, where many of her friends and family are, on Thursday 5th March.

The Dalmatian world has lost yet another very knowledgeable member and I have lost a very dear friend. We all send our deepest sympathy to Peter, Ralph and Janet.



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