By Len Lear
Every Thanksgiving Day, a few hours before the annual food feast, dog nuts like my wife and me take two hours out to watch the Philadelphia Dog Show on TV, one of the nation’s premier dog shows in which primped, puffed up canines who are fussed over like a Kardashian strut their stuff while judges feel the dogs up like NSA agents to make sure that dog show standards of beauty and class have been adhered to.
Since these elegant, high-class cuties are not exactly like your regular Fido, I always wondered what motivates people to train their dogs to engage in this very expensive and very time-consuming hobby, the four-legged version of Donald Trump’s Miss Universe pageants. But I never knew anyone who entered his/her pooch into these arcane contests until last month when I learned about Nishi Jadczak, a Wyndmoor resident for the last 23 years whose dog, “CH Snowhill’s Zygmund (‘Ziggy’) Marley,” is a two-year-old Polish Lowland Sheepdog.
Ziggy competed and became a champion on Sept. 22 of this year in a show at Purina Farms in Missouri. He then competed for his Grand Champion title on Nov. 19 (the show that was taped and televised on Thanksgiving Day) at the National Dog Show presented by The Kennel Club of Philadelphia. Ziggy won Best of Breed but did not win in the Herding group. Ziggy also competes in “Obedience and Rally” and has won many titles there.
“There are no real other rewards that come from having a champion show dog,” Nishi told us last week. “Bragging rights and prestige, of course, and recognition of the breed. Winning promotes the breed and enhances awareness. There is a special bond that develops from working with your dog. To get to this point, a lot of effort and training goes into how the dog should move, act, approach the judge, behave and show himself off.”
Ziggy’s breed, recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2001, is a native of Poland. Its native name, “Polski Owczarek Nizinny,” also called PON, is not a very common and large group. The most popular breed produced from this line is the well known Bearded Collie.
Nishi, who prefers not to disclose her age, has been married for 37 years. Her three adult children all graduated from college and are now living in New York and Boston. In addition to Ziggy, she has a Golden Retriever named Charlie, whom she also shows. “I am originally from India,” she said. “I have been living in the U.S. for almost 40 years now. However, my husband’s grandparents came over from Poland in the early 1900s.”
Nishi’s day job is business manager of her husband’s company, Arco Sales, a defense contractor and manufacturing plant that moved to Mermaid Lane in Wyndmoor in 2013 after their 14,000-square-foot building in Philly’s Frankford section was set on fire and destroyed by three arsonists.
Nishi is also a member of the Suburban Dog Club. Sue Peterman, the breeder of Nishi’s Golden Retriever, holds show handling classes, and she encouraged the Wyndmoor resident to show her dogs. “In addition,” said Nishi, “I was invited to show by Ziggy’s breeder, Kristine Kim.
“I’ve always loved Golden Retrievers, and we’ve always had dogs in our family. Over the years we’ve had Alsatians, Great Danes, English Bulldogs and Golden Retrievers. Our two previous dogs, Rocky (an English Bulldog) and Chance (a Golden Retriever), both passed away in 2014. We had thought that once they were both gone, we would not have any more dogs, but once Rocky passed, we felt we should have two dogs.
“Chance had lymphoma; the oncologist who treated him at Hickory mentioned the PONS breed. Steve, my husband, was hooked. She had him at ‘Polish!’ We looked into the breed because we had never heard of it before. We found Ziggy’s breeder on the internet and ended up getting Ziggy. A few months after we got Ziggy, Chance also passed away. We decided to get another dog, but since Steve had gotten Ziggy, I got another Golden, which was Charlie.”
To achieve his Championship, Ziggy had to compete and beat other dogs in his breed to earn 15 points. A dog earns a point for every dog he/she beats in a given show. Two of those 15 points have to be “Major” points. A Major means that in a given show, he/she has beaten a minimum of three other dogs in the same breed. “For PONS this can be very difficult,” said Nishi, “since it’s a small community of dog owners, and there aren’t always enough other PONS at a show to earn a Major point.”
Ziggy is now working towards achieving his Grand Championship, which consists of 25 points and three Majors. He has so far earned 18 points and four Majors. What are the traits that make Ziggy a champion? “First of all,” said Nishi, “he meets all the breed standards that are required by the AKC for PONS. In addition, he has a very nice movement, and he’s alert and engaging. He is very intelligent and responsive, and he has an interesting personality.
“This can be a pricey hobby. The expenses are due to travel, entry fees and if you use a handler or not.” Nishi has used a handler named Greg Strong, who is often seen on TV shows such as the Westminster Kennel Club, The National Dog Show, on Animal Planet, etc. He has trained and shown Best in Show winners in all seven groups as defined by the AKC.
For those interested in such matters, a puppy sired by Ziggy would probably cost between $2,000 and 3,000.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org