Interview with Non-Sporting Group Judge Linda Tilka
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a judge?
Linda Tilka: I moved to beautiful Madeira Beach, Florida, in 1974 from Loves Park, Illinois. In 1969, I moved here from England to Illinois when I acquired my first Standard Poodle. This year has me at 54 years in the dog world. I applied for my judging approval in 1999, moving quickly to the Non-Sporting Group, Miscellaneous, Great Danes, Juniors, and BIS. This year will be 23 years judging for AKC.
What is my original breed? What is/was my kennel name?
Linda Tilka: My breed has always been the Standard Poodle. I did have a lovely Miniature, but Standards are my breed. My kennel name is “Piccadilly Poodles.”
Can I list a few of the notable dogs I’ve bred? Any performance or parent club titles?
Linda Tilka: With limited breeding and showing only in the Bred-By Class, I have many lovely dogs that, to me, are notable: CH Mackintosh of Mayfield, a beautiful cream from Harriett Laws; a beautiful brown, CH Piccadilly’s Friar Tuck from Ch Nesrals Dealers Choice; Cream, CH Piccadilly’s Musicbox Dancer from Ch Maneetas Del Zarzoso Fuago Fatuo; CH Piccadilly’s Aurora’s Maid of Honour who produced our cream boy, Superman, out of GCHS CH Tiburcio Da Maya; and GCHB CH Piccadilly’s Sunshine Superman who finished as a pup and, two years in a row, went Best in Show Stud Dog at the Poodle Club of America National. We are planning on showing him next year in the Veterans Class at PCA. A real showman.
What are some of the qualities I most admire in the Non-Sporting Breeds?
Linda Tilka: The qualities I admire in the Non-Sporting Breeds are the breeders who have gone above and beyond with their commitment to their breeds, to keep them to their standards as well as the testing required to breed healthy dogs. It’s not easy or instant. It takes commitment and passion. I admire and appreciate their dedication.
Have I judged any Non-Sporting Breed/Group Specialties?
Linda Tilka: I have judged a few in the US as well as other Groups’ breeds. My assignment in Canada got cancelled due to the SARS outbreak that they were having at that time.
Can I speak to the overall quality of the more popular Non-Sporting Breeds/Varieties; Bulldog, French Bulldog, and Standard & Miniature Poodles?
Linda Tilka: My opinion of quality in our more popular breeds is as follows: The Bulldog is the second breed I applied for to judge. I have found that over the years, breeders have really fine-tuned the breed. The overall quality is very good. Size and weight are getting under control, heads are becoming quite lovely with beautiful underjaw and eyes; the French Bulldog is a breed that seems to have a good understanding of their standard. Overall quality is very good; the Standard & Miniature Poodles are my breed. The quality of this breed has come a long way in the 54 years of breeding and judging them. The quality that breeders have reached is exceptional. Breeders have been, and are, doing a great job.
What about the overall quality of the more “vulnerable” breeds; Coton de Tulear, Finnish Spitz, Löwchen?
Linda Tilka: In the three low-entry breeds, overall quality is a challenge for the breeders: The Coton De Tulear is a beautiful breed with few entries. The overall quality is very good; the Finnish Spitz is of good quality and mostly adheres to their standard; the Löwchen is a neat breed. Too bad they do not have more competitors in the ring. Quality seems to be good and true to their standard.
Would I have any advice to impart to newer judges of the Non-Sporting Breeds who come from other Groups?
Linda Tilka: My advice to new Non-Sporting Breed judges is to take a deep breath. Do not be intimidated by our breeds, as they are so different from the other Groups. We have extremes: Bulldog and Poodles that can and do “frighten” some judges. Go to a National if you can. Read the breed standard and “put it on the dog.” You may not be able to get it right the first time, but be consistent in what your eye sees. If you find that you are not getting it right, come to the breeders. Sit and pick their brains. We are here to help. Good luck!
In my opinion, how do today’s exhibits compare with the Non-Sporting Dogs of the past?
Linda Tilka: In my humble opinion, our Non-Sporting Dogs have come a long way—quality, condition, handling. The Group is second to none; an exciting Group to watch.
Why do I think Non-Sporting Dogs can become such outstanding Show Dogs?
Linda Tilka: Non-Sporting Dogs are outstanding Show Dogs. The passion and work that breeders and handlers put into their dogs shows.
If I could share my life with only one Non-Sporting Breed, which would it be and why?
Linda Tilka: My Standard Poodles have been my life for 54 years. I love all breeds, but my Poodles have my heart.
Just for laughs, do I have a funny story that I can share about my experiences judging the Non-Sporting Group?
Linda Tilka: No real funny stories, as those in the Group are pretty serious. I am the lucky one having fun in the ring, judging the best in each breed. It’s an honor.