Interview with Working Group Judge Joan M Zielinski
I’m a retired teacher. I’m a mom to four kids, twelve grandkids, six greats, and I still have two big St. Bernards, a Papillon, and a naughty Norfolk Terrier. They’re all so endearing. Now that I’m a widow and live by myself, they are such good companions. I’m so thankful for my involvement with our dog community, as my retirement, especially during this pandemic, would not be so bearable without them.
I’ve judged all over the world, but my last international judging trip was to Wuhan, China, in November of 2019—the month COVID was first detected! I’m a life member of the St. Bernard Club of America, and a charter member of Puyallup Valley Dog Fanciers and the Mt. Rainier Working Dog Club. I currently judge the Working, Toy, and Herding Groups, plus some of the Non-Sporting breeds.
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a judge?
Joan M Zielinski: I live in Olympia, Washington, currently. I’ve been in purebred dogs, St. Bernards, since 1965, so 57 years. I’ve been a judge for 40 years.
What is my original breed? What is/was my kennel name?
Joan M Zielinski: My original breed in the St. Bernard. My kennel name is Stoan’s, which is a combination of our first names, Stan and Joan.
Can I list a few of the notable dogs I’ve bred? Any performance or parent club titles?
Joan M Zielinski: Notable dogs include: Am./Australian Ch. Stoan’s Valiant Bart of Mica, Hall of Fame; Am./Australian/New Zealand Ch. Stoan’s Disney World V Valinta; Ch. Stoan’s Nicholas of Klafa, Hall of Fame, Plateau of Excellence. Performance-titled dogs include: Ch. Stoan’s BeauZeau UD, the first Saint in history to hold those titles. We’ve had many Top Brood Bitch and Top Stud Dog of the Year titles. We’ve also had numerous obedience and foreign title-holders in both conformation and obedience.
What are the qualities I most admire in the Working breeds?
Joan M Zielinski: Most of these giant breeds have the most wonderful temperaments and are so attached to their owners and responsive to their needs. Coupled with their amazing size, there must be soundness and breed type.
Have I judged any Working Group Specialties?
Joan M Zielinski: I certainly have, many times.
Do I find that size, proportions, and substance are correct in most Working breeds?
Joan M Zielinski: Those are qualities I find in the better specimens in the Group, though too often they are not evident.
Is breed-specific presentation important to me as a judge? Can I offer some examples?
Joan M Zielinski: Yes, of course. Showing-off the attributes for which the breeds were created is a good idea. For example, I don’t expect a Great Pyrenees to key-in on bait the way we would see in Boxers or Dobermans. That also goes for the speed at which they’re gaited. It’s not a foot race. Know your breed and move it appropriately for its purpose.
What are my thoughts on cropping/docking the Working breeds?
Joan M Zielinski: There’s a history for those breeds where docking and cropping has been established. I believe that where ears or tails are likely to be injured if not cropped or docked, the practice should be maintained.
Are the Working breeds in good shape overall? Any concerns?
Joan M Zielinski: I think that the overall Group is in good shape and I find it exciting to be able to go over those dogs as I judge them. Overall, I sincerely wish that more breeders understood what makes for a good front, and work on that. “Fix those fronts” is my wish.
In my opinion, how do today’s exhibits compare with the Working Dogs of the past?
Joan M Zielinski: They’re now a lot more “stylish,” but I am not so sure that’s a good thing. A good, solid, Working Dog that is less cosmetically enhanced would be better. When in doubt, refer to the standard! What a concept, right?
Why do I think the Working breeds are so admired as family companions?
Joan M Zielinski: They’re admired because of their innate instincts to help their people. Nothing better than a little child curled up, asleep on the side of their big, lovable dog.
Just for laughs, do you have a funny story I can share about my experiences judging the Working Group?
Joan M Zielinski: A while ago, I was judging a short-haired breed in the Working Group. As I was looking at this dog, I was thinking it was a bitch with a dog’s armband on the exhibitor’s arm. I was trying to check its testicles when the handler said, “It’s a bitch.” I asked why he was wearing a dog armband, at which point he looked, ripped off his armband, and replaced it with the correct one. At that point he said, “You’re forgiven!” I had to laugh.