THE UNSINKABLE ARLENE CZECH
by Joseph Neil McGinnis III and JUDY THOMPSON
IT WAS MY PLEASURE TO BE PRESENT WHEN a friend was feted for years of good work. Arlene Czech and I forged our friendship almost forty years ago, and she’d already been judging for more than ten years. She’s spent a lifetime in service of purebred dogs—in particular, her beloved Papillons—and the people she’s helped and the contributions she’s made make a list far too lengthy to include here. Suffice it to say, Arlene has been a treasure in our world for a long, long time, and we expect her to be so for a long time yet.
I call this visit The Unsinkable Arlene Czech because through the recent hurricane, as she has her entire life, Arlene has weathered many storms with a smile on her face and spring in her step. She’s a ray of sunshine everywhere she goes and brightens up even the darkest day.
And so it is that I hand the microphone, so to speak, to Judy Thompson who wrote a great piece about Ms. Czech for us a few years back on the occasion that Arlene was chosen by AKC as Toy Breeder of the Year. Arlene herself, of course, has written for ShowSight for twenty-five years.
Enjoy a glimpse of this girl who’s had such impact on our sport and for whom we care so much...
ARLENE CZECH, by Judy Thompson
Exhibitors, have you ever had a wide-eyed young spectator come to you at your set-up at a dog show and fall in love with your breed? Did you spend time talking to her and perhaps give her your business card? That is exactly what happened to a Chihuahua and Papillon breeder in 1948 at the Detroit Kennel Club show. The young lady was a college coed, and her name was Arlene Czech. Shows were benched then, exhibitors had plenty of time to talk to spectators, and Miss Czech ended up spending the whole day at the show. She left that day enthralled with Papillons and the excited about the idea of someday bringing a dog into the Obedience ring.
Six years later, in 1954, the Czech family lost their beloved Irish Setter. At first, they opted to never have another dog. But that lasted only a week. Then Czech pulled out that business card from 1948 and contacted the breeder. She saw Taffy and bought her instantly for the grand sum of thirty-five dollars. That was how her amazing relationship with Papillons began-- sixty years and counting!
Soon Taffy was joined by Dandy, a male imported from the English kennel, Stouravon, and that was the start of Czech’s breeding program. Together Taffy and Dandy produced five champions. One of those pups became the #1 Papillon in the country after taking a Group 3, the only Group placing Papillon that year.
Czech’s demanding career teaching Science to middle-school students with learning disabilities (for which she won an award for Excellence from the National Science Teachers Association) limited her breeding program. She has always been a hobby breeder, keeping only a select number of Papillons, and preferring to keep her Toy dogs in her home rather than in kennels and runs.
Still, as a Breeder of Merit, she has bred 44 Champions, an International Champion, the first Papillon to win a Mexican championship, nine Grand Champions, one Silver and two Bronze level Grand Champions. Her breeding program includes four-generations of Dam of Merit awards (soon to be five generations). Since the inception of Breeder of Merit Medallions, she has earned nine, and is very close to securing her tenth. In addition, since 2010, when the Papillon Club of America began the Top Twenty Five awards, she has had a dog in that prestigious lineup every year.
Czech has always subscribed to the notion: “A well-balanced dog has titles at both ends”. She trained Dandy herself using some creative training methods. He earned his Utility Dog title at the Papillon National and became that year’s top Papillon in Obedience. For years she competed in Obedience and has bred 44 performance-titled dogs. At the Papillon Club of America National Banquet, seven Versatility awards went to her Coquina dogs. She taught Obedience classes for many years in Michigan, and after retiring to Florida continues to teach classes for the Greater Naples Dog Club, where she held many offices. She also serves as an evaluator for the AKC Canine Good Citizen and Community Canine programs.
Papillons make wonderful therapy dogs, and five of Czech’s Coquina dogs are certified by Alliance of Therapy Dogs. They are often invited to visit and entertain residents at area nursing facilities, where they are dressed in costumes and perform tricks.
You might think all this would keep a lady in her eighties plenty busy, maybe even overwhelmed. And in fact, fifteen years ago she was joined by Mary Jo Korpi to help with the dogs. They now co-own all the dogs and they both train and exhibit their new hopefuls. But Czech has many other irons in the fire. She is an AKC judge (Toys, Non-Sporting and Herding) who has judged on every continent of the world with the exception of Antartica (no dog shows there!). She still takes assignments on a limited basis, but never in Florida where she exhibits to avoid a conflict of interest. She has been the Papillon Club of America’s AKC Delegate for 24 years, is an Honorary Life Member and was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award several years ago. She has attended the Papillon National for 51 continuous years. Since the late 1980’s she has been writing columns for The AKC Gazette, Top Notch Toys, and ShowSight magazines.
Now, at eighty-six years young, Czech hopes to continue doing what she loves for as long as she is able. Her lifelong dedication to Papillons was acknowledged in December or 2015 at the AKC National Championships, where she was the recipient of the distinguished and very well-deserved award of AKC Toy Breeder of the Year.
And so it was A THRILL to be there, ringside at Greater Naples Dog Club on September 14th, as everyone gathered to celebrate Arlene’s special day. The icing on the cake was that she was judging Best in Show on the very day that we celebrated her storied fifty-year career. We’re proud of her and we value her very, very highly. (As an update, this lady is now 88 years of age, and it certainly doesn’t show in her appearance, attitude or actions.)
We love you Arlene.
Congratulations, my dear friend.