Peters Township bearded collie places at Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
When Zack the bearded collie was making his mark at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City, students and staff at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Washington were among the first to know.
“Zack has quite a fan base at JFK,” said Dr. Kathleen Harrington of Venetia, Peters Township. “They know Zack’s mother, Tobie, a reading therapy dog.”
Harrington, who was interim principal at JFK from January 2015 until last August, sent a text message to the school Monday, alerting his human friends that Zack would be competing that night on television as one of 31 best-of-breed winners vying to represent the herding group.
Although Zack was one of the final seven, “Rumor Has It,” a German shepherd, advanced to the best-in-show final Tuesday night.
The Harringtons and Zack could hold their heads high knowing the canine was the best bearded collie at the most prestigious dog show in the United States. He also won that honor at the National Dog Show, broadcast from Philadelphia after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
“It’s rough competition,” Harrington said. “It’s a thrill to win, but it’s fun just to compete. Madison Square Garden has that aura.
“We are thrilled beyond belief and we’ve been doing this a long time,” she said Tuesday as her husband, Ray, drove them home from New York.
How long? Try almost 30 years.
That may seem like a long time, but the dogs known as “beardies” originated in Scotland centuries ago. Bearded collies have double coats, and their outer fur is long and flowing. Whether they’re out walking or going for a ride in a car, they tend to cause people to stop in their tracks and ask what breed they are.
Don’t look for Zack on Arrowhead Trail anytime soon. After his appearance in Manhattan, he headed back to Connecticut with his handler, Katie Shepard, to prepare for more shows on the circuit, where Zack is a grand champion.
“He goes out to a show every weekend,” Harrington said. “It’s a sacrifice to put him out in the show world with a handler.”
And in between, he’s no snoozer. “These dogs are athletes,” his owner explained. Six-year-old Zack works out daily on a treadmill, logging a couple of miles, and his diet is designed to keep him in top condition.
At home in Venetia with Tobie are Chloe, Zack’s sister; and Zack’s son, Zeus.
Harrington, when introducing canines to her pupils, gives them guidance about pet-related careers, such as dog handler or groomer, and lets them know they could compete, not just in the show ring, but for college scholarships aimed at junior showmen.
“In the education profession, it’s a fabulous way to form a connection with kids in order for learning to take place,” said Harrington, who is director of advancement and student affairs at JFK and author of a book titled, “The Power of Fun!”
“Pets are the universal connector with kids. We talk about giving back with the kids, going into shelters and rescuing a pet, walking dogs or helping to feed them. There are so many elements that are wonderful and positive.
“Tobie was just at JFK, and we read Christmas stories there. It’s been wonderful for me. To share it with kids is a double blessing.”