Introduction: ~by Peter Scarth: Leeds, W. Yorkshire, England: Bigglesmere

"Pia first made contact with the Lowchen back in the late seventies. I believe it was at Blackpool Championship Show here in the UK, when she was over looking for stock to improve her Shih Tzu kennel. Pia became fascinated with what she saw and that fascination has never diminished. Whilst over, she was able to negotiate to take back a male from the Cluneen kennel, and 2 females from the Jilland kennel. These 3 became the foundation of Lowchens in Australia.

My first meeting with Pia happened when she was over here in the UK and visited the UK Lowchen Club in the Mid 90’s. We spent an interesting day discussing the dogs being shown, and as usual Pia was forthright with her opinions.

We then move onto 2001 when I was in Australia on holiday and Pia came up to Sydney to show at the NSW club specialty, and to give her talk to the Group judging scheme on the breed. I had the privilege of attending this evening and our friendship has continued ever since. Pia and I have always been able to give each other an honest assessment of each other’s stock. It has been a privilege to help Pia improve our breed in Australia.

We now move onto 2007 when Pia sent over to the UK and handled Ch & Aus Ch Tilcha Stylish Armani at her first show Crufts, and won Junior Bitch from strong competition. Amy remained over here with me, and it was a great privilege that year to handle her to her title, making Pia the first overseas foreign breeder exhibitor to make up a UK champion in the breed. The following year, Australian dogs took both Lowchen challenges at Crufts (another first) with Amy being the winner of the bitch challenge. Amy went on to be a member of a unique club in the UK, one of the small numbers of Lowchens that have taken a Toy Group at a General Championship in the UK.

Pia has maintained the quality and high reputation of the Tilcha Kennel by creating a breeding program and knowing where she would like to take the breed."

Pia Kirke, Tilcha Lowchen

“It is now close to 40 years since a persistent little Lowchen insisted that I meet her. Now upon looking back, I remember always having a dog. When I was a young girl – and sick in bed - I fell in love with a dog while reading a children’s book. My first breed came from that story ‒ a smooth Dachshund. This was to start a lifetime love of both dogs and horses.

After leaving school, I worked on a horse stud farm training young horses after they were weaned. Later, after traveling around Australia working with horses, I came home to find my sister had bred a litter of Poodles. I soon found myself owning a Poodle, and so that was the start of my working with dogs.

Because in those days there was only one grooming salon in Victoria, most of the Poodles and other breeds were groomed at home or by a skilled breeder the owners knew. For grooming, we took my sister’s Poodle and mine to visit a breeder who was also an All Breeds Dog Judge. After 12 months, I was asked by this lady to take over her clientele, as her husband had died and she was going back to South Australia to live. Well, with only a few days in lessons, I soon became a groomer and within six months I opened a Poodle salon - the second in Victoria.

During the next year or so, now having a Poodle to show, I bred my first litter and started showing my Poodles with some success. Then a friend asked me if I could put a little known breed in my salon window to help her sell a Shih Tzu, as no one knew what they were! Well of course I fell in love and soon decided to take one home. Over the next two years, I had significantly changed from Poodles to Shih Tzu’s. Over some 15 years, I showed Shih Tzu’s under my Tilcha Prefix and also became a Toy Judge. Later, I attained judging licenses for Groups Three, Six and Seven.

Later, I married and had a son and daughter. Now I have four grand children. My son Kurt has always loved the Lowchen which he showed with some success when he was younger. So when he and his wife were returning to Australia - after living and working in London for five years - they brought back a Lowchen male with them. Sadly, after a good life, he went to Rainbow Bridge and so now they have only one Lowchen that my granddaughter loves so much. Both of my granddaughters love dogs.

In 1976, I went to the UK with a group looking at dogs. I was hoping to find some new blood lines for my Shih Tzu. While at a show, the group leader told us about this new breed that was there for its first CC. It was a dog called a Lowchen (a little lion dog). As I was a Group One Judge, I thought I would have a look and learn what I could about the breed. Little did I know how this would change my life!

While I was taking photos and talking to the exhibitors, a small brown bitch kept coming over to talk to me. She was Jilland Double Delight (Dilly) s: Jilland Double Jet d: Cluneen Baroness Eloise.

Immediately, I asked if the lady (Anne Knott) would sell her. ‘Oh no,’ said the lady, ‘this is my daughter’s dog; she would not let it go all the way to Australia.’ After much talking and support from some of the Australian All Breeds Judges, who were with me, I talked the lovely lady into giving me her daughter’s phone number. So I went to meet her daughter, (Gillian Conroy) who stated that she would only sell Dilly if I took her half sister to keep her company in quarantine. In those days, it was three long months! The half sister was three months old and was a black and silver named Jilland Double Diamante (Pippa). She came from Eng Ch Cluneen Count Bolero and d: Cluneen Baroness Eloise.

Aust Ch Jilland Double Delight: Dilly (12.1.1975) Aust Ch Jilland Double Diamante: Pippa (7.4.1976)

‘Pippa’ was a beautiful bitch with a fun-loving personality who was soon to become a big winner in Australia. In 1976, Pippa became the first Lowchen in the world to win a Best Exhibit in Group. In 1979, she whelped a Lowchen who was to become a show stealer in our newly exhibited breed. Pippa was the dam of NZ Ch Tilcha Jupiter (s: Aust & NZ Ch Tilcha Leo the Lion d: Aust Ch Jilland Double Diamante).

NZ Ch Tilcha Jupiter (11.11.1979)

Jupiter was the first Lowchen to win Best in Show at a championship show. To breed Pippa, of course, I had to find a male. As there were no Lowchen in Australia, and very few still in the UK, a long trip was taken to Cluneen Kennels. This brought Patrick - Aust Ch. Cluneen Baron Patrick (s: Eng & Ire Ch Cluneen Adam Adamant d: Cluneen Evening Extra) who then became one of the first three Lowchens to enter Australia. At that time, the standard was up to 14 inches and most of the dogs were of that height, except Patrick, who was only just on thirteen inches. Patrick was a gold sable solid colour. He was a very good stud dog and I now know I should have used him more than I did.

Aust Ch Cluneen Baron Patrick (19.7.1975)

The first dog born and shown in Australia was Aust & NZ Ch Tilcha Leo the Lion. Leo was a chocolate and tan dog who never lost his very striking colour. I have always hoped I would get another one like him, but sadly I did not. He was a 13 and a half inch dog. He was the first dog to win many awards in the show ring and was the sire of NZ Ch Tilcha Jupiter, his dam being Aust Ch Jilland Double Diamante (Pippa).

NZ & Aust Ch Tilcha Leo the Lion (20.10.1978) Aust & NZ Quinbury Fiesta Fashion at Pepperland, JW (18.9.1976)

It was very difficult in the start, as the two bitches (Pippa and Dilly) were half sisters and the dog was very closely related to both bitches. I was always amazed at the health of the breed, even though it was so closely related. After a time, I was able to bring out a new bitch, a large white bitch, Aust & NZ Ch Quinbury Fiesta Fashion at Pepperland, JW. Although she was a big girl she was a real show dog who moved well and put to the earlier dogs produced well for the breed.

Similar to the UK, we had our share of smooth coats and some fine boned dogs, but mostly the breed type was good. However, we had to work hard on fronts. It is a problem we still often see today in the breed. Soon, other people brought in other lines and so the breed started to get stronger.

The rest is history. Many years have passed and I have seen some lovely dogs in the breed over the years. Sadly, now I see many dogs that have the glamour, but may not have good type. Some are lacking in spring of rib. We’re also sometimes losing the good bum the breed must have. Many have long narrow heads and short legs. The breed is winning well in Australia. It is also nice to see some of the Australian dogs doing well in the UK, the USA and some other countries.

I was delighted to send a bitch back to the UK handled by Peter from Bigglesmere Kennels, Aust & UK Ch Tilcha Stylish Armani. She was the first Lowchen owned and bred outside the UK to win a Best Exhibit in Group at the prestigious Bath Show. Even at just 13 months of age, while still here in Australia, she won Best in Show at an all breed event, prior to heading to the UK.

Aust Eng Ch Tilcha Stylish Armani: Amy Peter Scarth: Bigglesmere affix: UK with Amy

Aust & UK Ch Tilcha Stylish Armani and her sister by artist Marianne Kokko of Finland.

Recently, while he was growing up here, I had the pleasure of handling another successful Lowchen dog, Aust & UK Ch Quishu Sgt. Pepper.

I would like to thank Jilland and Cluneen for entrusting me with my early imports. More recently, I would like thank Bigglesmere Kennels for the imported lines which have so enriched my current Australian Lowchen stock.”

NOTE: Pia now does Bowen therapy, a little grooming, and also trains dogs and their people with problem solving needs.

A few favourites from Pia's personal photo archives...

Early days at Melbourne Australia Royal Show: Tilcha Leo the Lion, Jilland Double Diamate, Jilland Double Delight, Tilcha Lion Dog Roar, Tilcha Clarance, Cluneen Baron Patrick, with Pia Kirke/Rosemarye D'Agostin and Joan Reeves. Pia with Ruth Davis and three generations of Tilcha Lowchen.

Tilcha and Rondaglen Lowchen enjoying a play day while their breeders, Pia Kirke, Joan and Ron Harrison, visit. Pia's grandson with a Tilcha pup.

~ as shared by Pia Kirke, formerly Rosemarye D’Agostin of Victoria, Australia.

Compiled and gently edited by both Pia Kirke and Linda Laidlaw Pringle.

Thanks are extended to all who have shared photos and friendships with Pia Kirke over the years.