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In Memoriam: Bill Cunningham

When Poodle Club of America’s National Specialty classes begin next Wednesday, one member in particular will be very much missed.

Bill Cunningham was the vice president of PCA when he passed away on April 5, but to those who have known him during his more than 50 years in dogs, he was much more than a parent club officer.

Bill first became a professional handler in the early 1970s. He prepared for what would become a 35-year career with an apprenticeship under one of the breed icons of the era, Bud Dickey of Dassin Poodles. At Dassin Farm, Bill acquired the bitch that became the foundation for his Dacun Standard Poodles, Ch. Dassin Black Beri Brandi.

For the next three decades, Bill handled countless Poodles to championships and Specialty, Group and Best in Show wins for his clients, all the while continuing to breed Poodles with his partner, Philip Daily. Bill was especially proud of Ch. Dacun’s Star-ing Role O’ Jamelle, who was the top-producing Standard Poodle dam for many years.

In 1978 a puppy Bill bred and handled, Misty Ridges Hot Rocks, was Winners Dog at just 9 months of age at Poodle Club of America’s regional specialty, from the Bred-by class. Sired by Bill’s Ch. Dacun’s Blu Mecca, the puppy was co-bred and owned by Kathleen Champa. Photo by Olson, courtesy of Poodle Variety.

In 1978 a puppy Bill bred and handled, Misty Ridges Hot Rocks, was Winners Dog at just 9 months of age at Poodle Club of America’s regional specialty, from the Bred-by class. Sired by Bill’s Ch. Dacun’s Blu Mecca, the puppy was co-bred and owned by Kathleen Champa. Photo by Olson, courtesy of Poodle Variety.

In 1995 Bill retired from handling to pursue a career in judging, and he became as passionate about this endeavor as he was about handling and breeding dogs. He judged all over the United States and in Canada, Brazil and Australia, and earned several plum assignments, including Westminster, AKC/Eukanuba and numerous National Specialties. In 2004 he judged the Standard Variety at Poodle Club of America.

Bill was very active in judges’ education for PCA and, as his friend Del Dahl wrote, “With few resources at his disposal…he crisscrossed the country helping judges and potential judges better understand our breed as they pursued their judging careers.” Several years ago, he became a member of PCA’s board of directors and really seemed to enjoy working for the breed and the club in that capacity.

In 2004 Bill judged Standards at PCA. His Best of Variety winner was Ch. Cotian Style and Splash, handled by Christian Manelopoulos for owners Zuleika Torrealba and Debbie Cozart, who bred her. Photo by Ashbey Photography, courtesy of Poodle Variety.

In 2004 Bill judged Standards at PCA. His Best of Variety winner was Ch. Cotian Style and Splash, handled by Christian Manelopoulos for owners Zuleika Torrealba and Debbie Cozart, who bred her. Photo by Ashbey Photography, courtesy of Poodle Variety.

Bill and Philip continued to breed Standards, and in recent years one of their dogs has become quite the star around the world. Am. GCh. Int. Se. Dk. Fin. Ch. Dacun Kaylen’s He’s a Heartbreaker, bred by Bill and Philip, and owned by Virginia Dorris and his handler, Kay Palade-Peiser, won 85 Groups and 13 Best in Shows in the U.S. from 2010 through 2012. Since then he’s not only earned titles around the world, he’s also become a sire of note both in the U.S. and abroad. Perhaps his most famous son is Dk. Se. Fin. Int. Ch. Abica’s Miles Ahead, Top Dog of all breeds in Denmark in 2012, handled by Mikael Nilsson. Another son, Aust. Ch. Huffish Dynamite Street, bred in Sweden, was Best in Show at the Canberra Royal in Australia this year. Only recently Bill began breeding Brussels Griffons, and just a few weeks before he passed away a puppy he bred was Winners Bitch at the National.

Am. GCh. Int. Se. Dk. Fin. Ch. Dacun Kaylen’s He’s a Heartbreaker, bred by Bill Cunningham and Philip Daily, at Poodle Club of America. ‘Thomas’ is owned by Virginia Dorris and Kay Peiser, who handles him. Photo by Maria Modig/ www.momabos.com.

Am. GCh. Int. Se. Dk. Fin. Ch. Dacun Kaylen’s He’s a Heartbreaker, bred by Bill Cunningham and Philip Daily, at Poodle Club of America. ‘Thomas’ is owned by Virginia Dorris and Kay Peiser, who handles him. Photo by Maria Modig/ www.momabos.com.

Bill’s relationship with Philip, which spanned 47 years, was indicative of his devotion to the things that mattered most in his life. He was a warm and amiable man who made friends wherever he went, and who gave generously of his time to the things and people he cared for, Poodles and the dog sport in particular. He is survived by Philip, as well as his sons, William III and Troy, and their wives, along with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The dog world, and the Poodle world especially, were fortunate to have known him.

Written by

Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly all-breed magazine ShowSight. This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier.
Comments
  • potrero
    Alexia Fino April 19, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    You will be missed Mr Cunningham! There is a photo of you me and Jack when you awarded him breed from the classes after the Corso had just been recognized. The way you are looking at Jack in the photo made me believe in him when times were rough. Thank you so much for that!
    -Alexia, Gabe and Jack (#3 Corso for 2011 and 2012)

    • kayla
      kayla April 19, 2013 at 1:40 PM

      Hello Alexia! thank your for being part of our audience and for writing. We will all greatly miss Mr. Cunningham. Would you like to share the photo of Jack’s breed win under Mr. Cunningham on facebook? Our community would enjoy seeing the photo, coupled with your words of his meaning to you. best,

  • Bonnie Linnell Clarke April 20, 2013 at 8:03 AM

    Bill was a special person in every way! I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to spend many wonderful hours in his company. I will miss him terribly!

    Bonnie Linnell Clarke

  • Kerrie Kuper May 6, 2013 at 5:14 AM

    I will miss Bill so much, his wit and great sense of humor was one of his greatest assets. He loved to talk dogs and LOVED his sons and family very much. Prayers for his family.

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