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Poodle Day in California: A Very Different “Dog Show”

How many shows can you think of that attract more than 500 dogs of one single breed? Even the biggest national specialties seldom have that many canine participants, and most have far fewer. Yet it’s a fact that a very informal, single-breed charity event for Poodles that’s been held in California over the past four years has developed into one of the country’s — if not the world’s — largest gathering places for ANY breed. This “show” is, admittedly, rather different from your usual run-of-the-mill dog show: it is not organized by a kennel club, there is no conformation competition, and even the occasional Poodle mix may participate — all of which somehow adds to its charm.

NorCal Poodle Rescue (“dedicated to rescuing Poodles and enriching the lives of those who adopt them”) was founded in 1985 by Patti Moulthrop, whose Blue Skies Standard Poodles have won the highest honors nationwide. Her black Ch. Aleph Blue Skies Outrageous was one of the top Non-Sporting dogs in the country for three years and won over 50 BIS in the late 1990s/early 2000s, handled by Tim Brazier. Patti says she couldn’t justify breeding Poodles when she knew there were Poodles in shelters that needed homes. So she started rescuing and rehoming Poodles, first by herself and later by enlisting the help of others, who became the core group of NCPR volunteers. So far they have rescued and rehomed about 2,000 Poodles and Poodle-mixes.

To defray expenses NCPR, like most other rescue organizations, holds annual fundraising events, the biggest of which is simply called “Poodle Day.” It started in 2009, when the NorCal Poodle Rescue group thought it would be a good idea to get a few people and their dogs together in congenial surroundings. They all paid some money to participate, and the profit went to rescue. It started small but soon grew into a major event: already by 2011 more than 300 Poodles were attending. Last year’s total was bigger than that and this year, in October, the owners of more than 500 Poodles paid to participate in the parade that wound its way through Carmel-by-the-Sea. (To be honest, a few dogs of other breeds also participated, but 100% of the revenue goes to NCPR.) And they came from not just California and Oregon but from several different states.

Why in Carmel? There are good reasons for that. This small town, known for its natural scenery and rich artistic history, is not only one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S., it has also a solid reputation as one of the most dog-friendly places anywhere. Almost all the hotels and cute little bed-and-breakfasts in town accept dogs, and many of the restaurants allow guests to bring their dogs along. Plus, of course, Carmel is located within the Northern California area that the rescue serves. (Along with Southern Oregon.)

Poodles on Parade

When you see the accompanying illustrations you will get a better idea than words can describe what it was like. There was the parade, in which two- and four-legged participants vied with each other in outlandish appearance, totally in keeping with the Poodle’s storied past as a clown and circus dog. Dr. Sonja Gordon and Dr. Lori Drourr did heart screening, and Dr. Julie Miller and Dr. Andy Staatz made presentations. There were awards for best “Child and Poodle,” “”Most Outstanding (Au Naturel),” “Costume or Enhanced Color” and “Best Affinity Group.” There were also several cocktail parties, all sold out, with more than 400 people attending, most of them accompanied by their Poodles. There was an auction with “beautiful and unique Poodle items for the Poodle lover.” Last but not least there were lots of Poodles playing on the beach and in the water, too, of course — Poodles were originally developed as water dogs, a fact that had obviously not been forgotten by these dogs. No exact figure for how many dogs were loose at the same time is available, but there were close to a hundred — and if you think that looks like a lot of dogs in the photos, bear in mind that they were taken early in the day — many more Poodles joined in the fun later. How many other breeds would behave so well if you let a large number run loose together? There’s no question that Poodles are among the most sophisticated and civilized canines around, and reportedly there was not a single unpleasant incident. All three size-varieties of Poodle were represented, in every imaginable color, and some that weren’t that easy to imagine, too…

Pink Poodles and Clowns, Oh My!!

As one of the leading members of the Poodle Day Team, Sue Rose, put it: “[My husband] Don and I don’t care about this being the biggest, or nearly the biggest, Poodle event in the U.S. We care about getting people back into thinking of this breed as a family dog. They are such wonderful creatures.” She added: “We have had so many wonderful notes from the town of Carmel commending us on the behavior and enthusiasm of the Poodles and their owners attending this event.”

Let us not forget that the regular Poodle Club of America specialty is still the largest Poodle event in America and in the world. They had 754 Poodles making 825 entries at their national show in Salisbury, Maryland, earlier this year. Not many breeds can even approach those figures, and I don’t think ANY breed can brag about having both a regular specialty show of that size AND a less formal “fun event” like Poodle Day

For more information on Poodle Day, go to poodleday.com, and shop for Poodle Day merchandise: pins, scarves, hats, robes, spa wraps. Poodle Day videos can be seen on Poodle Variety magazine’s Facebook page. You don’t need to be a Facebook member; just go to www.poodlevariety.com, click on the Facebook logo on the home page, which will take you to Facebook where you can view the videos. For more information on NorCal Poodle Rescue, go to www.norcalPoodlerescue.net.

Special thanks to Dasja Dolan Creative Photography & Design for permission to reprint the spectacular photos. More Poodle Day photos can be viewed and purchased by visiting www.dasjadolan.com.

Nex year’s Poodle Day will be held in Carmel on Sept. 27. Registration will open around April 1, 2014. The theme will be “Grooming,” which will include teeth brushing and nail clipping.

Written by

Bo Bengtson has been involved in dogs since the late 1950s and judged since the mid-1970s in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Japan, China and Russia. He has judged twice at Westminster, twice at Crufts and four times at the FCI World Show, as well as the U.S. national specialties for Scottish Deerhounds, Whippets, Greyhounds and Borzoi.