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 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.
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.
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.