For many years, Poodle Club of America members, and indeed most Poodle fanciers, have thought of our National Specialty as “The Greatest Poodle Show on Earth.” We can even be accused of calling it the “Greatest Show on Earth,” and people from other breeds that come each year to watch PCA might agree. It is a one-of-a-kind show, and while it may not be the “greatest” to all dog folk, it does, like the dogs who are shown there, have about it an “air of distinction peculiar” to itself.

Poodles are, of course, a breed with a long, rich history. The breed has traditionally had more than its share of big winners in the all-breed arena. Many prominent judges and other accomplished individuals in the sport of dogs have come from Poodles or have a background in the breed. Among other luminaries from the dog world who’ve been members of Poodle Club of America, Anne Rogers Clark, arguably the most important individual in the sport in the last half-century, was president of PCA from 2000 to 2005. These facts alone bring prestige to the National Specialty.

Its location in what is often considered the cradle of the dog sport also lends the show an air of importance. The Poodle Club of America National Specialty has been held on the East Coast every year since its inception in 1932, with the exception of 1942, when the show was canceled, and 1944 and 1945, when no show was held because of World War II. For 19 years, from 1975 to 1994, it was held in southeastern Pennsylvania, about an hour from Philadelphia, on the Ludwigs Corner Horse Show grounds. Most Poodle fanciers have many fond memories of the show at that location.

But the last few years at Ludwigs Corner the weather just seemed to get warmer and warmer, until it became clear that the heat wasn’t good for dogs or people. There’s really nothing more beautiful than a lineup of perfectly groomed Poodles standing on green grass under blue skies, and we dreaded – and protested – even the thought of moving our beloved specialty indoors. But it had to be done, for the safety of canines and humans. We’ve had to become accustomed to indoor venues, now in Maryland.

What’s amazing is that today’s Poodle Club of America is just as beautiful, if not more so, than it ever was outdoors because the remarkable people who put the show together so beautifully manage to bring the outdoors indoors. This fact can’t be stated without mentioning the late Glenna Carlson, who was show chairman for 15 years, from 1996 to 2010, and who helped create the spectacle that is today’s PCA.

Each year PCA covers the entire show area in sod, a blanket of thick, healthy green grass, and then adds beautiful potted trees, shrubbery and flowering plants to the landscape, arranged so that you’d swear they were planted right there on the “lawn.” On Monday and Tuesday of PCA week, the obedience and agility participants get to enjoy the indoor venue before conformation starts on Wednesday. The two rings where the conformation classes are held over three days are not only picturesque with lush greenery, they’re huge, with plenty of seating around the rings for everyone to relax and watch.

PCA isn’t just those five days, however. Before the indoor activities begin on Monday, the previous Friday finds a day filled with tracking tests for Poodles. Saturday and Sunday are reserved for the Poodles-only AKC Retriever Hunting tests and the PCA Working Test, held at the Anatidae Farm in Rhodesdale, Md.

This year PCA was held, for the ninth year, in Salisbury, Md. There were 758 dogs entered, including 114 in rally and 114 in obedience. The regular classes had entries of 297 Standards, 122 Miniatures and 148 Toys. As has been the case in recent years, Poodles came from all over the United States, as well as from Canada and a handful of other foreign countries, and spectators came from around the world to watch. Three breeder-judges handled the Variety judging: Standards, Dennis McCoy (Randenn); Miniatures, Mary Jo Aizcorbe (Aizbel); and Toys, Janice Pardue (Jamel). Johnny Shoemaker, who has been involved with Poodles since 1966, judged Best of Breed.

Whether you’re a Poodle fancier or just an admirer of purebred dogs, Poodle Club of America is a unique and interesting event in the dog show world, and worth experiencing at least once. For results and photos from this year’s show, visit the PCA galleries.