Groomed for the top spot: Nation’s premier poodles vie for ribbons in Riverside

The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
September 23, 1999, Thursday

Groomed for the top spot: Nation’s premier poodles vie for ribbons in Riverside

Mark Petix, The Press-Enterprise

LOCAL; Pg. B01

Somewhere out there, among the oodles of poodles being prepped and preened and put through their paces at Riverside’s Convention Center, Champion Davroff Stolichnaya waits for her chance to shine.

Breeder David Nokes is nervous and keeps his distance, as he does before every competition.

“Daddy’s here, and right now she doesn’t know I’m here,” said Nokes.  “She hasn’t seen or smelled me, and that’s good. “If Nokes’ 4-year-old white standard poodle knew he was there, she might not be able to concentrate.  And concentration is critical.

This is the Poodle Club of America’s regional speciality competition, a chance for 323 of the top toy, miniature and standard poodles in the U.S. and Canada to put their best paws forward.

Wednesday was the first of three pup-tacular days of poodle
competition at the convention center.

Today, the San Bernardino-Riverside Poodle Club holds its competition.  On Friday, the center will be home to a competition sponsored by the Poodle Club of Southern California.

Champion Davroff Stolichnaya will be taking part in today’s competition as well as a weekend event in Orange County.

But Wednesday was a very big day, said the 44-year-old Nokes, a resident of Orange and owner of a Newport Beach hair salon.

“This is like the Olympics of poodles” said Nokes.

For the poodle chosen best of breed, the American Kennel Club competition is a big step toward the holy grail of dog shows: the silver bowl awarded to the best of show in February’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

During two years of competition and promotion known in the dog world as campaigning, Champion Davroff Stolichnaya has moved steadily up the ranks.  A visit to last year’s Westminster competition in New York City’s Madison Square Garden earned her an award judgment — the equivalent of a second-place finish in her division.

A top finish in the Riverside regional would give the dog momentum going into the upcoming Westminster competition.

Nokes, partner Stephen Pottorff and the dog’s two sponsors, who lease “ownership” in a potential champion, spend up to $ 100,000 a year to campaign their poodle.  Champion Davroff Stolichnaya is featured in trade magazine advertisements touting her as the poodle that “takes your breath away,” and “preferred by those who know. “She is in Riverside to earn competition points, build a reputation and strive toward poodle perfection, the “ideal poodle” against which all are judged.

The owners and breeders of a top dog compete for ribbons, trophies and pride.  A champion also brings the promise of higher breeding fees.

It is a labor of both love and agonizing detail.

Six hours of grooming, including the four hours needed to properly blow dry a standard poodle, creates just the right visual effect, from the powder-puff tail to the lion’s mane.

Nokes said among the many traits a show judge will look for is a healthy coat, a tail pointed to the one o’clock position, a well-shaped muzzle and well-placed almond eyes.  Gait, a proud head and an winning attitude all count as well.  And Nokes said his champion has the winning edge.

“These are serious campaign athletes,” he said.  “She knows when she wins.  And she knows when she loses. “While handler Allan Chambers preps Champion Davroff Stolichnaya for her moment in the competition ring, Nokes stands at the far end of the convention hall.

Handlers and dogs competing in other breed and age divisions take their turns posing and trotting in the ring while dozens of dogs wait patiently on nearby grooming tables.

Nokes scans the competition and worries aloud about a standard poodle out of Seattle.  That dog is Champion Davroff Stolichnaya’s main challenger.

“There are lots of good dogs, but only one dog can win today,” Nokes said.

Wednesday, however, was not Nokes’ day.  His champion finished second in the standard poodle competition, which should not hurt the poodle’s chances in the Westminster show.

After nine long and nervous hours, Nokes said his dog had done her best.

“She was in the running,” Nokes said.

*     *     *
The San Bernardino-Riverside Poodle Club and the Poodle Club of Southern California competitions will be held today and Friday, respectively, at Riverside Convention Center, Fifth and Market streets, Riverside.  Event hours are 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. each day.

Admission is free.

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