We’ve all heard the saying; a dog is a man’s best friend. Well, that couldn’t be more evident in the famous poodle story about Masterpiece the Poodle and his Russian owner Count Pulaski.
Let’s jump back in time before most of us being born, the 1920’s, when Count Pulaski roamed the streets of America.
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Who was Count Pulaski?
A story wouldn’t exist without its two main characters, and to help you understand it better, we feel you must know about this gentleman. Count Alexi Pulaski was born just before the 20th century and was well known within Russia.
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There are some rumors from newspapers that he was commonly known as a “White Russian” this is a name given to a person at the time against communism and those who particularly fought against the Bolsheviks in the civil war.
Upon this defeat, the Count migrated to America around 1926. He lived in New York, and those who knew the Count, knew him for his tall features, charm, witty humor, natural tendency to talk, and passion for photography.
When he was in New York, Pulaski also loved to breed dogs and enter Doberman Pinschers into shows, as well as running a grooming business on the side.
Being a fan of the dashing Doberman breed all of his life, the Count had a new encounter in 1939. During this year, he earned some extra money babysitting his friend Gilbert Kahn’s dogs.
Unlike his fondness for Dobermans, it was here the Count developed an adoration for a new breed, poodles. Because he got so used to babysitting poodles, his love switched from Dobermans, and he chose to affiliate himself only with poodles from then on.
Opening of Poodles Inc
Due to his newfound love of poodles, the Count set up another business with the help of a rich heir and businessman in 1945. This new business was called Poodles Inc, operating as a dog groomers, boarding kennel, and high-end dog furnishing shop just for the Poodle breed. It was practically a lavish social club for poodles!
Birth of Masterpiece
While running Poodle Inc, the Count started to breed poodles. However, one puppy out of a litter changed his life forever on August 4th, 1946. The Count became completely besotted by this charming grey poodle puppy due to his willingness and easy ability to train.
He even registered Masterpiece with the American Kennel Club, renaming the dog ‘Pulaski’s Masterpiece.’ As if the dog was a breed of its own.
Showtime for Masterpiece
A year after he was born, Masterpiece entered the puppy class at the Westminster dog show for the first time. However, his lack of maturity and distempered prevented him from excelling in this dog show.
Later on, as he grew older, Masterpiece was entered into regionals and achieve Championship titles, obedience utility titles, and the first dog to win the Trifecta award.
Soon enough, Masterpiece traveled the country, participating in shows in Chicago, Los Angeles, and St Louis. Rumour has it; he became so well known, there would be groups of 100 people waiting to welcome him!
Because Masterpiece was well-loved by everyone and popular within the show world, the Count has a lightbulb moment. He realized Masterpiece was destined for greater things than the show world.
At this moment, the Count cut Masterpieces hair and made him look more masculine. In particular, he only cut the hair around his midriff area as opposed to letting him have a typical ‘pom pom’ type coat.
Masterpiece’s lavish lifestyle
The Count’s obsession for Masterpiece did not just stop there. He got Masterpiece his own bathrobes, pajamas, and raincoat. While making Masterpiece look stylish, the Count also doubled up as his press agent and even got a bodyguard for his poodle!
The extravagant lifestyle did not just stop there. Masterpiece was often fed by hand and had his diet supervised to ensure he was being fed the best food. Another member of Masterpieces entourage was his beautician, who allowed him to undergo regular beauty treatments and even taught him party tricks.
Masterpiece the Socialite
Soon enough, Masterpiece was performing at private parties in New York’s upper east side. AtManyy guests from Paris, Mexico City, Budapest, Boston, Rio De Janerio, and other places came to see him in these parties. He would be renowned for his muscular build and the unique tricks he’d perform in private.
World Famous Dog
By this point, Masterpiece became very famous and highly sought after. So much that a Pakastani Prince known as Ali Khan tried to purchase Masterpiece for his wife, for $25,000. Of course, the Count did not let that happen as he loved his dog, and Masterpiece was earning $11,000 per year as a stud and a model.
The Count received many offers to use Masterpiece as a stud, for as much as $500 a time. However, he refused, as he knew the dog was worth more and refused up to 350 dog owners offers!
The Count made sure Masterpiece endorsed all of the products made by Poodles Inc, such as their shampoos, conditioners, towels, bowls, perfumes, and more. Allowing him to earn a side income on top of Masterpiece himself.
Later on, the Count took Masterpiece to Paris, and soon enough, his popularity rose even more. In Paris, Masterpiece walked in fashion shows, had large crowds surrounding him, and once had to get airlifted out of a show, as he became frightened.
Masterpiece became so famous, even Air France gave him a farewell party and even made a special menu just for him! Masterpiece even had a dish named after him! Following this, he then went on to tour Europe.
After Europe, he earned a championship title in Cuba and received a medal from Haiti’s government.
Masterpiece became so well known in 1953 his children Diego and Scuzi accompanied the American ambassador on a trip to Italy. At this point, he was a co-host on popular dog shows, working 2-month stints at a time with a famous tv presenter known as Stella Stetson.
One day, the Count was back at his business Poodles Inc pleasing many customers who were waiting to see his famous dog. Eagerly excited to show Masterpiece to his customers, he went upstairs and called for him.
There was no response.
After searching relentlessly, he could not find Masterpiece. He concluded; he’d gone missing.
The search for Masterpiece
Immediately everyone started searching for Masterpiece, and even the police were contacted. An alarm sounded across thirteen states, and he was featured on the front page of many national newspapers. Even people were advertising his absence on tv, with the promise of a reward if anyone found Masterpiece.
Unfortunately, only one person informed the Count of useful information about his disappearance. It was believed that Masterpiece was seen being carried, with no leash leaving Poodles Inc with a woman with dark hair in a red coat.
The Mystery of Masterpiece
While many TV shows still tried to find Masterpiece, the Count did not come close to finding him. Masterpiece did escape once when he was 9 years old, but today his second escape remains unknown.
Did Masterpiece run away? Did someone steal him for their gain? Was he sold to the black market? Was he kidnapped to another continent?
All these questions ran through the Counts mind and the fans of Masterpiece. Of course, the Count was struck by grief and released monographs every year in honor of him. You can now find these in the American Kennel Club’s Library and archives.
There was even a shrine dedicated to Masterpiece! Inside the Shrine featured his famous green velvet canopy bed, walls covered with photographs of Masterpiece, and more remembrances in honor of him.
Eventually, though, the Count chose to close Poodles In in 1956.
All was not lost
Even though Masterpiece’s absence was tragic, he and the Count did wonders for the dog world. To be honest, it revolutionized the way dogs were treated when it came to pampering and grooming them.
In the 1960s, Poodle ownership across the world increased, and the dog became the in thing to have. Because of Masterpiece, Poodles became a well-known breed in the USA for their obedience and having a great temperament to train.
Poodles became vogue with lots of accessories, beauty parlors for poodles, new types of cuts, canine colognes, four-poster canopy beds, and much more became popular for dogs.
The New York Post even reported in 1960 that one-third of New York’s dogs were purebred, and Poodles were the largest amount registered to the AKC. Count Pulaski then went back into breeding, selling his poodles for $3000 at a time!
He even featured in the New York Times’s front cover in 1968 for his legacy to Masterpiece. Pulaski carried on to talk about Masterpiece and even sent his manuscripts of the dog to the AKC.
Masterpiece and Count Pulaski is truly a tale of a dog and his best friend. Together the two of them traveled the world, made lots of money, and drove up popularity. Not just popularity for Masterpiece, but they together changed the world’s perception of the Poodle breed.
In the early 1900’s many people were not fans of the poodle breed, but during the 1960’s it became fashionable to own. Because of Masterpiece’s lavish lifestyle, he also helped introduce dog owners to a new pampering method and looking after their dogs.
Following this, it became normal for dogs to have lavish velvet beds, colognes, clothes, and even beauticians. Therefore if you own a dog and you’ve recently taken it to the groomers, you can partly thank Masterpiece for it looking so beautiful.
Do you know any dogs today like as amazing as Masterpiece? Let us know your thoughts below.
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Marko is the founder and author at PoodleHQ, where he blends profound expertise with formal training in Animal Behavior and Canine Genetics. With multiple generations of poodles under his care, he’s a breed connoisseur, honored with the Canine Care Excellence Award and lauded by the International Pet Enthusiasts Association.