masterpiece: the kidnapped poodle | Mental Floss

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In February 1953, New York City Police were called in to stop crowds from harassing a visiting celebrity. The men in uniform pushed people away from a popular Manhattan storefront, where a silver-gray toy poodle sat on a red velvet box.

Masterpiece was a famous poodle, the result of a man’s obsession with creating the perfect doggie. He was, at the time, nicknamed the most precious dog in the world. And soon he would be the victim of a still unsolved crime.

The perfect poodle

Masterpiece owes its rise to Alexis Pulaski, born in Russia in 1895. Pulaski served in the Russian Imperial Army until the Communist Revolution of 1917, after which he fled the country with much of the Russian upper class. He arrived in the United States in 1925 claiming to be an earl, but this title may have given itself.

Pulaski was tall with silver hair and a dignified presence which contributed to his persuasive skills. He had bred Doberman Pinchers in Russia, but after the dog’s custody a friend’s poodle in 1939, he set his sights on the breed. Pulaski rented a former Manhattan sweatshop and opened Poodles, Inc., which provided grooming, boarding, and accessories exclusively for its new favorite breed.

In addition to the business, Pulaski became obsessed with winning dog shows. In 1946, a silver gray puppy caught his eye [PDF]. This poodle, he decided, could be the first plush dog to win the obedience, utility, and championship trifecta. After only eight weeks of training, he was registered with the American Kennel Club as a “Pulaski Masterpiece”.

Masterpiece has participated in regional shows, ultimately realizing Pulaski’s dream of win the trifecta. Pulaski decided his prize dog could be for something bigger than the usual competitive circuit. He hosted cocktails with exclusive guests from all over the world, all of whom were entertained by the tips of Masterpiece. In his most famous act, Pulaski asked the dog: “Masterpiece, are you a communist?” The dog would be vigorously shake the head no.

As Masterpiece’s fame skyrocketed, so did his lifestyle. A former Bronx Zoo lion trainer was hired to teach him tricks, and he surrounded himself with a beautician, bodyguard, and professional travel companion. Its carrying case has been designed to look like a giant photo frame with the dog in the center. At home, the 9-inch, 8-pound dog often rested on a green velvet four poster bed.

Most of Masterpiece’s income was as a breeder – he earned around $ 11,000 per year breeding and modeling – and Pulaski insisted his poodle shake his head at the suggestion to mate for less than $ 500. His offspring numbered over 300, with owners including Judy Garland, Gary Cooper and Eva Peron.

Soon Masterpiece was appearing in advertisements for hosiery, shoes, draperies, and telephones. Pulaski claimed he even inspired the curly “poodle cut” hairstyle that women wore. His fame grew so great that, according to the American Kennel Club, Pakistani Prince Ali Khan offered $ 25,000 to Pulaski (equivalent to nearly a quarter of a million in 2020) to buy the dog for his wife, movie star Rita Hayworth. Pulaski scoffed at the offer, but was happy with the appraisal of his beloved poodle nonetheless.

When not traveling or working, Masterpiece relaxed with the other Pulaski Poodles at Poodles, Inc., where the owner proudly displayed that his dogs were so well trained that they did not need cages or cages. leashes to stay in the store. He never imagined that someone could use this good behavior to their advantage.

A lost masterpiece

May 29, 1953 was like any other day at Poodles, Inc. The dogs, including Masterpiece, were stretched out on their cushions while a nightclub harpist provided background music.

Masterpiece was in town for an extended stay after model easter sets at a fashion show. Shortly after 1 p.m. Pulaski returned after briefly stepping outside and called Masterpiece to entertain a group of customers who had entered the store. The dog did not respond. Pulaski and his employees searched the building, but Masterpiece was nowhere to be found. They immediately called the police.

In the weeks that followed, police in 13 states were warned and volunteers searched the town. A reward — who included another poodle– was offered for return of Masterpiece, no questions asked. The Gotham Hosiery Company, one of Masterpiece’s customers, distributed 3,500 lost dog flyers. “Stealing a dog like that is like stealing the diamond of hope” Pulaski said. “He is known the world over. No one can get away with it. “

But the thief got away. Pulaski’s precious poodle was missing.

The only clue to the dog’s disappearance was a witness who told police he saw a stylish dark haired man woman in red coat leaving Poodles, Inc. with a little gray dog ​​at its heels. The witness had found it strange that the poodle had no leash, but followed so obediently.

It’s possible that Masterpiece left on his own – he had been out of Poodles, Inc. before (on this occasion he hung out at a nearby linen store until employees called authorities to bring him back. his home). When the dog did not show up, the police waited for a ransom, but none were ever delivered. If Masterpiece was kidnapped, it’s possible he spent the rest of his life as a secret and treasured gem in a private poodle collection.

In the years since Masterpiece’s demise, poodle mania gripped the upper class. Movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Katharine Hepburn showed off their dogs, making them the ultimate accessory for fashionable women. In 1968, the American Kennel Club employed 38 people just to register new poodles.

Pulaski continuous breeding poodles, but none compared to his masterpiece. He died in 1968 at the age of 73, having never found his precious pet.


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