Alva Rosenberg, Judge of Judges

AKC Gazette, “Times Past”—In this excerpt from a 2011 breed column, longtime fancier Luis Aizcorbe recalls a judge considered by many old-timers to be the greatest all-rounder ever, Alva Rosenberg.

I was in awe when I first showed a dog under this icon as a youngster in Macon, Georgia, 52 years after Alva had started judging in 1910. He awarded my miniature Poodle the group and seriously considered him for Best in Show.

That evening, during a party, Alva approached me, effusively complimenting my dog, and inquired if I knew the reason why he had not gone Best in Show. After my response in the negative, he explained it was because he had never previously seen me or my dog. Alva’s belief that stripes had to be earned in no way affected my admiration for the man and instead intensified my determination to win the ultimate award under him.

At another show at which Alva awarded this dog a group, he went on to Best in Show under a terrier man, Frank Ward. As we stood on the podium, Mr. Ward asked me what Alva had done for my dog. Before I could respond, Alva approached and congratulated me for a most deserving win and the judge for his choice. Mr. Ward gleamed with pride. By endorsing his decision, Alva had made this man feel like he was on top of the world. Such was the admiration and respect that this great dog man commanded.

More than two years went by before we had an opportunity to show a dog to Alva again—a young son of the previous dog he had judged. Alva pulled him out first in an enormous Open class, and we were puzzled when after a final look over he placed the others in order and left us out of the ribbons.

A year and a half later, we showed him the same dog as a champion. He awarded him a group. After the judging, Alva informed us, unsolicited, that he had previously left the dog unplaced well over a year before because the rubber bands holding the dog’s topknot were too tight, giving him an undesirable expression for a Poodle. His unbelievable memory and deep involvement in the judging process were additional reasons why Alva was without par as a judge.

Over a year later he awarded the same dog a heavily contested Best in Show. The last thing he did before pointing was to re-check the dog’s expression. The honor was one of our most treasured memories within the sport, and I’ve always regretted that when our best ones came along during the late 1970s and ’80s, Alva was no longer with us to see them. —Luis Aizcorbe, Poodle Club of America

Catch a glimpse of Alva Rosenberg judging at Morris and Essex in a rare video clip.

Read about another great all-rounder judge, Louis Murr, the "Tsar of Spring Valley," here.