Banana Joe wins Westminster best in show

The big winner of the night at the The big winner of the night at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was the Affenpinscher named Banana Joe, accompanied by his handler Ernesto Lara. (Feb. 12, 2013) Photo Credit: Nancy Borowick

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The big dog at the Westminster Kennel Club is one of the smallest breeds, an affenpinscher named Banana Joe who won best in show Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Banana Joe, 6, won best toy dog on Monday, advancing to the finals from piers 92 and 94, where preliminary events took place.

Banana Joe was born in the Netherlands, won a major German dog show early on and has been winning ever since. This win concludes his career as a show dog, and he will go into retirement and return to the Netherlands. Affenpinschers are often called "monkey dogs" because of the way they look.

Owner Zoila Truesdale was clearly pleased with the win. "When you come into these shows," said Truesdale, "you never expect it [to win]."

Dog handler Ernesto Lara said, "He doesn't know his size, he doesn't think he's funny, he thinks he's Mr. America."

Michael Dougherty, the Westminster judge who selected Banana Joe, said "it came down to a hairsbreadth."

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"This little guy was just a touch more," he said. "Perfect body."

The affenpinscher was the smallest of the seven finalists. It is a small, fuzzy black dog that drew loud cheers and "awwws" from spectators at the nearly packed arena.

Affectionately called a monkey dog because he looks just like one, Banana Joe made up for near misses the last two years at Madison Square Garden. The 5-year-old wagged his tail a mile a minute after earning his 86th best in show title overall.

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An Old English sheepdog only 20 months old was picked as the runner-up on the green carpet of the Garden. Swagger the sheepdog drew the most cheers, but judge Michael Dougherty picked Banana Joe.

Best in group winners, selected before best of show, included a German shorthaired pointer in the sporting group; a Belgian barge dog called a schipperke in the working group and a fox terrier in the terrier group.

In all, 2,721 dogs representing 187 breeds and varieties competed.

Handler Ernesto Lara kept hoisting Banana Joe after the victory at the country's premier dog show.

The finalists were moved in shuttle buses and private cars from the piers in Hell's Kitchen to Madison Square Garden for judging.

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At the Garden, Kevin Mullins, 47, from Columbus, Ohio, sat next to the cage of The Fifinator, a 4-year-old Doberman pinscher who had been projected by analysts to win the best in show because of her string of wins earlier in the year and her third straight win as best in breed at Westminster.

"It's a lot of pressure," said Mullins.

Also Monday, Jewel, an American foxhound, won best hound. Honor, a bichon frise -- a curly-haired lap dog -- took home the title of best nonsporting dog.

This year, a newly admitted breed, the Russell terrier, had a shot at the prize, having won best in breed.

With AP

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