NEW YORK—A petite, monkey-faced black affenpinscher named Banana Joe rose to the top of a field of over 2,700 dogs at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.
Making history as the first affenpinscher to take the top prize in the show’s 137-year history, best-in-show judge Michael Dougherty, who selected Banana Joe as the top dog, said, “He’s a fantastic affenpinscher, with a fantastic face, a great body. I’ve never had my hands on a better affenpinscher. Ever.”
The six-year-old Banana Joe was the top toy-group dog in the United States in 2012, and was the sixth highest rated dog in all breeds. He faced stiff competition from six other group winners, including Oakley, a German wirehaired pointer; Matisse, a solid black Portuguese water dog, and an old English sheepdog named Swagger, who drew the loudest cheers from the audience at Madison Square Garden, and who was awarded the prize of Reserve Best In Show.
Banana Joe’s handler, Ernesto Lara, lifted the little dog high into the air and showered him with kisses when the judge announced that he’d been selected as best in show. At a post-show press conference, Lara, who calls the dog Joey, cradled him lovingly in his arms, saying, “I’m not bragging, this is just the way he is. The best thing is that I was in cue with him.”
He added: “This isn’t a breed you train. He’s like a human. You befriend him.” Joey has been living with Lara in Bowmansville, Pa., for the past two years, even sleeping on his bed.
Lara explained that affenpinschers are known for being the tiny deadpan comedians of the dog world, saying “Like any comedian, when he’s in a situation, he doesn’t think it’s funny. He doesn’t know his size or that he has a pushed-in face. Once you live with one, you know that’s the standard. They need a comic seriousness.” While his owners, Meike Cooymans and Zoila Truesdale, took questions from the press, Lara poured water into his own hand so that Joey could have a celebratory drink.
After a whirlwind week of interviews and television appearances, and a traditional steak lunch at Sardi’s Restaurant, Banana Joe will retire from competition to live with his breeder, Meike Cooymans, in the Netherlands, where he was born.
Cynthia Leathers is a freelance theater and pet writer living in New York City.
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