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‘Monkey dog’ walks away with Best of Show at Westminster

Local giant schnauzer to come home with Best in Class title

February 13, 2013
Updated 12:05 a.m.
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— Banana Joe didn’t monkey around this time.

The little affenpinscher with the bouncy step and shiny black coat walked off as America’s top dog Tuesday night, winning best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club.

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 and stuck out his pink tongue after earning his 86th best in show title overall.

It was a timely win, too, coming a day before he was set to fly back to the Netherlands with his owner. That trip has now been postponed for his victory lap.

“He’s won a lot of big shows, but not like this one,” handler Ernesto Lara said.

A class clown, Banana Joe also is pretty bright.

“He speaks German, Dutch, Spanish and English,” co-owner and breeder Mieke Cooijmans offered.

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.

“He was presented in immaculate manner,” Dougherty praised. “He was on the minute he walked in. ... He’s in perfect condition, perfect body.”

Also in the best-of-seven final ring were a German wirehaired pointer ranked as the nation’s No. 1 show dog, an American foxhound, a Portuguese water dog, a bichon frise and a smooth fox terrier.

Lara kept hoisting Banana Joe after he became the first affenpinscher to win at the country’s premier dog show. The playful pooch enjoys tugging at his squeaky mouse toy — now this champion from the toy group can put it in the prized silver bowl he won.

There were 2,721 entries in the 137th Westminster.

Best in Show wasn't in the cards for Dora, a 4-year-old giant schnauzer hailing from Broadalbin. The award-winning canine was among seven of the 28 dogs competing in the Working group to get a second look from the judge for the Best in Group designation.

But the judge didn't chose Dora among the four finalists for Best in Group, the second step to becoming the winner of Westminster's most prestigious award. Instead, she'll have to suffice with being Best in Class among giant schnauzers —an accolade that left her owner smitten.

"Outstanding. Just outstanding," said Doug Hill, heaping praise on his beloved dog from the floor of the show late Tuesday. "That's considering every other dog in the ring is one of the top in the country."

Hill said the show was an emotional rollercoaster right up until the end. The rollercoaster went up when Dora was among the dogs picked for a second look and then down again when she didn't advance.

Still, Hill wasn't going to diminish any of the acclaim Dora won during the two-day competition. Just getting as far as she did was enough to keep him beaming.

"She did great, and we're real pleased to have her go this far," he said.

And who knows? Maybe she'll make a trip back next year, Hill suggested.

Now, Dora will get a week or so off from competitions. She'll also get some much needed playtime with her family before getting back onto the show circuit, Hill said.

"She's the No. 1 giant schnauzer in the country," he said. "We'd like to keep it that way."

Gazette reporter Justin Mason contributed to this report.

 
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