Affenpinscher Banana Joe Wins Westminster Best in Show
Banana Joe, a tiny Affenpinscher from Massachusetts, got the ultimate retirement gift on Tuesday night: the Best in Show title at the prestigious 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
The 5-year-old CH. Banana Joe V Tani Kazari, a veteran in the ring who’s lapped up 85 other Best in Show wins at other competitions throughout his career, was chosen as the top dog from among 2,721 canines — the show’s largest number of entries in 15 years. They fell into 187 breeds, including two that were added to the competition this year: the Russell Terrier and the Treeing Walker Coonhound.
His win makes this the second consecutive year that the Toy Group has clinched the Best in Show title. Joey succeeds the wobbling Pekingese CH. Palacegarden Malachy, who won the coveted title last year. Now 5 years old, Malachy has retired in Pennsylvania with his handler and co-owner, David Fitzpatrick, and eight other Pekingese.
Joey’s thrilled handler, Ernesto Lara, snatched the little black dog up and hugged him tight after he was named the champion. Celebrating the dog’s win, Lara was asked to describe Joey’s personality. “Nobody told him that he’s a small breed,” he said. “I don’t think he’d believe that.”
For the first time, a Reserve Best in Show title was also awarded this year. It went to an Old English Sheepdog who stunned the dog show world with his Herding Group win on Monday. At just 20 months old, Swagger was a relative novice who hadn’t yet won a championship before coming to Westminster.
Best in Show Judge Michael J. Dougherty didn’t see the seven contenders until he entered the ring at the end of the night, but his picks aligned with those of the crowd, who cheered loudly for both Joey and Swagger.
“Every one of you deserves some serious ribbonage,” Dougherty told the handlers of the seven finalists before choosing his top two picks.
Dougherty is a second-generation dog show person from California. He’s a veteran in the sport of dogs, with more than 50 years under his belt. In addition to his vast experience as a judge, he’s been a professional handler, and he and his family have bred and owned Whippets, Miniature Schnauzers, Smooth Fox Terriers and Keeshonden.
As always, there was stiff competition at “America’s Dog Show.” Staged at two different venues for the first time this year, the show has several elimination rounds. At each level, the dogs are being judged against a breed standard rather than against each other.
The Best in Show winner first competes with members of their own breed to win Best of Breed. The breed competitions took place at Piers 92/94 along the Hudson River this year. Those winners then moved on to compete with the representatives of the other breeds that make up their Group, over at Madison Square Garden. And those winners were the seven who arrived in the Best in Show ring.
Here are this year’s Group winners:
Best of Hound Group: Although the crowd went wild on Monday night when Bassett Hound Tiger trotted around the ring with his gums flapping, and Westminster’s first Treeing Walker Coonhound made a big splash, the Group winner was Jewel, a 3-year-old female American Foxhound from Mechanicsville, Md. Lisa Miller, the breeder, owner and handler of CH. Kiarry’s Pandora’s Box was thrilled that her “baby” came in first place. "I brought her into the world, and I always dreamed of going to Westminster, take her to the big show and for her to win it,” she said. Meanwhile, “Jewel seems pretty calm about the whole thing,” said Mary Carillo, one of the show’s announcers.
Best of Toy Group: Before going on to win the top title, Banana Joe had to take the Group title. Joey has won Best of Breed three times in a row, and the crowd was thrilled to see him place first. Facing competition from a 4-year-old Pekingese cousin of last year’s Best in Show winner and a Pug with a lot of fans in the Garden, the nearly-6-year-old little black dog’s entourage had an emotional celebration at the podium.“This is his swan song,” said Lara, his handler. “He has just wonderful charisma. I’ve been lucky to have him in my life.”
Best of Non-Sporting Group: Honor, a 4-year-old Bichon Frise, lived up to his name, taking the top prize in his Group. In his fluffy white coat, CH. Vogelflight's Honor To Pillowtalk, quickly won over fans with his cheerful personality. "He has a great attitude, and he's a cute little show dog," said his handler, Lisa Bettis. Although Honor hails from Washington, D.C., he lives with Bettis in Indiana.
Best of Herding Group: Looking like he could hardly see through the hair covering his eyes, Swagger, the Old English Sheepdog, had a surprise win. "He's a natural," said Colton Johnson, who’s the dog’s breeder, owner and handler, from Colorado. Bugaboo's Picture Perfect defeated 15 canines who were champions in his Best of Breed competition to get to the Group level. “It’s a big upset of sorts because it was a dog that people didn’t know about, because it came in as a class dog and not as a big winning champion, but a beautiful dog,” explained veteran commentator David Frei.
Best of Sporting Group: Oakley (CH. Mt View's Ripsnortersilvercharm), a 6-year-old German Wirehaired Pointer, became the first of his breed to win the Sporting Group. “He’s had a career that dreams are made of,” said his handler, Phil Booth. “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime dog.” Booth lives with Oakley in Michigan. The number-one show dog in the country in 2012, Oakley was a favorite of oddsmakers in Las Vegas for a Group win. Spectators thirsting for a first-time Best in Show win for America’s much-loved retriever breeds got their hopes up when the Golden made the Group’s final cut, but alas, it was not to be — again — this year. “The crowd comes to life for the sporting dogs,” said Frei. “Look at all those tails that are going too.”
Best of Working Group: An excited Portuguese Water Dog, the same breed as White House resident Bo Obama, took the top prize in the Working Group. CH. Claircreek Impression De Matisse, who goes by Matisse, was born in Canada and lives in the U.S. The 6-year-old dog’s win was a major upset, as he defeated the Vegas Best in Show favorite, Doberman Pinscher Fifi — or the Fifinator — who has a Facebook page with more than 7,000 loving fans. (She placed second in the Group.) “He’s not going to have enough ribbons for this group,” commented Frei, as the judge stood making his decision. “Wow, what a nice group.” Also entertaining the crowd while the Working Group was in the ring was the Bullmastiff, Sam, who gave his handler a “massive hug” while he was being shown.
Best of Terrier Group: The Smooth Fox Terrier, Adam (CH. Slyfox Sneak's A Peek), an 11-year-old male, snagged first place ahead of the favored Wire Fox Terrier, Sky. They were followed by the Border Terrier and Bosse, a 4-year-old Russell Terrier from Michigan, who got quite a welcome as he became the first of his breed to compete at Westminster. To the crowd’s amusement, the white Bull Terrier made a pit stop as she trotted away from the judge to pick up the treat that her handler dropped in the ring.
What’s Next for Banana Joe?
The new top dog will likely make appearances on the morning talk shows on Wednesday, and will be treated to a special dinner at New York’s famed Sardi’s restaurant, a Westminster tradition.
It’s traditional for Westminster Best in Show winners to retire, but Banana Joe, who’s owned by Zoila Truesdale and Mieke Cooymans, already had those plans in the works.
“The plan now is for him to retire back home where he was born, and that’s in the Netherlands,” Lara said. “That’s where he’ll spend the rest of his life.”
“I’m glad he’s going out this way,” said Frei. “I’ll miss Joey.”
Handler Sophia Rogers looks up at her towering Great Dane, Joy.
Irish Terriers compete early on Tuesday morning in Ring 1 at the Piers.
With monikers like Chaos and Turbo, do you think these two terriers live up to their names?
WuzzyBear the Sussex Spaniel wears a head wrap around his ears as he prepares to enter the show ring. The dog's father was named Fuzzy, so they called his pup WuzzyBear. Get it? "Fuzzy-Wuzzy was a bear."
A group of Mastiffs take to the ring for Best in Breed judging at Pier 94.
Golden Retrievers prepare to enter the ring at Pier 94. They are the most represented breed at Westminster this year, with 61 Goldens competing.
After winning Best in Breed, how does a dog prepare for the big show at Madison Square Garden? Well, Cole the Komondor plans to relax, take a nap and watch some of his other canine friends compete.
Jaime Scott, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog handler from Pennsylvania, shows off her paw print tattoos.
Yaaawn. We can't tell if Spot the Lakeland Terrier finds bath time boring or really relaxing.
Can you guess this dog's breed? Here's a hint: He's a setter who's prized for his exceptional nose and good memory.
Olivia the Shih Tzu gets her prep work done in the benching area at Pier 92. She traveled to New York City all the way from Oakland, Calif.
Whitney the Chinese Crested warms up before going in the ring — though she seems more comfortable on two legs than on four.
Quixote the Chow Chow won his breed at Westminster 2010. Sadly, he didn't have the same success this year.
After a long day of breed judging at the Piers, Red Wine Spritzer, a Boston Terrier, scans the crowd for his owner.
Nineteen-month-old Ray Wood laughs at an Icelandic Sheepdog named Puck. Ray and his 4-year-old sister, Marlow, came to Westminster to play with the dogs.
We know Westminster is serious business, but Journey the American Eskimo Dog always has time for a little clownin' around.
Ever wonder what a Corgi's eye view looks like? Little Sara here will show you!
A Chinese Crested strikes a pose in the show ring during the breed judging at the Piers.
Now this is the life: With her Best in Variety ribbon by her side, Angel the Toy Poodle takes a well-deserved nap.
Norwegian Buhunds Cash (left) and Pink sleep in their handlers' laps after winning Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex, respectively.