NEW YORK—A feisty affenpinscher named Banana Joe, whose owners had announced earlier that he would be retiring, claimed the top honor of Best in Show at the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the Super Bowl of the dog world.
The 6-year-old toy dog, who looked like a tiny black cotton ball with red lips, bested six other dogs in Westminster’s final round—including Oakley, a German wirehaired pointer who is the top-ranked pooch in the country and had been widely expected to win.
Swagger, an Old English sheepdog who was a crowd favorite, took reserve Best in Show—a major honor for a young dog competing in just his fourth dog show.
But Banana Joe, with a charming, monkeylike face and a habit of barking so powerfully he almost knocks himself over, was recognized by judges for his humor and spirit.
“They have a comic seriousness about them,” said his handler, Ernesto Lara. “They are not really aware that they are so funny, and they are.”
Lara called the breed the “best-kept secret in dogs." He added that "they are extra smart. I think with affenpinschers, you don’t tame them. You befriend them.”
Upon the announcement that he’d won Best in Show, Banana Joe propelled his tiny body into the air in excitement. In the stands, his owners broke down into sobs, with one collapsing onto the ground.
Westminster is the tiny dog’s “swan song,” Lara said. He will be moving back to Holland, where he was born.
“He is surrounded by love,” Lara added. “He has just wonderful charisma. I’ve been lucky to have him in my life.”