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Banana Joe the affenpinscher wins Westminster

Banana Joe the affenpinscher wins Westminster
Ernesto Lara runs with Banana Joe, an affenpinscher, who won best in show during the 137th Westminster Kennel Club dog show Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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NEW YORK (AP) - 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 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, this champion 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," he added.

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.

Banana Joe had never gotten this far before. He entered the last two Westminsters with a lot of fanfare, yet didn't perform to perfection and finished second in toy group judging each time.

Lara kept hoisting the dog officially named Banana Joe V Tani Kazari 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 he can put it in the prized silver bowl he won.

There were 2,721 entries in 187 breeds and varieties at the 137th Westminster, including a pair of newcomers, the treeing Walker coonhound and the Russell terrier. The Russell terrier drew a cheer when it made the initial cut in the terrier group.

The old English sheepdog was clearly a crowd favorite. Maybe that's because fans knew his backstory - this was just the fourth dog show Swagger had ever entered.

In fact, Swagger didn't even come to Westminster as a champion. In past years, only dogs who had won a lot in the past were eligible. This time, with a larger exhibition space along the Hudson River during the day, more dogs were allowed.

Certainly, it was worth the $75 entry cost for Swagger's owners.

Banana Joe, meanwhile, gets no prize money for winning Westminster. Instead, along with the silver bowl, the Garden champion earns a lifetime of prestige, plus lucrative breeding fees for its owners.

The Portuguese water dog - the same breed that romps around the White House with President Barack Obama's family - also arrived at 20 months old. Matisse, who got his name because his owners are art lovers, showed well while Obama was delivering his State of the Union address.

Matisse beat out Fifi the Doberman in the working group. The Fifinator, as she's known by her thousands of Facebook fans, won the group last year and came in second this time.

Hours earlier, Fifi was sound asleep in her crate, a red rabbit stuffed toy at her paws, looking like the most docile dog in the world. Not exactly how many people see a Doberman pinscher.

"They can be intimidating," owner-breeder-handler Jocelyn Mullins said.

That's why her rooters hoped she could win best in show this time.

"It would humanize the breed," Westminster Kennel Club President Sean McCarthy said. "A win for the Doberman would be an acceptance of that breed."
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