Banana Joe the Affenpinscher took home the top prize Tuesday at the 137th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where he was awarded Best in Show. Banana Joe is owned by Zoila Truesdale of Attleboro and Mieke Cooijmans of Holland. Cooijmans is Banana Joe’s breeder. William Truesdale, Zoila’s husband, is a veterinarian at Central Ave Veterinary Clinic in Seekonk, which also houses the International Canine Semen Bank, where Banana Joe’s frozen semen is stored for breeding. The Truesdales have a breeding program and eight other affenpinschers living at their boarding facility in Seekonk. They’ve lived in Attleboro for more than 30 years, and 5-year-old Banana Joe has split his time between Massachusetts and Bowmansville, Pa., where his handler, Ernesto Lara, lives. We talked to William Truesdale from the post-win celebration at Sardi’s in New York, where he told us all about Banana Joe, the family’s reaction to the win, and what the award-winner will do in retirement.
Q. Congratulations on Banana Joe’s win. How are you feeling?
A. Absolutely numb, you know? My wife just about collapsed. I thought, “If this went on for much longer, I was going to have to do CPR.” We had a big cocktail party afterward down at the Madison Square Garden and from there we had a champagne bash with the dog and all our friends. We didn’t get out of there until 3 o’clock [Wednesday] morning.
Q. How is Banana Joe taking the news?
A. He just takes it all in. He doesn’t feel like he’s being dragged around. He has two people that are his mascots, what we call a handler and an attendant by the name of Carlos that this dog thinks the sun absolutely rises and sets on him. If I had that kind of entourage, I’d be happy, too.
Q. Though it’s Banana Joe’s first time winning Best in Show at Westminster (and third time competing at Westminster), this is actually his 86th Best in Show title?
A. Yes. Isn’t that wonderful? That’s the world record for affenpinschers. He broke that record several months ago.
Q. Did you think he had a chance?
A. It was one of these things where we knew we had a very nice dog. This year he went to the front of the line in the toy group Monday night and, as far as we were concerned, we thought, “Wow, he did it,” and we were literally ready to come home. Obviously the winners have to come back the next day. What happened is a very nice terrier won but he wasn’t the one that I thought that the best-in-show judges were going to like. And I thought to myself, “Oooh, this could be good.” We just kind of looked at each other and said, “I think we might have a shot here.”
Q. Tell us about Banana Joe.
A. He isn’t really what we call a player with other dogs but he’s absolutely fascinated with human beings. He is very, very perky — playful. He’s like a little wind-up toy. He just goes and goes and goes. And, of course, that’s what charms the judges.
Q. Tell us about the affenpinscher breed.
A. They are a compact little dog, very fun, frisky, playful, a delightful dog to have in your presence. They’re not annoying but they are very animated. They have a little monkey face expression, a little flat face, and little twinkly black eyes. They are a wonderful dog that loves to be with you and secure enough that they don’t have to be all over you.
Q. Tell us about preparing for the show.
A. He loves being groomed, the brushing and the primping. He just feels very important when he’s being brushed and prodded and he’s given treats while he’s going through this process. It’s all made very fun for him.
Q. Banana Joe’s full name is Banana Joe V Tani Kazari. Can you explain it to us?
A. That’s where he’s from, that’s the kennel name.
Q. We hear he understands German, Dutch, Spanish, and English. How did he become so fluent in so many languages?
A. He is sort of in an international breeding program. He has people who live in Holland and of course they’re multilingual. The affenpinscher group is an international group of people.
Q. During Westminster, what language did his handler Ernesto Lara use?
A. Oh, it was English all the way. He’s adapted very well to the American culture.
Q. We hear Banana Joe is retiring. What will he do now?
A. He’s moving to Holland. He’s pretty much done all that he can do. The little guy has been around. He’s got a lot of frequent-flier miles. He’s going to go back to Holland now and probably be a stud and sit on the couch.