Local man leads dog to victory
Local man leads dog to victory STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
Banana Joe, winner of the prestigious Best in Show trophy at Westminster this week, is from Holland.
But his handler -- the man who guided his movements on the Westminster floor, who trained and groomed him in anticipation of the event, who even shared his bed with the wee, monkey-faced affenpinscher -- calls Bowmansville home.
Ernesto Lara led Banana Joe -- his formal name is GCH Banana Joe V Tani Kazari, although Lara calls him Joey -- to victory during two days of trials at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, America's premier canine competition, held in Madison Square Garden.
"He's won a lot of big shows, but not like this one," Lara said after Tuesday's big win.
During a post-show news conference, Lara said the affenpinscher "isn't a breed you train. He's like a human. You befriend him."
Lara could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. According to his listing in the American Kennel Club directory of registered handlers, he specializes in terriers but handles all breeds.
In a 2008 interview, Lara told a Lancaster Newspapers reporter he got his start in the dog business when, as a teenager in Mexico City, he had to break up a burgeoning dog fight in the street to rescue a cousin's wayward Airedale.
Now, dogs are Lara's business, and he's numbered among the country's top dog handlers.
Lara, 49, said he doesn't try to be an "alpha dog" or pack leader when he trains pooches for the show ring.
"I like them to like me first," he explained. "Then you can ask a lot. If they don't like you or trust you, it doesn't work."
Lara came to the U.S. to work with top dog handler Peter Green, who ran Greenfield Yarrow Kennels in Bowmansville. Lara worked initially as Green's assistant, taking over when Green retired in 2006.
Joey, born July 30, 2003, made two previous bids for the Westminster trophy but came up short each time. He was bred by Mieke Cooymans of the Netherlands from sire Kyleakin Space Cowboy and dam Bling Bling V Tani Kazari.
A seasoned competitor, the feisty affenpinscher has won 86 best in show titles in various contests over the years. With a Westminster cup now in his paws, he's looking forward to retirement.
"It's almost indescribable," Lara said after the win.
He described Joey's dog type -- a member of the toy group -- as a "small breed with a big heart."
nBanana Joe wins Best in Show under watchful eye of Bowmansville handler.