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Wobbling Pekingese repeats as top Westminster toy

Keith Paladino of Lodi, N.J., second from left, works with a 15 inch Beagle as they line up in the ring for competition at the 136th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, in New York. Keith Paladino of Lodi, N.J., second from left, works with a 15 inch Beagle as they line up in the ring for competition at the 136th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show, Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
By Ben Walker
AP Sports Writer / February 13, 2012
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NEW YORK—Wobbling the whole way, a people-pleasing Pekingese made quite a walk down the green carpet at Madison Square Garden.

Malachy the Peke drew cheers that grew louder with every tiny step Monday night and repeated as the top toy at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Pink tongue peeking out from his black face, he beat a prize affenpinscher called Banana Joe in a most competitive group.

"He doesn't run. He has a dignified Pekingese gait," handler David Fitzpatrick said.

Malachy also has 114 best in show ribbons on his resume, and is aiming to add the one from America's most prestigious dog show. His early work done here, he rested on a cool pack after competing.

A wire-haired dachshund called Cinders won the hound group, then wanted to sit rather than stand for her victory picture.

"She's a clown," handler Cheri Koppenhaver said.

More than 2,000 entries in 185 breeds and varieties were at the 136th Westminster. The nonsporting and herding champions were to be picked later Monday night, and the best in show will be chosen Tuesday evening.

Among the early winners in breed judging: a chow chow co-owned by Martha Stewart and a xoloitzcuintli called Giorgio Armani, a nice start for the alphabetically challenged contestant during Fashion Week in New York City.

Still to come Tuesday: a wire fox terrier who won the National show and a standard poodle who took the Eukanuba event. There's also a black cocker spaniel who was the No. 1 show dog last year -- he's named Beckham, maybe a good omen since a 12-story ad featuring soccer star David Beckham posing in his underwear is painted on a building that overlooks the Garden.

Oh, and a Valentine's Day treat on tap, too: A couple from Washington state who entered a Tibetan mastiff plans to hold their wedding among all the pooches.

A Brussels griffon named Tina Fey, a barking petits bassets griffons vendeen and a sprightly Chihuahua were among the fan favorites. Also getting noticed was a Manchester toy terrier, a breed that can live to be 20 years old.

Banana Joe was among the top contenders to be standing in the coveted silver bowl at the end. Nearly 5, he was a big winner in Europe before coming to the United States.

Affens and Brussels griffons are related way back. They're similar in size and stature, but Banana Joe's handler, Ernesto Lara, drew a distinction.

"Griffons are wonderful dogs," he said. "Affenpinschers are wonderful people."

Celebrities are fairly common at Westminster -- Glenn Close, Kristin Davis and Mary Tyler Moore have made appearances -- and Stewart made her presence known with her dog called GK.

"Ghenghis Khan did it!" she tweeted. "Best of Breed at Westminster!!!! Big deal."

The xoloitzcuintli (shoh-loh-eets-KWEEN'-tlee), formerly known as the Mexican hairless, is among six new breeds at this year's show. They're called a "show low" (SHOH'-loh) for short and Giorgio Armani drew cheers from the fans crowded around the ring when he was picked as the best of his breed.

"They're wonderful, they're an ancient breed, it's like a best-kept secret," Lara said.

In a few years, there could be up to 240 breeds at Westminster. But there won't be a puggle, labradoodle or Maltipoo among them. A "designer dog" is more than OK for the White House -- President Barack Obama and his family considered a labradoodle before getting a Portuguese water dog -- but they're absent at the Garden.

To get to Westminster, a breed must meet American Kennel Club criteria -- there has to be an ample population with a three-generation pedigree, a geographic spread of those dogs and a parent club to establish breed standards.

"All dogs are lovable," said the AKC's Lisa Peterson. "But a crossbreed is not a breed."

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