Local News

Apex dog expert hits career pinnacle as Westminster judge

Posted March 1, 2013 4:47 p.m. EST
Updated March 1, 2013 7:22 p.m. EST

— Dennis McCoy of Apex has spent decades showing, breeding and boarding dogs.

“This is me winning the group with a standard poodle at the gardens,” he said, sharing old photos. “This was our kennel that we had when we showed dogs.”

McCoy has won more than 500 Best in Show titles, but the pinnacle of his career was a month ago, when he was asked to judge the toy group at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.

His pick, a little black affenpincher named Banana Joe, went on to become Best in Show.

“The affenpincher just stole the show for me that night,” McCoy said.

He got his first dog when he was 21, and it was milestone that catapulted him into the world of dog shows.

“There were allergies in my family, so the only thing I was allowed to have was a poodle,” McCoy said.

“I became a specialist in poodles because it’s a breed that just needs a lot of expertise, and I guess I had it,” he said. “They choose me. I didn’t choose them.”

He spent 35 years showing dogs and winning almost every major dog show in the United States. When he finally retired, he applied to be a judge with the American Kennel Club.

“When you change over to judging, it's a totally different perspective,” McCoy said.

What does it take to be a judge at Westminster? A lot of success and specific training from the American Kennel Club.

He was asked to judge Westminster two years in advance, and he had to keep it a secret for that long.

“There is no other show in the world that could compete with the Westminster show,” he said.

When he entered the ring at Westminster, he did so with years of experience under his belt. And the belt he wore was specially designed by friends to showcase his top winners. Even designer Ralph Lauren had a hand in the design, he said.

McCoy had 30 minutes to pick the best of the best toy dogs. He said he felt a sense of pride when Banana Joe took the top prize.

The winning pup will make a guest appearance March 23 at the Raleigh Kennel Club Dog Show at the State Fair Grounds. He will also appear that morning on WRAL News.