CRANBURY: Local dog wins top accolades

Resident John Affel’s pet Newfoundland “Michael” recently had his 15 minutes of fame on NBC Thanksgiving Day.

By Jennifer Larkin, Special Writer
   CRANBURY — The Township has a star canine.
   Resident John Affel’s pet Newfoundland “Michael” recently had his 15 minutes of fame on NBC Thanksgiving Day.
   The 2013 Purina National Dog Show named the dog “Best of Breed” this year, and featured Michael, immediately following NBC telecast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, according to Mr. Affel.
   Michael won the honor on Nov. 16 when the Kennel Club of Philadelphia hosted the Newfoundland Best of Breed competition at the Purina National Dog Show, he said.
   ”(The breed’s) most important trait is their mild temperament,” said Mr. Affel, “(It is) similar to the character of ‘Nana,’ the caring Newfoundland in the story of ‘Peter Pan.’”
   Michael is co-owned by both Mr. Affel and breeder Christina Koffman- Heard and is handled by Malissa Ruchak from Milford, Hunterdon County.
   ”It takes a lot of steps to become a top rank Grand Champion,” Mr. Affel said, “Michael is a Canadian Champion, as well as an American Grand Champion.”
   Michael came to live with Mr. Affel in Cranbury in June, and Mr. Affel then started to specialize in dog shows in August.
   He then quickly attained the criteria, and assessment standards that emulated grand champion designations from the American Kennel Club.
   The breed’s warm nature isn’t its only sought after quality, according to Mr. Affel.
   ”They are considered fisherman’s’ dogs,” he said, “In water draft tests they are evaluated to swim and pull.”
   Mr. Affel, who has owned this breed of dog for more than 40 years and has been associating with world-class breeders for the last several years, said he now really enjoys competing with Michael.
   ”I love being a part of it. The sport is an enjoyable hobby,” he said. “There is wonderful support being involved with this pleasurable breed.”