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  1. Hernando

Brooksville mastiff wins Best of Breed at Westminster

Owners of 3-year-old Maximus treat him to a $55 filet after his win.
Three-year-old Maximus, a Neopolitan mastiff owned by John Seibel and Stacey Johnson of Brooksville, won Best of Breed at the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this month. At the lead is handler Ashley Cuzzolino of Brooksville. Courtesy John Seibe

By Beth N. Gray

Times Correspondent

BROOKSVILLE — John Seibel went shopping years ago for a Rottweiler show dog. As a matter of curiosity, the breeder brought out a Neopolitan mastiff, as well.

"Oh god, no," Seibel said. "That's ugly."

Following conclusion of the 143rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 11 and 12, Seibel recalled that first sighting.

"I went home and couldn't get that dog out of my head," he said.

Likewise for the Neopolitan mastiff breed judge at the most prestigious canine competition in the world. The official directed his blue ribbon and Best-of-Breed nod to Maximus, the 3-year-old, 170-pound male owned by Seibel and Stacey Johnson of Brooksville.

That makes 14 times that Maximus has scored in dog shows across the country since the couple purchased him as a 16-month-old from a breeder in Hungary.

"He got off the plane three days before his first show," Seibel said, in was named Best of Breed at that event.

Maximus did not win best of the 30 breeds in the working-dog group at Westminster.

"It's not a well-known breed," said Seibel. "It's not a showy, showy dog. It's said to walk like a lion or lumber like a bear.

"It's one of those breeds, they're so ugly, they're beautiful. I see beauty in them all the time."

Following Maximus' win, the dog and owners were interviewed at least a dozen times by television and newspaper reporters, Seibel said. The couple feted Maximus at an upscale mid-town restaurant.

"He ate a $55 (beef) fillet," Seibel said. "He deserved it."

Contact Beth Gray at graybethn@earthlink.net.

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