Spotlight On The Rio Award

Jen Reeder is the past President of the Dog Writers Association of America. She is a dog lover and dog writer to her core. Jen is also the force behind the Rio Award.

Each year, the Dog Writers Association of America awards over $14,000 in special sponsor monies to dog writers at our annual banquet and event. This year, the banquet is being held on Sunday, February 9, 2020, and we are sold out!

Raise your sparkling water bowl and get to know Jen and what the Rio award is all about:

Sponsored by Jen Reeder and Bryan Fryklund in honor of their beloved Labrador retriever mix, Rio, this award is for an article, book or essay that profiles a dog who changed someone’s life in a profoundly positive way. The award consists of a $300 cash prize.

The finalists who are eligible to win this award include:

“Shamaron – Dog Devoted” by Tammie Rogers

“The Rescuers: Incredible Stories of Life-Saving Dogs” by Laura Greaves

“Tabouli: The Story of a Heart-Driven Diabetes Alert Dog” by Matt Pelicano

“What’s Wrong With Your Dog?” by Susan Willett

dog Rio
Jen Reeder’s Rio

Jen spoke with our Secretary, Kristin Avery, and here’s what she had to say:

We’re so thankful you sponsored a Special Award in the writing contest. Tell us more about The Rio Award and what it means. 

The Rio Award honors work that profiles a dog who changed someone’s life in a profoundly positive way – and it’s named for a dog who did just that. When my husband, Bryan Fryklund, and I adopted our first dog, we had no idea how much joy the little Labrador retriever mix would bring to our lives.

We like to say that if Rio had a slogan, it would be “Born Ready.” He’s always up for fun, whether it’s a hike, swim, car ride, camping trip or visit with friends.

Rio has a sensitive side, too. He’s an old soul who has comforted us through the stresses of workday life, surgeries and the passing of loved ones. He’s a certified therapy dog who spent five years visiting hospital patients in our adopted hometown of Durango, Colorado. It was a privilege to see him spread cheer to patients and stressed family members – not to mention, nurses and doctors!

Because of Rio, I started narrowing my focus as a freelance journalist to pets. He’s inspired around 500 articles and essays about dogs, ranging from veterinary health stories to profiles of working dogs and rescue organizations. I volunteered for two years as president of the Dog Writers Association of America because I feel so strongly about work that celebrates and strengthens the human-animal bond.

I can’t believe someone surrendered such an amazing dog to a shelter, but I’m incredibly grateful that Rio became part of our family.

 What do you have in the works for 2020? 

Rio turns 10 in April, so naturally, we’ll be hosting a birthday party for his human and canine pals. We’re also planning to host a Halloween trick-or-treat party for all the dogs in the neighborhood.

I once wrote in an essay that Rio taught me the meaning of life: to bring as much happiness as possible to others and to yourself. We’ll try to hold to that for the rest of our lives. I hope his example – and that of all special dogs, really – will inspire others to do the same.

Please provide any social channels where folks can follow you:

Please feel free to read articles Rio has inspired at: or follow me on Twitter: @JenReeder1

Rio has an Instagram page:

Follow along and watch the awards live on Sunday, February 9, 2020, on the DWAA’s Facebook page. Awards should be going live by 9 pm ET.

Special thanks to Jen and Bryan for supporting DWAA and its members.