Jen Reeder, Celebrating Freelance Success

May 6, 2024
By Anne Marie Duquette
Featured image for “Jen Reeder, Celebrating Freelance Success”

Anne Marie Duquette interviewed Jen Reeder, winner of multiple categories, including:

Magazine Articles- Breed, Pick of the Litter
View the Winning Entry

Online Article or Blog- Health or General Care, Owner of Golden Retriever Poisoned by Thanksgiving Rolls has this Warning
View the Winning Entry

Online Article or Blog- Rescue, 100-Year-Old Woman Adopts 11-Year-Old Dog in Perfect Senior Match
View the Winning Entry

Online Article or Blog- Any Other Topic, Do Dogs Grieve Other Dogs?
View the Winning Entry

AKC Reunited Microchip Awareness Award, Maximizing Microchipping
View the Winning Entry

National Dog Show Presented by Purina Excellence in Writing/Producing Award, Heroes Helping Heroes
View the Winning Entry

Congratulations on your wins!  Tell us about your experience and expertise, and how this relates to your entry.  What target audience did you write for, and why?

Thank you! I was extra excited since it’s the first year this award has been offered. I love watching the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving with my dogs, and I love therapy dogs. In fact, the reason I started narrowing my focus as a journalist to pets back in 2010 is because my husband Bryan and I adopted our first dog, Rio, and it changed my life. He was a therapy dog for five years at our local hospital in Durango, Colorado.

What prompted you to submit this specific entry?  Why do you think it struck a special chord with the public and the judges—and with you?

“Heroes Helping Heroes” seemed like a perfect fit for the award, which is for work about therapy dogs, since my article profiled a nonprofit called First Responder Therapy Dogs.  They offer stress relief for firefighters at wildfire basecamps and fire stations. I first heard about the group from my cousin Steve Reeder, a retired fire captain who teared up telling me how he’d seen therapy dogs lift the spirits of firefighters after intense experiences.

During the interviews for the story, I was so touched hearing the ways therapy dogs have positively impacted these brave men and women who risk their lives to fight fires. I know everyone is grateful for the work they do!

How big a part have dogs played in your personal and professional life?  Was there a particular dog that sparked your interest in interacting with the public?  Tell us about this special dog, and/or the dogs in your contest entry.

As I mentioned, my entire career trajectory changed after adopting Rio. He was a yellow Labrador retriever mix surrendered to an animal shelter in New Mexico as part of an unwanted litter. He had an incredible zest for life and opened my eyes to how amazing dogs are. He loved hiking, swimming, traveling and meeting new friends. I had him certified as a therapy dog because he was such a friendly, cool dog that I wanted to share him with others.

When Rio was about 7 years old, we adopted a senior poodle mix named Peach, who introduced me to the joys of small dogs, and generated even more story ideas. They both died last year, which was brutal, but I’ve learned to be grateful for the special relationships we shared and all they brought to our lives.

While losing Rio and Peach was incredibly hard, I also can’t imagine life without dogs.  Bryan and I adopted a Yorkshire terrier mix named Tux about three months before we lost Rio. He’s a little comedian who brought enrichment and companionship to Rio’s final days, and laughter to ours. Tux is absolutely the right dog for the right time. Dogs continue to amaze me.

How big a part have people played in your association with dogs?  Family?  Friends?  Do you have any favorite writers/bloggers/media or graphic artists?  How have they influenced your career?

It has been such a gift to enter the wonderful world of dog lovers. My godparents always had corgis and were the first dog nuts I knew.  They’re delighted that we share such a love of dogs (and books). I’ve met so many incredible dog writers and editors, as well as veterinarians, trainers, working dog handlers and staff/volunteers at nonprofits. I feel incredibly lucky to interview so many inspiring people.

I’d like to give a shout out to Mara Bovsun, my editor for the winning article. We’ve worked on many stories for AKC Family Dog Magazine since meeting 7 or 8 years ago at the DWAA conference and awards banquet. Mara is a fantastic writer in her own right and a dream to work with: smart, kind, meticulous and super passionate about dogs. If you’re lucky, she’ll share a photo of her smiling Leonberger, Emily, for good measure. I’m always happy to collaborate with her.

When you consider both your personal and professional canine-related achievements, which one of each stands out the most?  And why? What is the driving force that sparks your work?

I’m grateful to have had the chance to serve as president of DWAA from 2017 to 2019. Not only did I develop colleagues and friends, but it gave me a deep appreciation for how much hard work goes into keeping this organization going. Thank you to all the volunteers who keep the wheels turning!

The driving force that sparks my work as a pet journalist is curiosity. I love learning as much as I can about dogs and hopefully educating the public and celebrating this phenomenal species. It’s also a fun perk to meet people who hear I’m a pet writer and then whip out their phones to share photos and stories about their dogs.

What ongoing or future canine projects do you have planned?  Are they personal (like cuddling your favorite pooch or volunteering at the local shelter) or professional (like selling articles, training, or conducting medical research)?

This year, I started writing about dogs for Reader’s Digest, which is a thrill for several reasons, including that my grandparents used to have a holiday letter called Reeder’s Digest, a play on our last name.  I later wrote a book review column for a local newspaper dubbed Reeder’s Digest. In addition to other paid assignments, I’m continuing to volunteer writing bios of adoptable dogs and cats for the nonprofit PawsCo, the organization that saved Peach. (I actually wrote her bio back in 2017 and couldn’t resist.)

On the personal side, I just started taking Tux to dog training classes in hopes he’ll pass his Canine Good Citizen test. He really loves all the extra treats!

What would you recommend to those peers who wish to enter your winning category in next year’s contest?

There are so many wonderful therapy dog organizations across America, so reach out to one (or more!) and ask if they have any compelling therapy dog teams you could interview for a potential story.

Tell us about being a sponsor of The Rio Award and why this is important to you.

Bryan and I sponsor The Rio Award to honor work about a dog who profoundly changed someone’s life, as Rio made such a big impact on ours. I hope everyone is fortunate enough to have at least one special dog change their life in ways they never anticipated.

To conclude this interview, what thoughts from the heart would you like to share?

I want to thank everyone who writes about dogs. Our work makes life better for dogs and the people who love them!

Congratulations again and thank you for sharing with us. 

Featured Image: Freelance journalist Jen Reeder with Rio and Tux. Photo credit: Chrisi French
Rio smiles on a hike in Colorado. Bryan Fryklund and Jen Reeder sponsor The Rio Award in DWAA’s Writing Competition each year to honor an article, book or essay that profiles a dog who changed someone’s life in a profoundly positive way. Photo credit: Jen Reeder
Rio smiles on a hike in Colorado. Bryan Fryklund and Jen Reeder sponsor The Rio Award in DWAA’s Writing Competition each year to honor an article, book or essay that profiles a dog who changed someone’s life in a profoundly positive way. Photo credit: Jen Reeder

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