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Rio Gran dogs to compete in Westminster Kennel Club dog show

Kayla Beskau is pictured with Denzel at a show in Cambridge last summer. Photos courtesy of Rio Gran

Rio Gran has another reason to be proud. The Hastings-based dog breeding, training, boarding and grooming business recently opened a second location, and now it’s sending two dogs to the most famous dog show in the country.

On Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 10 and 11, the Beskau family will be watching as their Boston Terrier Motif’s Unstoppable at Rio (aka Denzel Washington) and their Doberman Pinscher Rio’s Fino Monster (aka Patton) compete for the title of Best of Breed at the 138th Annual Westminster Kennel Club All Breed Dog Show in New York City. There will be nearly 300 dogs competing in 186 breeds and varieties.

The Beskaus have been showing dogs since about 1999, said Karen Beskau. They started showing standard poodles and have been showing Boston Terriers and Dobermans since around 2003 or 2004.

Getting into the Westminster show is no small feat. Competitors must be invited by the club. To earn an invitation, a dog has to rank within the top 20 dogs in the breed or win a Best in Show title at an AKC sponsored show. Rankings are also based solely on performance in AKC sponsored shows.

Denzel qualified for the show by being ranked as one of the top 10 Boston Terriers in the country. This will be his second trip to Westminster. Last year, he placed third in the Best of Breed.

Patton dual-qualified for Westminster and will be competing there for the first time. He’s ranked in the top 20 and also won Best in Show at a show in St. Peter this past summer. Dogs that win Best of Breed at a show go on to compete against other Best of Breed winners for the title of Best in Show. And, with 1,000 to 2,000 dogs competing at a show, it’s no small feat.

The invitations reached the Beskaus about a month ago, arriving in the mailbox in a gold envelope. Being able to compete at this level is a big deal for the family.

“Since I was a little kid I’ve dreamed of having a dog go to Westminster,” Karen Beskau said.

“This is what everybody dreams of, to have a dog qualify for the Westminster dog show.”

Getting the dogs ready for the show involves a lot of conditioning and training, much of which is done throughout the year as they compete in other shows, Beskau said. For the humans involved, there’s a lot of campaigning for the dogs and advertising them in breed magazines.

Amy and Kayla Beskau, Karen’s daughters, are regular show handlers, but they won’t be appearing with Denzel or Patton at Westminster. Denzel will be handled by Doug Carlson, a professional handler out of Shakopee. Carlson has been handling Denzel for the past year. Patton will be handled by Dave Slatum of Lake Elmo. Slatum has been showing dogs for Rio Gran for the past seven years.

Karen said that using professional handlers gives the dogs more opportunities to travel to shows around the country and to be more competitive.

The Beskaus won’t be able to attend the show in person this year, so they’re just sending the dogs with their handlers to New York. They’ll be watching the show live from home via the Westminster Kennel Club website.

There’s a lot of anxiety in the waiting.

“You’re sitting on edge until the results come in,” Karen said.

“But it was so exciting last year.”

There’s a team of people who will be watching the results with the family, and if either of the dogs win, Rio Gran is likely to get a little loud.

“You can hear us from Hastings to New York,” Karen joked.


The Westminster Kennel Club dog show will be broadcast live online at www.west The finals will be broadcast live from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern (7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Central time) on CNBC Monday and on USA Network Tuesday. The winner of each of the groups advances into Tuesday night’s final event, Best in Show.

This year, the show features for the first time a Masters Agility Championship on Saturday, Feb. 8, prior to the All Breed Show. Agility finals will be televised live from 7 9 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Central) on FOX Sports 1.

For more about the show, go to or look for WKC dogshow on Facebook or WKC dogs on Twitter.