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Family raises dog show champ

Published: Monday, March 25, 2013 6:30 a.m. CDT
In this March 6, 2013 photo, dog show ribbons adorn a wall in the house of Dan and Sharon Kauzlarich in Farmington. In February 2013, Diana, their 2-year-old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, won Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York. The dog in the picture on the wall is Diana's grandfather, Wrigley. (AP Photo/Journal Star, Nick Schnelle)


In a flash, Diana's done lounging on the couch. She pops up. She poses. She's primed to primp for the paparazzi.


When the cameras roll, this is not the pampered pet of Dan and Sharon Kauzlarich and their daughter, Katie. This is GCH Princess Cut Diamond Beekauz CD RN JH. She won Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York — and don't you forget it. She won't.

"She just has that presence in the ring that says, 'Watch me,' " says Sharon Kauzlarich, 58. "Diana will stand outside the ring and cry while she's waiting her turn. She just loves to show."

This is not the first dog-rodeo for the Kauzlarich family. They tiptoed into showing dogs when now-25-year-old Katie was a pre-teen in 4-H. Dan Kauzlarich hunts, so the family had spaniels and later retrievers. Now 64, retired from Caterpillar Inc. and the military, Dan also keeps bees. Hence the name of what has become the whole family's hobby: Beekauz Kennels.

"Where other people our age are going on cruises, we go to dog shows," Sharon Kauzlarich says

It was deliberate, but not exactly planned, when they found themselves showing very specific breeds: Boykin Spaniels and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, or Tollers.

It paid off, in some ways. The Kauzlarich home sits at the edge of town on a couple of fenced acres where dogs frolic. One whole room is devoted to ribbons and awards.

"We only keep the big ones," Dan Kauzlarich says.

Ribbons are one thing, profits are another. Pups may sell for thousands; expenses for training and showing are even higher. Diana is on the road a lot. In December, for example, she won the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, Fla.

"It does cost a fortune," Sharon says.

"You don't make any money showing dogs," agrees Katie.

Diana is a top Toller right now, but she is following in some prestigious pawprints. Her mother, Ivy, was also a grand champion, even though ma didn't relish the ring. Sharon says the Kauzlariches breed their dogs for health and temperament, but these bitches' flashy white markings don't hurt. Yet neither of them is considered the family champion. That would be Wrigley, who died in an accident a few years back. His portrait hangs on the wall.

"We had a little theme going there, with the Cubs," Dan says. "This is not Cardinal country."

Still, Diana is unique in a couple of respects. Just 2 years old, she has hunt titles and obedience titles. And, like another Princess Diana, she has her social obligations. Sharon Kauzlarich works at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria and says she must point out Diana is also a therapy dog, which means hospital visits when the show schedule allows.

OSF Director of Volunteer Services Debbie Trau offers information on the way therapy dogs must be trained and certified before they ever get to the hospital. She says such visits help families and staff members as much as patients because everybody relaxes a bit when a dog like Diana stops by.

"We're so proud," Trau says.

Sometimes, everything just clicks.

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