I can’t think of a greater compliment that can be said about someone in our “world” than “For the love of the dogs” This is going to be a hard one for me to write. I seriously thought about not writing anything … partly because it’s so personal but more because it makes it real and I don’t want it to be real. Bill Slaven passed away and I can’t believe he’s gone.
For those of you that didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Bill you missed out on special man. He was special to his family, his friends, his community and especially to our herding dog world. To me he was like my adoptive father. I’ve known the Slaven’s for over 30 years and have enjoyed working dogs and spending time with them anytime I could get up North. They are what ranch/farm families are about … hard work, respect of the land, and open arms for friends.
I met Bill at a trial where he had provided the sheep. He was “first and foremost” a shepherd but did he ever love watching and working these dogs. He had such an appreciation of our sport while knowing that he needed these dogs to get his job done. I think this says a lot to end the conversation if trialing is representative of real work. This man made his living from sheep … as did his father and grandfather. He knew the value of a good working dog and did everything in his power to provide a place to keep this spirit of real dog work alive.
He, his wife (Joan), his son (Micheal), and his daughter (Peggy) for 21 years put on one of the most challenging trials in North America. This trial tested the merit of these dogs in the “real sense”. It was a huge course (700 yard outrun up hills) with sheep that tested the dogs every step of the way. The Slaven’s didn’t run in the trial – they only worked tirelessly so we could put our dogs to the challenge.
Every time I stayed – after dinner we had to go out … so he could let me watch his young dogs work – he was always so proud of them. It was a ritual we had for many years. I won’t be able to head “up north” for a trial without thinking that I won’t have the pleasure of sharing dog work with him.
As much as it is a personal loss – it’s a bigger loss for the working dog community. We don’t have many trials (or ranchers that love to put on trials) to showcase our dogs like Zamora did. It’s a big loss to everyone … even if they never had the pleasure of running their dog on this great hill trial. Bill did it all for “the love of the dogs”
I loved what his daughter said – Bill is up in heaven organizing a dog trial. The image gave me comfort. He will be so very missed down here.