It may be dangerous to anthropomorphize, but the pleasure on Tag’s face is pretty hard to miss as he follows his master, Stacy Slade ’00, around the ring at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show. And the glow emanating from Slade is clear, too, as she leads her handsome and graceful Bernese mountain dog to a Best of Breed win in February this year.
“I’ve been showing dogs since I was 10 years old,” Slade says a few days after she and—to use his full name—Villairns Tag You’re It got back from the show in Manhattan. “I was in Snohomish County 4-H. That’s one of the reasons I went to WSU. I wanted to become a vet. That obviously did not happen.”
Instead, she majored in marketing, her education enabled by a scholarship from the Trafton family. The scholarship meant she only had to work two jobs while going to college. As both a resident assistant and a youth director at a church, Slade was already paying forward the mentorship she received as a 4-H member.
After Tag’s big win, “I called my old 4-H leader and said, ‘You know where I started!’”
Slade is a bit unusual in that she trains and shows her own dogs, rather than hiring a professional to do it for her. “They are my kids. When I’m not working, I’m home with my dogs, socializing, grooming, conditioning, maintaining body and mind. We go hiking, playing with friends, drafting with our carts, tracking.”
After college, Slade snagged a marketing job with the Columbus Crew pro soccer club. Later, she donned the purple, working for six years with the athletics department at the University of Washington. There, she helped overhaul the mascot program and train the new husky.
“The first time I worked a UW game,” she confides, “I had to wear my WSU t-shirt underneath the UW shirt—the purple was just too much.”
Now with the Seattle Sounders, Slade continues to mentor 4-Hers. “My assistant is Shahntae Martinez. She’s in 4-H and just went to Westminster for the first time, as she qualified in junior handling. She was there with her mom, showing her field spaniel.”
Slade says anything is possible if you work hard enough at it. That’s certainly how she and Tag got to Westminster. “What a thrill to be down there on the floor with my dog on national TV.”