August 21, 2014

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The Dash Between: Les Slaman was dedicated to dogs

About this feature
The dates of birth and death that appear like bookends on a tombstone do not matter as much as the dash between those dates. Award-winning writer Alana Baranick has made her living writing about the dash between. She’s focusing on Medina and Lorain counties and those who have made our area the unique and interesting place it is. Look for her stories on the first Monday each month in The Gazette and visit www.medina-gazette.com to find additional photographs.The Dash Between is scheduled to appear once a month in The Gazette. To suggest a story or make a comment, contact Baranick at abaranick@chroniclet.com or (440) 731-8340.
Today, Alana Baranick examines The Dash Between Dec. 9, 1932, when Leslie I. Slaman was born in Cleveland, and May 13, 2011, when the former Lodi resident died at age 78.

Les Slaman trained pointing dogs for bird hunting, participated in field trials and went hunting in Iowa and Canada — always in the company of friends.

The retired Bay Village dentist, who died May 13, 2011, at age 78, bred and trained English setters and Weimaraners on his farm in Lodi for more than 20 years.

Les Slaman, right, poses with Hap, an English setter, as his granddaughter Lexi Miller peeks around his grandson Dan Lynch in the early 1990s. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Les Slaman, right, poses with Hap, an English setter, as his granddaughter Lexi Miller peeks around his grandson Dan Lynch in the early 1990s. (COURTESY PHOTO)

“You have to put in the time, and lots of it, to have good dogs,” Les told Plain Dealer outdoors reporter D’Arcy Egan in 1994. “When you have two or three people training together, you’re more apt to spend the necessary time in the field. If you’re out there by yourself, you have a tendency to procrastinate. If the weather’s bad, you want to stay home and keep warm. If the other fellows are coming to train with you, there’s more incentive to get out there, despite the cold and snow.”

One of those fellows — Charley Johnson — described Les as a good and patient mentor, teacher and friend, who always had some advice.

“He would say when it came to training dogs, ‘Don’t push too much. Quit on a high note. And leave them laughing,’ ” Johnson said. “Don’t try to get more out of a certain training session than what you should.”

Les, a certified judge for the National Shoot to Retrieve circuit for English setters, received numerous ribbons and trophies during hunter trials with the Columbia, South Cuyahoga and Wayne Coon Hunters clubs.

His interest in dogs goes back to his childhood.

“He always liked dogs,” said his wife, Pat. “When he was a little boy, he dragged a puppy home after school.”

Les grew up in Lakewood with his three older siblings — George, Allen and Dorothy Roti, who died of ovarian cancer in 1983.

At an early age, Les liked the idea of becoming a farmer. But after spending the entire eighth grade at his uncle’s farm in Creston, Iowa, he decided the rigorous daily tasks of farming were not for him.

The summer before his senior year, he did not join his parents for a trip to Iowa to see his mother’s family, opting to stay home to play with his Lakewood High School baseball team for a championship. That decision may have saved his life: His parents were killed in a car crash on June 16, 1950. His sister came home from college to oversee the household until Les graduated.

Les was captain of the baseball and basketball teams and president of the class of 1951 at Lakewood High, according to his family. He continued his education at The Ohio State University, where he played freshman and junior varsity basketball.

He met a dental hygiene student named Patricia Blackburn while both were studying at the OSU Dental School.

“We met in the darkroom at Ohio State University,” his wife said. “They threw us together to develop X-rays.”

Les completed dental school in 1957 and married Pat that July. The couple went on to raise three children: Andy, Anne Lynch and Wendy Miller. Les joined the dental office of his brother George, who also had followed in their father’s footsteps. They practiced together on Dover Center Road near St. Raphael Catholic Church in Bay Village for more than 40 years.

Les was known to barter for goods and services with patients who were down on their luck and didn’t have the cash or dental insurance to pay their bills.

He helped create the West Shore Dental Study Club, a group of dentists who met monthly at each others’ homes to learn about and discuss the latest dental techniques and procedures.

Les appeared on the “Captain Penny Show,” a popular children’s television show of the 1950s and ’60s on WEWS Channel 5, as part of the Cleveland Dental Society’s “Smile Program.” He and his son, Andy, showed Captain Penny (host Ron Penfound dressed as a railroad engineer) and his audience how to brush and otherwise care for their teeth.

A hunter and fisherman all his life, Les devoted much of his free time in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s to fishing for walleye and bass on Lake Erie between Ohio and Pelee Island, Ontario, Canada, where he owned a cottage.

After moving to the farm in Lodi, he always kept some extra fishing rods and a box of worms at the ready for anyone who wanted to fish with him for blue gill at the two ponds on the property.
Primarily, he invited farm visitors to develop their dogs.

“My first dog I championed out came out of his breeding stock,” his friend Dick Motz said. “I think he bragged more about my dogs than I did.

“Whenever we got together, our main topic of conversation was English setters, how the dogs are doing and training. Every day, every person you train with, you pick up something. Les’ voice always stands out whenever he’d talk about this training technique or that one.

“When I’m out there training, I can still hear his voice.”

Alana Baranick can be reached at abaranick@chroniclet.com or at (440) 731-8340.

To view more photos of Les Slaman, access http://medinagazette.smugmug.com/Other/Dash-Between-Les-Slaman/17363504_Drt3tB#1319599716_gVVWVPv