2017 Inductee – Kerstetter’s Benelli
Owner/Handler: Kyle Kerstetter
657 Champion Points
Legendary Status Champion
2 Super Major Championships
2 Major Championships
Elli came into the world May 18, 2003 as a little yellow puppy and she was one of only 2 yellow females in the first litter that Kyle and Jennifer raised. As an extra bonus, Elli shared a birthday with their oldest son, Tyler, and would spend many hours as a puppy sitting in the lap of Kyle and Jennifer’s other children, Alex and Grace. Kyle thought at the time that she was the culmination of a dream that had taken root in him 15 years earlier, when he began to take steps to learn to train and raise Labrador Retrievers with his first Lab, Remington. Little did he know at that time that she represented so much more than that, and would spawn a whole new set of dreams and aspirations.
Trained as a classic retriever, Elli proved to be a force whether hunting waterfowl or upland game. When Kyle heard about a Gun Dog competition at a local hunting club, his first thoughts were “Dogs, birds, guns, and competition, what could be better”. It would be in this arena, however, that Elli would solidify her legacy as a Hall of Fame tournament dog. Her combination of speed, agility, and scenting ability made her a feared competitor in any competition she entered.
After two years of only competing in the hunt club competition, Kyle realized he had something in his little yellow dog and wanted to begin competing at a higher level, so he joined PHU and BDC. As a “one dog man”, he and Elli would drive thousands of miles each year, having long discussions about nothing mostly, to compete against much better competition than either could imagine. Elli, who also was called Eleanor, proved the stronger part of the team, and this got her and Kyle noticed which opened doors to friendships that will endure long after the competitions are over. Several well recognized Tournament Hunting names joined Kyle as doubles teammates and include Ray McVeigh, Randy Stern, Ken and Dale Neese, Jeff Lecher, Tom Glynn, and Dan Cathcart. All came away impressed with Eleanor and Ken stated after a practice run that he could “Win any competition in the world with that dog”. Kyle agreed to let him handle her at the next competition and Ken backed his words up with her first Major win. In the early days, wins were difficult to come by as Kyle learned his part of the game. At Elli’s first World Championship competition in 2008, she would finish fourth, quite an accomplishment for her as she had to drag her handler along to the finish line. As Elli and Kyle continued to compete and improve, she often placed at Super Major competitions, frequently finishing in the top three, but the team struggled to close the deal. This all changed, however, in 2011 as she finally broke through to win the Top Gun division at the Player’s Championship. As luck would have it, Jennifer, Alex and Grace were all present to share in the excitement. Regardless of what she was doing, Elli always did her best, and usually gave better than she got, and that day she got what she deserved.
If the definition of a renaissance man is someone who does a little bit of everything, yet does it all extremely well, Elli has to be considered a renaissance dog. She was wonderful in any hunting situation, sitting quietly in a duck blind, quartering perfectly in a field, or rousting grouse and woodcock out of woodland cover. She experienced pure joy in a tournament field with Kyle, telling you all about it while waiting for her birds to be planted, and make no mistake about it, she considered them her birds. Her signature was jumping into Kyle’s arms, something she just started doing, and never tired of performing. It was an act of pure elation, shown by the look on her face, and she would do this little stunt anytime she was excited, whether greeting Kyle as he walked in the door after work or a way to finish one of her competition runs. Carla Turnquist was the judge during one of those episodes and she still thinks it is the most entertaining way to take a retrieve and control your dog all in one step. In addition to Elli’s prowess in the field, she was a perfect family pet. She was Jennifer’s shadow throughout the day, helping with cooking (she never complained about taste testing anything) and keeping the house in order. She was a perfect playmate for the kids, with tireless energy, and spent as much of her Summers as possible being the perfect boat dog. Swimming all day and finding an empty chair to curl up in by a campfire was Elli’s idea of a perfect summer day. During Elli’s entire life, her family never went on a vacation without her, whether trying to catch waves on a sunny beach, enjoying a boat ride, or running thought the mountains, Elli and the rest of the “girls” were always included. Kyle always said that Elli was pure unadulterated fun, and being with her was like being with a smile just waiting to happen.
After a valiant 8 month battle with cancer, Elli died September 15, 2015 in the house where she was born. She was surrounded by the family that loved her, in Kyle’s arms with Jennifer stroking her ears and telling her how much she was loved. Although she will always be missed, she will live on forever in the hearts of all that were fortunate enough to know her and in her daughter, Storm (2015 Invitational Champion), granddaughter, Perazzi (2016 World Champion) and future generations of Super K Retrievers.
Today, March 16, 2017, Benelli enters the BDC Hall of Fame with 2 Super Major wins, 2 Major wins, and 657 Champion Points. A Legendary dog that will forever be remembered.