Vesta (1985-2001)

[Picture of Vesta] Vesta is a Labrador Retriever owned by Marty Fulton of Animal Inn. Vesta became the first Labrador to receive the Onyx Award on April 1, 1995 and was elected to the NAFA Hall of Fame in 1995. Vesta's other titles include American CDX, Canadian CD, WD, AD, and CGC.

Although she is retired from Flyball competition, Vesta is still looking beautiful at her 15th birthday!

Sadly Vesta passed away on Feb 6, 2001. The following memorial was posted by Marty on the Flyball e-mail list:

Danick's Warmth of Vesta -- Am CDX, Can CD, AD, WC, CGC, FB Onyx

Vesta went to sleep for the last time today. She had quit eating Sunday night and for any dog, especially my chowhound lab, that's a very bad sign. She was barely able to walk and had started wheezing badly, so it wasn't a difficult decision to make. It just went so fast; on Saturday, she was the same as she had been for several months, then within two days, it was time. Her vet came to my house even though he doesn't normally make house calls, so she went to sleep on the living room floor lying in the sun.

Sharon Anderson once called Vesta the "one-in-a-million lab", and even though I'm a little prejudiced, I have to agree with her.

When I went out to Animal Inn during a Lab club breed show to look at a litter, the breeder I had chosen, Fran Smith, first handed me a puppy that was straining to get to everyone who stopped to coo and pet her. She didn't pay much attention to me at all. Then Fran took that puppy out and brought in the one that would become Vesta. From the time Fran handed her to me, she had eyes for no one else. Fran says she's never seen a puppy bond that fast! Unfortunately, that bonding almost prevented her from finishing her Open title; the long sits and downs out of sight were more than she could handle. Vesta was showing for her Utility title when she started refusing the jumps. I took her to the vet and found out that she had arthritis of the spine. If not for that, I'm convinced that in spite of having an inexperienced, lazy handler, she would have had a UD after her name.

She easily got her WD (a hunting title), and her trainer raved about her potential in hunting, comparing her to one of his best dogs. I had no interest in being her paid assassin, though, just so she could go retrieve dead birds, so we stopped after the one title. She went on to get AD (agility dog) and CGC (Canine Good Citizen) titles.

Then there was flyball.

When Vesta was 13 months old, Sharon saw her in an obedience class at the Inn and said, "I want that dog for flyball!" She called me and told me she thought Vesta could be a sub-6-second dog (fast in those days), and she'd like me to give it a try. I brought a box home and started training right away; she took to it like a lab to water, and only one month later, we went to Kansas City for her first tournament! The rest, as they say, is history. She and her brother, Barb Hustings' Smokey, ran a few tournaments on the B team, then were both moved to the A team, where Vesta stayed for about 5 years, usually as the start dog. When she moved to the A team, it was 4 black labs and a border collie (Noel's Cider). When Vesta left the A team, it was 4 border collies and a lab. She was the last non-border collie other than height dogs to regularly race on the A team.

When we started flyball, the A team raced over 16 inches, starting from a dead stop at the start line, and had to press a small pedal on a small box to get a ball which was virtually completely below the surface. The dogs came to almost a complete stop before turning and coming back over the jumps. When I think of the times our dogs might have had with today's running starts, lower jump heights, and boxes that enable them to bank off, it sends my imagination soaring! In spite of all those obstacles, Cider still managed to get in the 4-second range, and once we had all the changes in place, Vesta raced in the mid-4's, even though by that time, she was well past her prime.

OK, I might be biased, but I believe that if Vesta would have had those advantages from the beginning, as well as the number of tournaments we have today, she would still be the highest pointed lab in flyball. As it is, she was the first lab to attain the Onyx award, and the first Minnesota dog of any breed. In 1995 she was nominated and elected to the NAFA Hall of Fame.

She was truly a one-in-a-million lab....sleep well, my Vesta, and wait for me at the bridge.

Copyright © 1996-2001 Kathryn Hogg,
Last Modified: Feb 7, 2001

NAFA and the NAFA logo are registered trademarks of the North American Flyball Association, Inc.