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October 4, 2012

Pit Smitten: Frisbee Dog Defies Stereotypes

Wallace, the subject of a new book by Jim Gorant, shows us how love matters far more than breed

For the full version of this excerpted piece, read the Nov./Dec. 2012 issue of All Animals.

In 2005, Wallace was close to being euthanized in a Rochester, Minn., shelter. But where some saw a problem animal, Andrew “Roo” Yori and his wife, Clara, saw a victim of stereotype. They took Wallace home and, with patience, perseverance, and a lot of love, the dog Wallace blossomed into a Frisbee competition champion.

Wallace, a new book by best-selling author Jim Gorant, tells the story of the dog’s transformation and Yori’s campaign to change the way people think about dogs commonly referred to as “pit bulls.” In this edited interview with All Animals senior writer Karen E. Lange, Yori reacts to the recent Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that pit bulls are “inherently dangerous,” and describes what Wallace has taught him about dogs, discrimination, and life in general.

Pick up your copy of Wallace today »

What would you say to the judges on the Maryland Court of Appeals?

There’s no one breed of dog that’s inherently dangerous. So you’re going to ban one [type of] dog, but those same owners that don’t know dog behavior are going to get another type of dog, and you’re going to have the same issue. You’re not going to do anything to prevent other people from getting injured or harmed.

A lot of this is fear-based. Someone will watch Wallace catch a Frisbee, and they’ll think he’s really great. They’ll ask, “What kind is he?” And I’ll say, “He’s a pit bull.” And all the sudden, they back up, they kind of hesitate, and they’re like, “Wait a second, I thought they were mean.” And I say, “Well, judge for yourself.” And they’re like, “He’s actually a good dog.” So it’s important that people with their good dogs get out there, because Wallace has changed more minds than I ever could by myself.

Was there ever a time after you took him home when you worried you’d made the wrong decision?

We discovered the Frisbee relatively quickly. Once I got started with that, I was just having so much fun. I had never had a really sporting dog before. I had never had a dog that really, really wanted to work like Wallace did. And I’m like that myself. I was an athlete all my life.

There’s a description in the book of when you and Wallace were at the pairs championship in 2005. The sentence just says, “Then Wallace happened.” Can you describe what that was like?

We were out on the field, and it just seemed like everything else would fade away. I wouldn’t even hear the music. It’s just you and the dog out there, connecting with the disc. It’s almost like you’re dancing. You know what the other’s going to do before they even do it.

What message do you have for our readers?

There are a lot of really good dogs in the shelters, waiting for someone to give them a chance. There are a lot of pit bulls out there that are good dogs that get overlooked. Get to know the dog for who the dog is. Think about giving one of these guys a chance.

Written by best-selling author and magazine writer Jim Gorant and published by Penguin Books, Wallace is now available through booksellers everywhere.

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