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Wallace the Amazing Pit Bull Disc Champion
By Diane Herbst
In 2004, Wallace was a homeless, badly-behaved white pit bull facing death at a shelter in Minnesota. In stepped his saviors, Clara and Andrew "Roo" Yori, shelter volunteers who saw vast potential in the energetic, misbehaving pup.
Roo worked relentlessly with Wallace, channeling the dog's strength, muscled physique and uncanny agility into an unlikely pastime for pit bulls - competitive flying disc, or Frisbee.
In a sport prejudiced against pit bulls, Wallace and Roo overcame incredible odds. Within two years of leaving the shelter, Wallace sprinted and leapt his way to becoming the world champion of disc dogs, the first pit bull to win the "Olympics" of the sport.
Wallace's fairy-tale ending captivated longtime Montclair, New Jersey resident Jim Gorant, a senior editor at Sports Illustrated and author of the New York Times best seller "The Lost Dogs," a moving portrait of NFL quarterback Michael Vick's fighting dogs. The result is the recently published "Wallace: The Pit Bull Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed a Breed - One Flying Disc at a Time."
"Wallace's straight up story is pretty amazing, rags to riches," says Gorant. "He was a pit bull, which is one strike against you. He had some behavioral issues, which was strike two. He was at a shelter, a low-kill facility, and they were considering putting him down. That's how bad he was. He went from that to world champion."
Wallace not only changed the bad-dog image of pit bulls, but also became an effective marriage counselor of sorts for Clara and Roo, who suffered a rocky period in their relationship. "They had some difficulties," says Gorant, "and Wallace helped them get through that."
Gorant, who lives with his wife and two school-aged children, adopted Chester - a mixed-breed shelter dog once on death row in South Carolina. With a love of dogs and a nose for stories, Gorant gravitated to Wallace's tale after Roo befriended the scribe several years ago.
"Pit bulls are not known to compete in disc," Gorant says. "Very few dogs have done it. They are these big, muscular heavy-limbed working dogs. So right off the bat his appearance at these events turned a lot of heads, and people doubted he could do anything.
"The reactions," Gorant continues, "ranged from, 'He doesn't belong here,' to, 'Oh, isn't that cute and how nice of you to try.'"
While Gorant loves a great story, he also decided to write another dog book for readers who found "The Lost Dogs" and its graphic depiction of dog fighting too gruesome to digest.
"I met so many people, especially dog lovers, who when "Lost Dogs" came out they liked the idea of the book but they couldn't read it," Gorant says. "I felt bad that so many dog lovers and pit bull lovers couldn't get through it. I feel that this is the book that's a positive story, a happy story, and this is for all those people who couldn't read the last one."
Wallace, now 10, retired from competing two years ago due to a host of sports injuries, including a bad back and wrists. He lives in Minnesota with Roo, Clara, and two other dogs they rescued, including one formerly owned by Vick.
Sadly, Wallace was recently diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer. We send our positive thoughts to Wallace.
"He's a nice dog," says Gorant. "He's not a shy dog, he'll come up and say hello and nudge you and if you start paying attention to someone else he'll bop you with his nose. He just wants you to pay attention to him."
Check out his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WallaceThePitBull.
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