Today’s honorees for National Pit Bull Awareness Month are Clara and Roo Yori, also affectionately known as Wallace and Hector’s “mom and dad.” I am thrilled to share the story of this inspiring family who have made an incredible impact in changing the ways that pit bulls are perceived through their advocacy and love of the breed.
Who’d have thought that one rambunctious, naughty, pain in the rear, shelter dog would go on to create so much positive change in the world. Not us, that’s for sure, but that’s just what Wallace did.
Clara and I had adopted 2 mixed breed dogs from the local humane society. We began to volunteer there to help the ones we couldn’t bring home, and Clara ended up working there full time as part of the kennel staff. During that time, Wallace made his way into the shelter. To say he was a handful would probably be an understatement. While his “zest for life” wasn’t always appreciated by much of the staff, he really meant no harm. Because he was a pit bull, he started to be targeted as a liability and consequently euthanasia was discussed. That didn’t seem right to us, so we fought for his life to be spared. Fortunately we won, and Wallace came to live with us.
We weren’t “pit bull people”, so we delved into the community. It was a different time back then. Most of what we read were tragedies, but when you did any sort of digging you found the majority of pit bulls and owners never made the news because they were good upstanding members of society. Many were scared for their dogs, and rightfully so. Dogs were being taken from their families just because of how they looked. Breed specific legislation was being proposed and enacted across the country. Heated debates were going on all over the place, both between opposing views, and within the community on how to try and fix the situation. It wasn’t a fun time for many pit bulls and pit bull owners out there. And there we were, now with a pit bull of our own to care for.
Fortunately we lived in an area that did not have any type of BSL. We had to face the occasional person who didn’t like Wallace, or who was scared of him, but nothing like some other folks had to endure. As mentioned, there were a lot of debates going on, and many were based solely on opinions. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot of proof readily available to back up the pro pit bull side of the debate. During this time we discovered the sport of canine flying disc, which Wallace absolutely loved and also seemed to be quite good at. We started to compete, and he started to excel. People who didn’t like pit bulls would cross the park to come meet Wallace after watching him play. We saw this as an opportunity to show the truth and set an example. We set out simply to do good things, and let Wallace prove it for himself. People could say what they wanted to say, but they wouldn’t be able to change the good things that we did. So became our mantra – Talk less. Do more.
Wallace became one of the best disc dogs in the world, regardless of breed. He was the first pit bull to win a National and World Championship in the sport of canine flying disc. He was the first pit bull to win a National Title in any event at the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge. The media began doing positive stories about him as a pit bull. His resumes highlighting accomplishments within his sport and media appearances are long ones. Best of all though, he inspired others to follow him down the path he was blazing, reaching beyond the typical circles, making the pit bull community grow.
We saw how much of an impact Wallace’s actions had on people. It was much more than we ever had talking with them. That is a primary reason why we adopted Hector. We knew there were going to be a lot of people watching the dogs from the Vick case, which is why it was so important for at least one of them to be given a chance to succeed. Fortunately that happened for the majority of them, and once we met Hector, we knew we could continue to make a difference together. Again, like Wallace, we wanted Hector to prove himself through his actions, and he has. He’s a Certified Therapy Dog, and has been featured in media across the country, helping bridge the gap between “pit bull” and “dog”.
The truth is in the dogs. The proof is in the actions. Yes there have been negative actions by a small representation of dogs and their owners, but that is not the majority, and therefore not the whole truth. We will continue to strive to show a positive example that represents pit bulls and other families. We’re excited and grateful that Wallace’s story will live on through his book “Wallace” by Jim Gorant, and it was an honor to have Pit Bulletin Legal News name their advocate of the year award the Wallace Award in his name. We look forward to continuing great achievements for positive change with Hector as well.
We’re always excited to see and learn about all the other pit bulls that are out there these days representing themselves as good dogs. We’ve met some amazing people and dogs through this journey, and would like to thank all of them for their support of what we do, as well as the work they do themselves. The tide is changing, and there are even better days ahead. We look forward to more progress.
Roo, Clara, Wallace and Hector
I had the pleasure of meeting Roo and Clara and all of their canine kids last year at the Beyond the Myth screening in Cookeville. It was instantly apparent that these two are extremely dedicated to making the world better not just for their dogs, but for all pit bulls. For the last several years, their advocacy has played an important role in changing attitudes about pit bulls, and the efforts of the entire Yori family, both 2-legged and 4-legged members, has inspired positive change in the way that pit bulls are perceived across the globe. Roo and Clara are role models and leading the way to help pit bulls once again become “America’s dog.”
On behalf of Bless the Bullys and the National Pit Bull Awareness Campaign, my heartfelt thanks to the Yori family for their incredible achievements in pit bull advocacy. Thank you for the inspiration and hope you bring to this incredible breed through the work you do. I know we all look forward to future Yori family adventures, and we send our love and healing prayers to Wallace, one of the most influential breed ambassadors ever. And you know what they say…behind every exceptional breed ambassador, there’s an amazing breed advocate (or, in this case, two)!