Wallace: A Synonym for Inspiration
“…his goal was not to hide the true attributes of a pit bull – the dogs tend to be strong and athletic and energetic – it was to make them acceptable as they were. To show people that despite what they had heard and what the dogs could be manipulated to do, the breed was capable of greater things.”
-Jim Gorant, Wallace
Jim Gorant is incredibly eloquent, isn’t he? Last week, I literally blew through his new book Wallace, about the now famous disc dog of the same name who faced seemingly insurmountable odds simply because he is a pit bull. And, as with Gorant’s first book, The Lost Dogs, I think there is a lot all dog owners could learn from Wallace.
Wallace’s story begins with a series of unfortunate events, resulting in him becoming the canine pariah of the no-kill animal shelter where he’d ended up. While there, Roo & Clara Yori, who eventually became Wallace’s forever family, fought for him to get the chance they felt he so deserved. And after an incredible amount of work, effort and time, they develop Wallace’s “flaws” into strengths, working with the dog to turn him into a world champion disc dog. The brilliant side effect of their hard work is that they created an icon for the pit bull loving community; a dog that could represent the breed on a national level to show how wonderful they could really be.
In Chapter 4, Gorant explains that, “Sometimes responsible pet ownership was more than simply going to a few obedience classes and fencing in the yard. It meant a commitment for the life of the dog to do everything necessary to ensure that nothing went wrong.” I try to explain this to people so often, but I don’t think I could have ever put it as succinctly as this. It’s why I crate train my dogs; why I walk my dogs on martingale collars and easy walk or gentle leader harnesses; why I avoid New York City dog runs. For people who own any kind of dog, remembering this simple statement is crucial! But as owners of pit bulls, I feel like it’s infinitely more important that we take heed: when something goes wrong and there’s a pittie involved (whether it’s the instigator or not), the blame will more often than not be placed on the pittie. And an occurrence like that could have many more ramifications than just on that one singular dog and owner.
But Gorant, and Wallace, also try to teach us lessons about life in general: that it’s important to know that “It didn’t pay to get bogged down in the standards and judgments of others; it only mattered that you put your total being into what you were doing.” I think that, in some way, every single one of us knows this – but as emotional beings, we can often get distracted by the opinions of others. And, at least in my life, it’s time to let go of what other people think. It’s passion that important, and if you’re passionate about something (which for most of us is pit bulls), then that’s what you should be doing.
I think the overarching theme of Wallace’s story, not only in the book but in real life as well, is that every dog deserves a chance. I learned this first hand with my very first foster, “Foxy.” Despite her serious behavioral issues, I couldn’t give up on her easily. Until I realized that her existence posed great danger to the people and dogs in my community, I felt she deserved a shot. Fortunately for Wallace, his story took a turn for the better and thanks to the Yoris, he’s become a role model for us all.
But most significantly, Wallace imparts a tidbit of knowledge that is impressed upon us our whole lives: cherish the time that you have. Towards the end of Wallace’s discing career, he suffered a lot of illnesses and injuries – the sort that take you out of the game forever. But despite Wallace’s ailments, his teammate Roo decided one warm spring day to take him out for one more run before retiring for good. But it was important for Roo to forsake “everything for one more day in the park, playing disc with his dog.” Compared with human life spans, a dog’s life is ephemeral, and for the short amount of time that we have them, we have to love them with everything we’ve got.