Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls – One Flying Disc at a Time, by Jim Gorant (Gotham Books, 256 pages, 2012, $26)
Wallace the book starts off with a couple of fellows sailing when a storm blows up. After two pages, we never meet these fellows again. Gorant jumps to a puppy and his littermates, then the book jumps to a guy and a girl in college and we follow them for a few years. How all these disparate threads fit together is truly a work of art.
Who is Wallace? The Disc Dog champion and the dog nobody wanted. The PBT (actually an American Pit Bull Terrier, an APBT) who showed the world that a dog 25 pounds heavier, slower and less agile than the canine body made for disc (like a border collie’s) could overcome it all with practice and determination and love.
The Main Character
The main character is Andrew* - Roo for short, but I wanted the main character to be Wallace. (I kept getting Roo the person and Wallace the dog mixed up.) Roo and his wife fall in love with a young pit bull shelter dog with an uncertain future until they adopt this high-energy dog and try weight-pulling (at which Wallace also excelled) and Disc Dog. Disc Dog came to be their mainstay and kept the marriage together.
Disc Dog, the Sport
Disc Dog is a new sport where one or two people throw discs (Frisbees) for a dog to catch but they can throw backwards and under their legs and while running. Points are awarded for catching on the fly, for creativity, for difficulty.
Wallace learned to read Roo’s body language and to anticipate where he was going to toss the disc, when, and how fast and high.
Many competitor teams (human and canine) memorize an intricate set of maneuvers (rather like the sport of freestyle – dancing a musical routine with your dog) but Roo kept Wallace guessing. Both were flexible enough to learn each other’s body language - that may be what clinched so many championships, starting in 2005, in Minnesota.
Wallace turned out to be a natural at Disc Dog with high energy and a love for the sport. The bond between Roo and Wallace increased with each competition and each win, and with each fight to garner public acceptance of this breed across the county.
Down with Stereotypes
The best way to help demolish the pit bull stereotype may be to become a champion at a sport that pit bulls aren’t best suited for.
So, that is what Roo and Wallace do. They learn how to tug, attend a seminar called Coaching The Canine Athlete (by our local Dr. Chris Zink) and help develop the new sport of Disc Dog by becoming a champion several times, appearing on TV and in the press as well.
Nothing left to prove. . . .
To see Wallace and read more about this remarkable dog, check out www.WallaceThePitBull.com. You will be astounded!
Clearly Wallace has nothing left to prove - he has done it all!
Tomorrow, another Vick dog, Audie, and the book, Saving Audie.