Smarts and Heart
The famous overachieving Wallace never fully overcame some of his pre-rescue quirks. “People assumed he did well with my dogs at home,” Yori remembers. “He didn’t. We had to rotate and manage at home. But he had a great life. I’d take him out on a long line and work with him and the Frisbee. When he was playing, he was focused. Working with him in the evening, in a big field where you can turn on the flood lights, those are some of my best memories.”
The hard-to-place dog thrived in his adoptive home because his training and competition provided structure, outlet, and Wallace-centered quality time.
“It’s a responsibility. He’s my responsibility,” says Yori. “I need to make sure I’m managing him and his situations, so he doesn’t get into something he isn’t ready to handle. It was a lot of management. I hate to say I was a little relieved when he retired, but I got to relax a little more.”
One of Wallace’s canine siblings, Hector, also enjoyed fame and raised money to help other dogs. Hector was one of 51 Pit Bulls rescued from the Michael Vick dog fighting case. The baby-faced brown Pittie overcame his traumatic history to pass the Canine Good Citizen test – TWICE – and become a Certified Therapy Dog. Visiting hospitals, nursing homes, and schools, Hector spent the rest of his life busting stereotypes and winning hearts.
As age and illness closed in on Hector, Yori hung a victorious sign around the dog, who stood gray-faced and peaceful on a picnic table, after seven years of happy life that seemed to have erased his memory of the two he’d spent in the violent world of dog fighting. The sign reads, “Vick, 2. Hector, 7. I win.”
Training for Success
The Yori dogs have since included a rescued Pitties, a three-legged Corgi, and an ever-growing cast of canines with sad histories and sweet dispositions. Nobody in the pack is training for competition like their predecessor Wallace, but Yori continues to find time to nurture each dog’s interests and abilities.
“It’s that quality time,” Yori says. More than accommodation for their disabilities or management for their temperament issues, the dogs need happy, structured play with their favorite humans.
Whether training for competition or just for fun, Yori looks for the games and activities that light up each dog’s disposition. He tries to give his highly driven dogs a playful challenge that approaches the edge of their abilities. Dogs with more physical limitations get less demanding workout sessions, focusing more on mental stimulation and quality bonding time.
“We do whatever the dog enjoys, as long as we remain safe.” The balanced approach keeps dogs injury-free, even while leaning hard into weight-pulling courses or impressive Frisbee acrobatics.
Without canine competitions on their calendar, the Yori dogs’ training time now focuses more on dog/human bonding. Still, they reap all the benefits of more intense training. “They learn self-control, and a tired dog is a good dog. It gives them an outlet and it gives you that time together. That’s exactly it. Those are some of the best memories, the best times.”
One of Roo’s current dogs is a round-faced brown Pittie who slightly resembles his predecessor, Hector. And, like Hector, Johnny is a dog-fighting survivor, with tattered and scarred ears that tell of his abusive past.
On a YouTube video created in his backyard, Yori recreates the American Ninja Warrior obstacle courses with a homemade dog agility course. In the video, a grinning and focused Johnny hops among wooden platforms, scurries under a cargo net, and scales a ramp. In an awesome display of drive and strength, Johnny climbs a platform to grab a knotted robe in his teeth, which he keeps clasped in his muscular jaws while the rope rolls down a trolley line. At the end of the course, Johnny stands victorious on top of the final obstacle and repeatedly pats a big red button with his paw, much like his human’s victorious finishes on the competitive TV show.
The agility video mimics a Ninja episode, down to the gravel-voiced play-by-play that Yori dubbed onto the video. “Aaand he does it! Just like that, Johnny hits the buzzer! To think back to where Johnny came from just a few years ago, found chained in a basement with nine other dogs, rescued, adopted, and now hitting his first buzzer on Canine Ninja Warrior!”
The muscular dog’s tail wags as he pats the red buzzer a few more times. The gravelly narration sums up the story of a Yori canine athlete. “Congratulations, Johnny. You earned it!”
Michelle Blake, Managing Editor