"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hector Takes Pittsburgh!

Hector, one of the pit-bull terriers rescued from Michael Vick’s dogfighting compound, becomes an ambassador and visits Pittsburgh to promote awareness of the breed.

When 49 dogs were seized from Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring in 2007, many people didn’t want to give the dogs a second chance. Luckily for Hector and many others, they were.

Places like BAD RAP and Best Friends Animal Society took in many of the dogs, mostly pit-bull terriers, and evaluated each one on an individual basis. Hector was one of those lucky dogs.

Hector was fortunate enough to later be adopted by Roo and Clara Yori, who were already the proud guardians of another famous pit-bull terrier, Wallace, national K9 flying disc champion. When the opportunity presented itself to adopt another pit-bull terrier, Roo wanted to see if Hector would fit in with his family, which consisted of Wallace and their four other dogs. Fortunately for all involved, he did, and that became the start of a wonderful new life for this once misunderstood dog.

Visiting Pittsburgh
Recently, the family was in the process of moving from New York to Minnesota and made a stop along the way in Pittsburgh, where Hello Bully and the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society staff and volunteers successfully organized a full day of fun events for Hector.

“The goal with Hector’s visit was to promote positive pit bull perceptions, instead of the negative ones that are so commonly portrayed in the media,” says Nicole Garritano Meloy, spokesperson for Hello Bully, says of the event. “Too often I talk with people who tell me that they afraid of pit bulls. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about what wonderful dogs pit-bull terriers are, but I think for most people seeing is believing. Hector is a great example of what a pit bull in the hands of a loving owner who treats the dog as a cherished family pet really is.”

Hector’s person, Andrew “Roo” Yori, said on KDKA radio station that morning, “These dogs are getting the chance to show everybody that they deserve the chance that they got.

As far as pit bulls go, there are a lot of misperceptions. Hector didn’t have a choice where he was. As soon as he got out of that situation, and given the chance to be a dog, he’s a great dog regardless. He really loves people and he gets along with our other dogs at home. Once he was given that choice, this is actually who he is.”

Hector is now a certified therapy dog who has also passed his Canine Good Citizen test on a number of occasions.

Gretchen Fieser of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society said of pit-bull terriers on KDKA, “One of the great things about having Hector and Roo here is to educate people about pit bulls. There are so many misconceptions about pit bulls — that they are dangerous or that they will turn on you or they have lock jaws. I laugh because pit bulls can’t lock their jaws anymore than my Pomeranian can. They’re dogs. And any dog can be taught to be mean. It’s unfortunate that these stereotypes have happened. One of the things that we like to do is work with rescue groups and provide education about the breed.”

Pittsburghers show hospitality
That evening Emiliano’s Restaurant in Pittsburgh offered to host the event. Anyone who ate dinner at Emiliano’s that evening could have 10 percent of their check donated to Hello Bully and the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

The night was filled with raffles, items for purchase, and dinner, but the real treat was having pictures taken with Hector and Roo. Over three hundred people came out to meet Hector and have their picture taken with him. People of all ages — even young children got to pose and even give Hector a hug and in some cases, a kiss.

Karyn Huggins, Pittsburgh resident, was touched emotionally by the experience and wanted to give Hector a kiss on the forehead.

“Meeting Hector was such an honor,” Karyn says. “Knowing the life and terrors he once faced and seeing his present and future is astonishing. He generated an energy in the room that I found very inspirational and moving. It was as if he knew all those people were there doing good by him and he was doing his best to set a good example for the breed. For one of God’s creatures to be treated as he once was and to see him now is to know that love and good people do make all the difference."

Hector and Roo posed for over 200 pictures that evening over a three hour span. When finished, they stayed and enjoyed dinner with several Hello Bully and Western Pennsylvania Humane Society staff and volunteers. The next day it was back on the road to their next stop in Illinois, before reaching their final destination in Minnesota. There, the Yoris will continue doing rescue work and education about the breed.

“Hector has perfect pit bull temperament — he is great with people of all ages and he is also very good with other dogs,” says Nicole after meeting Hector. “We were truly honored to have him and his family spend the day with us in Pittsburgh to help promote the positivity of pit bulls. Hector is a true bully breed ambassador and a survivor.”

  • Check out the Pit Bull United website to learn more about Hector and Wallace’s inspirational work representing dogs as individuals, dispelling misconceptions and opening hearts and minds to pit-bull terriers.

  • Best Friends Animal Society is working throughout the country to help pit-bull terriers, who are battling everything from a media-driven bad reputation to ineffective and expensive breed-discriminatory legislation. Best Friends hopes to end discrimination against all dogs. Dogs are individuals and should be treated as such. Find out how you can help by visiting and becoming a fan of Best Friends' pit bull terrier initiatives.

By Lynn Ready, Best Friends Network volunteer
Photos by Lynn Ready

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