Agility Dog Helps Navy Veteran Walk Again

Cotter could "barely walk 10 feet" before he met Tucker, a Wired Fox Terrier who changed the veteran's outlook on life.

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Another win for Cotter and Tucker, this time at the UKI Master Championship last April. Tuulia Liuhto, left, and Timo Liuhto of OneMind Dogs with the winners.. Via Jack Cotter/Today
John Virata

For U.S. Navy veteran Jack Cotter, two injuries on a submarine in 1968 left him classified by the U.S. Navy as “100 percent permanently and totally disabled.” The first injury broke vertebrae in his upper back while the second injury fractured his lower spine.

But those injuries haven’t stopped the 70-year-old veteran from running alongside his four-legged friend in championship-class American Kennel Club agility classes. In fact, according to a story on Today.com, Cotter could barely walk 10 feet until a Wire Fox Terrier dog named Tucker entered the veteran’s life.

Jack and a young Tucker. Via Jack Cotter/Today

Jack and a young Tucker. Via Jack Cotter/Today

That was nine years ago and since then, Cotter’s life has been invigorated to the point that he and his furry partner have claimed six AKC Master Agility Champion titles. This year, Tucker has been named the No. 1 AKC dog in agility for his breed, the fifth time he has won the title.

Jack Cotter holds Tucker after they were presented with their sixth Master Agility Championship title Via Jack and Nancy Cotter/Today

Jack Cotter holds Tucker after they were presented with their sixth Master Agility Championship title Via Jack and Nancy Cotter/Today

“We go out there and do what we’re supposed to do, and we’re in our own world,” Cotter told Today.com. “I forget about whatever else is going on, and competing is all that matters. It’s an adrenaline rush that’s hard to describe, but it’s incredible.”

Cotter’s training regimen with Tucker is serious stuff. Not only does Cotter perform three 150-yard practice runs twice a week with Tucker, Cotter also trains with two other Wire Fox Terriers; Bella, 4, and her 2-year-old son Jake. Not bad for a man the U.S. Navy classified as “100 percent permanently and totally disabled.”

Tucker, center alongside Bella, and her son Jake, right. Via Jack Cotter/Today

Tucker, centern alongside Bella, and her son Jake, right. Via Jack Cotter/Today

Cotter practices the training techniques championed by OneMindDogs,  whereby the trainer learns how to understand a dog’s body language and communication is done nonverbally. There is however one ritual that Cotter doesn’t forget when he and Tucker are competing.

“When we’re lining up at the start, I always bend over and tell him I love him and that we’re going to have fun. And we sure do! This isn’t work for me — it’s play.”

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