“100 percent permanently and totally disabled.”
That’s how 75-year-old Jack Cotter is classified by the Navy. The veteran served on submarines from 1965-1970 and over the years, he suffered multiple serious injuries. Once, another crew member opened a hatch and the pressure broke the vertebrae in his upper back. In a later accident, he fractured his lower spine.
What followed was a series of setbacks: more spine and neck fractures, hip replacements, a knee replacement, and a heart attack.
By the early 2000s, Jack could barely walk. Most of the time, he was in a wheelchair and couldn’t go more than a few steps without crutches. On top of that, he couldn’t work because of his disability, and his change in lifestyle was starting to depress him. Doctors predicted it wouldn’t be long before he was in a wheelchair full-time.
Jack knew he wanted to change, but he didn’t know how to get his life back.
The Terrier That Changed Everything
That’s when Tucker came into his life through a friend. The Wire Fox Terrier puppy was born in February 2007 and joined the Cotter household a few months later after it was clear Jack and Tucker had an immediate bond. Before then, Jack had never even heard of a Wire Fox Terrier.
Suddenly, Jack had a purpose. He took Tucker for short walks, then longer ones. Before he knew it, he was walking farther distances than he had in years. He left the house more, too. At obedience classes, he met other dog owners and saw some of them practicing a sport that intrigued him: agility.
Initially, he was looking for something to keep his active terrier busy. But he was immediately hooked by the sport and started working out and losing weight to get in better shape for Tucker so they could compete.
With lots of practice and persistence, Jack went from being unable to walk to running the No. 1 Wire Fox Terrier in the country. Over the years, the duo continued to earn titles and achieve goals that onlookers never thought possible.
The Oldest Agility Dog
Fourteen years after the puppy came into Jack’s life, Team Tucker is still competing. In fact, at the 2021 AKC Agility Invitational, Tucker will be the oldest competing dog, at 14.5 years old.
“He is really hard of hearing,” Jack says. But you wouldn’t know either of their challenges if you watched them. Most people are shocked to learn Tucker is 14 and Jack used to be in a wheelchair.
The average age of a dog competing in agility during the 2021 AKC National Championship weekend is 6.8 years old. Tucker is more than twice that. The Agility Invitational invites the top five agility dogs from each breed and top preferred dog from each breed. The Juniors Agility Competition competitors are kids and teens ages 9-18 who are invited based on their accomplishments from the past year.
Of the 739 dogs competing in agility during the AKC National Championship weekend, being the oldest is a pretty impressive feat. There are two other 14-year-old dogs in the competition (both born more than six months after Tucker) and just a dozen 13-year-old dogs.
Jack credits agility with keeping both Tucker and him healthy. And his love of Wire Fox Terriers has only grown. He now has a pack of three — Tucker, Bella, and Jake. Bella also competes in agility.
For Jack, it’s hard to imagine life before agility and before Tucker. Those were darker years — when Jack couldn’t bend over or walk and had never heard of a Wire Fox Terrier or AKC dog sports.
Now, Jack has goals, purpose, a healthy body, hundreds of agility ribbons, and three active Wire Fox Terriers. For Jack, though, agility has never been about awards or winning.
Competing at the AKC Agility Invitational is a huge accomplishment in itself. Running the oldest of more than 700 dogs is even more impressive. But Jack is just happy to be there, spending time with Tucker.
“He motivated me to keep going and still does,” Jack says.
Watch Tucker in Action
The 2021 AKC National Agility Championship and AKC Juniors Agility Competition takes place December 18-19 in Orlando, Florida as part of the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin.
The AKC National Championship is right around the corner, and you don’t want to miss the action! Tune in to ABC on December 31 at 2 p.m. ET to see who’s crowned Best in Show.
Did you miss last year’s show? You can watch the 2022 AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin on demand on AKC.tv!