John Cox didn’t anticipate his retirement going horribly wrong.
Exactly one hundred and fifty-five, plus four goats, four cats, a duck, and a goose.
The 57-year-old retired deputy from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office founded the non-profit RUCK9 in May of last year with the intention of purchasing carts for injured or paralyzed dogs (Rescuing Uniquely Created K9s). When Cox visited Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue in Tehachapi, California, she first realized how important these carts were. There, he witnessed dogs with missing limbs, those who had their limbs severed, and old dogs with their rear ends amputated.
In May of that year, Cox organized a fundraising event when he walked 5.59 miles, or 56 miles, through Nathan Benderson Park and The Mall at University Town Center while carrying a 30-pound knapsack on his back.
Sandler, a paraplegic 12-and-a-half-year-old dog he encountered at Sarasota’s Satchel’s Last Resort Rescue and Sanctuary, was the first dog Cox outfitted with a cart.
Sandler, among many others. Cox started receiving an overwhelming amount of requests for carts after an article about his aim appeared in the Herald-Tribune last year. One man from Europe dialed. A retired teacher’s husband and a couple from Palmetto were so inspired by what Cox was doing that they mailed him a $1,000 cheque.
“This thing is going crazy,” said Cox, who doesn’t make the carts, but secures them from a company. He pays for shipping and any upgrades to the carts, and any money raised or donated is put back into the nonprofit.
“At year one, I was at 65 (dogs),” Cox said. “Not even four months later, I’m at (105). There are some days I’m ordering eight and nine. People are reaching out left and right.”
On Tuesday, Cox will send a cart to India for a dog named Diva.
“I never turn anybody down,” Cox said. “I care about the dogs. For all the animals, if it’s needed, I will provide it. My motto is, If it’s for a day, a week, a month, or a year. My wife says I need an assistant. I am on the phone constantly, making calls, ordering, and tracking. It’s insane. I am very busy. I had no clue how much of a need it was going to be.”