Cox goes to the dogs

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

ATLANTA -- You may think that the Atlanta Braves and manager Bobby Cox have gone to the dogs.

That their stretch of 14 National League East titles is over.

The Braves are in last place after last night's 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays, having dropped nine consecutive for the first time since 1989.

That season under Russ Nixon and eventually Cox, who as general manager fired Nixon and returned to the dugout, the Braves were on their way to a 97-loss season.

You may be right about the Braves looking up at the rest of the NL East, but you are wrong about Cox if you think he just went to the dogs.

Cox was ahead of the curve ... he went to the dogs -- and other pets -- last November.

He staged his own Paws Cause fundraiser at his 60-acre farm in Adairsville, Ga.

With singers Charlie Pride and Mark Wills appearing, along with young Braves' Jeff Francouer and Brian McCann, broadcaster Skip Caray as the MC and a guest list limited to 500 people, $86,000 US was raised for lost dogs and pets.

"What we're hoping to do is get enough to build a big shelter," Cox said. "Tony La Russa (St. Louis Cardinals manager) did something like this in California. We're trying to keep the dogs and cats from being executed. The only crime they've ever committed is to be lost or an owner dumped them, got tired of them."

Statistics show that 10-12 million pets are euthanized annually in the United States. Using the lower figure of 10 million, that's 192,308 per week or 27,473 pets put down every 24 hours, 365 days a year.

Cox sounds like The Price is Right's Bob Barker when he says pets owners should spay and neuter.

Cox works with vet Dr. Michael Good of Marietta, Ga., who has a shelter which placed 20 homeless dogs from New Orleans and the gulf coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrinia.

"Aw, Dr. Good does all the work, I just visit his shelter once in a while and check on things," said Cox, who gave an autographed Bobby Cox baseball to anyone adopting a pet.

"It was rough watching on CNN, all those people who lost their lives, you had to figure that their pets would be homeless," Cox said.

The manager who leads the majors in ejections -- this era's longest and loudest when it comes to debating a call with an umpire now that Lou Piniella has gone upstairs to the TV booth, may have a baseball-shaped heart but it aches when he hears of a pet being put down.

It all goes back to growing up in Selma, Calif., and Cox's first dog Boots.

"She was a mutt, she was a black dog with brown feet -- that's why we called her Boots -- but what a good dog."

Now, Cox and his wife Pam have two dogs, a Shar Pei named Sassy and a Shih Tzu named Rossa.

Cox first met Dr. Good at an all-night clinic when Cox took his dog in with a perforated eyeball.

Cox plans on having a bigger and better Paws Cause II this November.

"I've read stories how kids who have pets grow up to me more disciplined," Cox said, "and how people with pets live longer, it relieves stress I think. Pets never question you, they're so loyal."

When Cox, 65, retires it will be to Adairsville. The first manager to led the Jays into the post-season in 1985 had the Jays up 3-1 in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series before the Kansas City Royals stormed back to win.

Cox teams have a combined 2,122-1,643 record (a .563 winning percentage). Only six managers have more career wins than Cox: Connie Mack, John McGraw, Sparky Anderson, Bucky Harris and La Russa. McCarthy, the former Yankees manager, and Cox are the only two managers with six 100-win seasons.

All but La Russa have been elected to the Hall of Fame.

Cox will no doubt go into Cooperstown and he will be wearing a Braves cap.

You won't be able to tell from the plaque which focuses on the inductee's face, whether he has a Boots or another dog on a leash.


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