The Jagger Way

Waking to another retirement day while wintering here in Mesa, Arizona, I think about what I would like to accomplish. I know I need to get some grocery shopping done, but first the morning routine and chores. Last on the list, Jagger and I have our breakfast. When we finish, I ask him if he wants to go for a ride in the truck. He is all over it. I leash him up and out the door we go. We’re off, starting down the trail in the Workhorse.

Camp Mesa

Camp Mesa

Alert in his truck - The Workhorse

Backseat Driver

Still inside the RV Park, not a block away from our campsite, I see a golf cart with a familiar figure in it. It’s Larry, a Host here at the park who we met last year. I let up on the gas slowing the Workhorse to a complete stop. Rolling my window down as Larry approaches the truck. Jagger jumps to the front seat, wiggling his little tailless behind and sticks his head out the window, like he just saw his favorite friend. Larry, who has his own Aussie, extends his hand slowly to greet Jagger. At the same time he asks, “How is Jagger doing? Has he gotten any better since you left the park last March?” I greet him and start to say, “Oh yeah, he’s a lot better,” I spoke too soon. Jagger promptly sniffs, growls, and shows his teeth. Larry, at the same time, retracts his hand. Of course this is embarrassing to me and it should be to Jagger, but he’s pretty cocky about controlling his truck.

I apologize, saying, “Well, I guess he hasn’t improved all that much!” Then came the awkwardness, Jagger had hurt Larry’s feelings. I’m sure Larry was happy to see him at first, now stumbling for what to say next. Larry soon parts ways, leaving Jagger and I to go for a morning walk near the Arizona desert’s edge.

Our walk is short and full of conversation, Jagger knows I am upset with him. “How can I continue this relationship with you if I can’t trust you?” Of course I blame myself for lack of knowledge. I think back to how he has improved and try to reassure myself. It’s true, he is protective of his truck. But the homeless man who was stealing the bike last month approached the truck, stuck his hand out even after I warned him, Jagger growled but accepted him. I have noticed him sliding back into his aggressive mode since we got back to our winter home at the RV Park. I wonder if it’s me or this location? Until we got here he was doing better, I was trusting him to run free in the National Forest and meet a few new friends. He was doing so good! I just don’t understand..

When we return home I leave Jagger and go to my happy place, Wal-Mart. I don’t know why this has become my go-to spot, maybe because of all the toys they have here 🙂 Jagger and I need a time out today. I focus on what I “need” and get out of there before my “wants” distract me. Upon returning I notice Jagger keeps his distance instead of inspecting the grocery bags like he usually does. I caught a little sadness in his eyes, I’m sure he saw the same in mine.

Graduation Day - The Joyful AnimalI sit down to write an email, reaching out to The Joyful Animal. Jewel replies quickly to my email, answering a few questions I have about muzzling and sharing some encouragement. I hate muzzles and Jagger probably will too, but I need to be responsible until I can feel more comfortable when strangers approach, especially when we’re in the truck. More to come on this subject!

In the evening I take Jagger for a walk along the desert edge and God paints a peaceful sky for us. Jagger and I lock eyes giving silent apologies, in agreement with the work we have ahead of us. When we get back home, I shop on Amazon and make a purchase of a dog muzzle for next day delivery (before he talks me out of it).

Jagger's Playground - Evening Run

Jagger’s Playground – Evening Run


In the morning I do something I seldom do….watch TV. I welcome the advice of the great Cesar Milan https://www.cesarsway.com/. That guy is unbelievable with dogs. He is my hero, filling my head with ideas and my spirit with inspiration. I always feel better after watching his program.

Whose that outside?

Who’s at my door?!

In the afternoon I hear the UPS truck approach and drop a package. Of course Jagger is excited, it’s a box! I open it and immediately start the training, feeding him treats through the muzzle. He doesn’t question getting treats but I can see his wheels turning about this new device. I’m hoping this will give us both the opportunity to gain assurance even though muzzles put a bad taste in my mouth! We will see how he does soon. I still hate muzzles! (I’ll bet Jagger will too)

Safe travels…Gary

10 replies

  1. Jagger is so smart and loves you more than words can explain.. I completely understand where he comes from ? he is very lucky to have you! Unfortunately there are people in this world that give up too quickly on their companions and others that feed the aggressive behavior. You and Jagger are perfect for each other.. you have helped ground him and make him feel loved. Think of it this way, when kids don’t know how to share they hit, pinch or bite. Stick a muzzle on that kid!! Lol I’m totally kidding ? you are not muzzling for misery, you are doing it to protect and gain confidence so you can address the problem. People love Jagger and they love you! Your partnership is very inviting so I’m sure it makes it hard to turn people away. You will conquer this.. I have faith!

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  2. A little heart breaking. But since Aussies are known for their protective spirit it is a good thing to at least train him that I’d someone approaches the truck with you in it he will be safe. I really like these special breed of work dogs, loyal, loving and protective. Guess that is why the shepherds of Australia rely on them so much, even the cattle ranchers like them. Keep up the good work. Maybe you just don’t let people stick their hands in the truck. Safe travels, to you too.

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  3. I was relieved with I read your reply to John. “It’s a lot of work, but he’s worth it”. 🙂
    I have been thinking about this all day, wondering what is possibly going on in Jaggers head. Perhaps he is being protective of you and maybe the territory that you and Jagger share inside the workhorse. I understand the frustration you’re going through. Hopefully he will continue to be less aggressive. I am not much help with this situation, as I have not had a whole lot of dog experience. My dad had hunting dogs when I was young, but I never really had a dog of my own. Feather Blu is my first dog and I have learned a great deal since the day I brought her home at 8 weeks old. Feather Blu had a trainer who helped me with her and I can still consult with him if need be. If interested, I can give you his name if you should ever want to consult with him.

    I hope you will write an update on how the muzzle works out for Jagger. And I truly hope he will not need to wear it for very long.

    We are very blessed to have our Aussies.

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    • Good to hear from you Jeanie. I enjoy the pictures of Feather Bleu when I see them on the internet at times. Jagger is doing fine, I would never consider giving him up. I just deal with it. To give you a little peak into the future posts. It’s been months since the above happened (as usual I’m several months behind, but determined to document all my travels). Jagger went through the muzzle “pre” training for weeks. We never have used it! That’s not to say that I won’t someday, but I haven’t really been in a situation I don’t feel have control of yet. So I am procrastinating and being VERY verbale to people and animals that approach. He gets excited, but I’m able to control him much better. I will keep all informed of the progress along the way, good or bad.

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  4. That’s odd that he treated that park guy that way…..although when you first arrived last fall at Flagstaff he did the same to me when I walked up to the window…..growled and showed me his teeth! But when you got to Ehrenberg he was OK and seemed to remember me. Maybe its short term memory problems??

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    • I haven’t been able to figure out out John. It’s frustrating. Just today when walking, we met several groups of people and I had to tell them he is aggressive, since I’m tired of explaining the situation. It takes time for him to develop friendships. I think he is just afraid when new people appoarch. In the Coach, I have had guests recently and after his excitement subsides he is fine with them. I’ve come to the conclusion he just needs time to except new peyote and animals. It’s a lot of work, but he’s worth it 🙂

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