Learning to be a dog again!
By Jane Smith (Jagger’s mama)
(The writer’s name has been changed for the safety and security of her family and that of her dogs’ since crimes had been committed involving gangs, drugs, and dog fighting regarding Jagger’s rescue.)
In December 2010, the sheriff’s office was involved in a drug bust in Houston. Much was confiscated, including nine dogs who had been used for fighting. After some time, the court released custody of the dogs. Because all of the dogs had been labeled as dangerous, it was thought that they would never have a chance to be adopted, and thus, the euthanizing began. Luckily, one volunteer at the shelter scrambled to get hold of a bully breed rescue group, Treat ‘Em Right Rescue (TERR). The rescue stepped in and took the only three dogs who were still alive.
Jagger was one of those lucky three; however, even now he is riddled with scars from his past. He is missing his right upper lip, exposing his teeth, he has countless scars on his face and down his front legs, and he has gashes on his back and head. He was seen by specialists for his facial damage, and he had to have his severely damaged canine tooth removed from the exposed side of his mouth.
After Jagger was rescued, he was boarded through TERR, and his story began circulating. I saw his story and thought about him often. I wondered who would ever want a dog who looked like him, had clearly suffered unimaginable pain, and would require so much work. When Jagger attended a fundraiser/adoption event for TERR, I went there to meet him. Jagger just sat in his kennel and watched everyone. The other dogs there were all getting loved on, but Jagger just sat and watched. I took him out of his kennel and sat down by him and it was love at first sight. Since I had other dogs in my home, I wondered whether Jagger would get along with them since he had a questionable past with dogs.
So I arranged to bring my Pit Bull dog out to meet Jagger. For the first few minutes it seemed like things were going well. But then unexpectedly, things turned negative, an altercation occurred, and the meeting ended. I was incredibly disappointed and left upset. Later in the day, I contacted the rescue again and asked for a second chance for the dogs to meet.
I drove an hour every day to pick up Jagger from boarding. I would then take him to a nearby park and walk around with him while a friend walked with my other dog. These walks went on for a couple of weeks. Eventually, the dogs did not react to each other and could care less that the other was there. Next, I started fostering Jagger on the weekends; Jagger was kept apart from my other dogs by a gate. They could see each other and smell each other, but they could not interact with each other.
Jagger was also enrolled in basic obedience classes offered through TERR called Behave-A-Bulls. During class, Jagger’s fear was crippling. He would shake and barely move. Getting his attention took great effort. It was difficult not to scoop him up and tell him everything was going to be okay, but because he needed to learn confidence, coddling him would only negate his progress.
As time went on, Jagger stayed in boarding less and less. Every day I increased the time of his interactions under strict rules and observation. Jagger went on many “field trips” to a variety of places in an effort to build his confidence. And then one day, it was as if a switch flipped. Jagger seemed to realize that I was always there for him and that I would never let anything bad happen to him. It almost seemed like he became a rock star over night. He focused and learned in his Behave-A-Bulls classes; he was confident in meeting new people; and in controlled introductions with other dogs, he was like a new dog—one who finally let go of the past that plagued him and started taking advantage of the new opportunities in front of him.
Jagger was becoming a spokesdog for the rescue, for bully breed dogs, and for dogs who have been used for fighting. He attempted his first Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and passed 9 out of the 10 items—only slipping up on the stay. Although, no one blamed him for not wanting to stay because, just before the test, I became his new mom and officially adopted Jagger! There was much celebrating from the rescue and Jagger’s other fans! Jagger took the Behave-A-Bulls class again, this time with his Pit Bull sister, and they both passed the CGC test.
Jagger now lives happily as a family dog. He continues to be a spokesdog and attends events regularly. It is truly amazing to see a dog like Jagger make such a transformation in such a short time. He went from fighting and scared to loving and confident in only a matter of about six months. Jagger is proof that all dogs are individuals and deserve to be treated as such. He is not his past, but he lets his past teach a story for the future.
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