It all started with this question: How did Dexter get on the porch?
Sure, climbing stairs is easy for most dogs, but a few weeks before, a vet had amputated Dexter’s right front leg and the left was still not functional as the result of an accident.
Nothing was easy. Even taking him out to do his business was, at best, awkward. That day, owner Kentee Pasek carried the year-old Brittany Spaniel to the front yard and set him on the cool grass. Then, she stepped inside to grab her coffee.
When she returned seconds later, Dexter was on the porch.
“I was like, ‘How did he get there?’ ” Pasek said.
Pasek carried him to the yard again and watched. “He limped to the bottom of the steps, raised up on his hind legs and walked right up the stairs (five in all), back onto the porch,” Pasek said. “One leg at a time, just like a human.”
“I knew I had to get a video of this,” Pasek said.
Thus, the documenting of Dexter’s dual-legged dexterity began.
That was May 2016, and Dexter has been walking tall ever since, with Pasek never far behind, videoing and photographing his new bi-pedal life for social media. The pup’s own Instagram account, @dexterdogouray, was approaching 5,000 followers as of mid-August — many of which are in and around his hometown of Ouray, where his star shines brightest. And he’s happy to let it twinkle.
“He’s a showman. He knows when people are watching and he’ll start walking” on his hind legs, said Pasek, who adds he alternates between two and three legs during his walks. “People want to meet him. They either take pictures or get a picture with him.”
Dexter happily obliges, like an affable movie star.
“He’s friendly, he gives people hugs. He just walks right up to them and throws his front leg on their shoulder. It’s hilarious.”
Dexter’s fame spiked this June after a visitor passing through Ouray videotaped him strutting on a sidewalk and posted it on TikTok. After millions of views and airtime on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” Pasek says reporters from Russia, Ireland, England, France and Australia have come calling. “It’s an interesting time.”
And a happier time than March 2016, when Dexter went missing.
Brittany Spaniels “are escape artists, and he wiggled his way out of our fence,” Pasek said. “He had half the town looking for him.”
After a couple of hours, Pasek’s husband, Tim, spotted Dexter at the local park, nose to the ground, likely following the scent of a deer.
But Tim was just seconds too late. He watched helplessly as Dexter wandered onto the road, where a truck hit him, pinning both of his front legs under a wheel. Tim, an EMT, reacted quickly and applied tourniquets to both legs.
They drove him 45 minutes to the San Juan Veterinary Clinic in Montrose. Pasek said during the trip, Dexter used his hind legs to scoot closer to her, foreshadowing a good recovery.
That recovery would take months. “He was in horrible condition, with massive trauma,” said Dr. Chris Franklin, Dexter’s vet. “His right front leg was dangling; no way to save it.”
“We didn’t know if he’d make it so many times,” Pasek said.
During the three months of vet visits to rebuild his remaining front leg, Franklin said Dexter was always happy to see the staff. “That’s pretty rare. Most animals don’t like seeing us.”
Dexter’s long-term prognosis is good as long as his hind legs stay healthy. So far, that’s not a problem.
“He’s developed massive, weight-lifter thighs,” said Franklin, adding that Dexter recovered by his own will. “It was his desire to adapt. He chose two legs. They (the Paseks) didn’t make him walk on two legs. He accepted that he has this adversity and that he’s not going to let it get him down. He has amazing resilience. He’s like, ‘I got food in my bowl and the sun is shining. I’ll be fine.’ ”
Dexter’s journey resonates with Philip Tedeschi, a professor and executive director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver.
“Dexter’s story reminds us to celebrate life … it’s a symbol of resilience,” Tedeschi says. “We frequently see ourselves and our most essential needs in other animals, we relate to familiar struggles.”
Looking back on it all, Pasek sees Dexter as an icon for this era.
“Here we are in this huge tragedy (the pandemic) … everyone is going through this transition. We’ve lost lives, jobs, travel, school — our lives will forever be different. We say, ‘I’ve never seen this before.’ But you look at Dexter and he’s dealt with his tragedy so graciously this whole time,” Pasek said, her voice cracking with emotion.
“He’s still kind and he’s embracing his new normal. He’s showing us how to be brave and that we can be positive, too.”
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