After being hit by a truck that nearly took his life, a Brittany Spaniel named Dexter found a way to overcome his injuries and walk tall. Literally.
Dexter, now 6, wasn’t even a year old in March of 2016 when he escaped his family’s yard in Ouray, Colorado, and dashed toward a nearby park.
That’s when a truck slammed into him. His front legs disappeared under a giant wheel while his dad, Tim Pasek, watched in horror.
Tim and his wife, Kentee, rushed Dexter to an animal hospital 45 minutes from their little mountain town. While Tim drove their car, Kentee sat in the back comforting Dexter.
“He was pretty beat up—very beat up. He had his rear to me, and the dog is such a sweetheart that he figured out, on those two back legs, how to turn around because he wanted his head on my lap,” Kentee Pasek told The Dog People.
The Art of the Pivot
Using his hind legs turned out to be Dexter’s superpower. His front right leg had to be amputated immediately, but the veterinary team tried to save the left one, hoping he could thrive as a three-legged “tripod.”
But the elbow turned out to be so badly damaged, despite multiple surgeries, that Dexter didn’t trust putting his weight on it. For two months, members of the Pasek household, which includes the couple’s two children and Kentee’s parents, had to carry him outside to use the bathroom.
One morning when Dexter was still wearing a cone from a surgery, Kentee carried him down to the lawn and popped inside to pour herself a cup of coffee. When she went back outside, she was surprised to see him not in the yard but on the porch—at the top of a flight of stairs.
“I put him back down in the yard and took out my video because no one would believe me … and I have footage of him walking right up the stairs, looking like a human,” she said. “He just figured it out.”
The clever dog also figured out how to steal food off kitchen counters, since when he stands erect, he’s over 4 feet tall.
“Brittanys make a lot of decisions on their own,” she said. “They’re very trainable—Dexter will do whatever I ask of him—but he will sneak in and get the steak off the counter as well. He’ll be upright and walk by the center island and have a tongue out as he’s trotting by on two legs. If anyone leaves anything out, it’s gone.”
A Pep in His Step
In addition to being an athletic thief, Dexter is also a charmer who loves to lean in to hug his family—and now, legions of admirers.
Dexter’s hometown of Ouray (pronounced ”yoo-RAY,” like a cousin of “hooray”) is a Southwest Colorado mountain town, boasting grand views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains and a population of just 1,000 people. The Paseks used an Instagram account to help keep neighbors up-to-date on his progress after the accident. When he started walking upright, Brittany Spaniel lovers started following him on social media as well.
Dexter was like, “Hey, I’ve been there. Here’s my new reality and I just go with it.”
Still, at the start of the pandemic, the delightful dog had around 2,000 Instagram followers. Locals would call out “Dexter!” as the local celebrity walked upright around downtown.
Then in June of 2020, a vacationing Arizona resident spotted Dexter walking in downtown Ouray with Kentee’s mom, Pam Larson. She filmed them surreptitiously from her car and posted a funny TikTok video captioned, “They said act natural…” overlaid with the lyrics, “Don’t act suspicious.”
It went viral—garnering over 20 million likes. Jimmy Fallon even shared the clip on a remote broadcast of “The Tonight Show.”
Now Dexter, aka @DexterDogOuray, has over 704,000 TikTok fans and over 108,000 followers on Instagram.
“I don’t think Dexter wouldn’t been as big as he is—or how it went so big, so fast—without the pandemic,” Kentee said. “People were on their phones, we were in a totally new reality. ‘How do we deal with this?’ That’s really where we all were. And Dexter was like, ‘Hey, I’ve been there. Here’s my new reality and I just go with it.’”
Dexter—whom Kentee calls a “showman”—inspires his fans by taking hikes, strolling around town and strutting his stuff in parades. He receives messages from people with disabilities, from people who say they decided to get out of bed that day because of Dexter, from a mental health professional who suggests clients follow him.
He’s even helped Kentee find purpose and joy after losing her dream job at the start of the pandemic.
“It saved me. It really did,” she said.
Always Getting Back on His Feet
Meanwhile, the Pasek family just tries to keep up with Dexter, whose front left leg is now surgically pinned at the elbow to try to prevent further injury.
“I grew up as a long-distance runner—I had scholarships in college—and he still outruns me,” she said with a laugh.
Kentee hopes Dexter’s upbeat attitude and resilience continue to inspire people facing obstacles in their own lives, or who might be afraid of making a change.
“If people dream of writing a book, why aren’t you starting? If they’re dreaming of moving careers, why not now? It feels like the impossible is not so impossible anymore,” she said. “If Dexter can do this, we all can.”