We bought Dexter as a puppy. He was an adorable bundle of energy, a pure-breed Brittany spaniel. My husband, two children and I fell in love with him straight away. We’d lost an elderly dog the year before, and had rescued another, who we tragically had to put to sleep. It devastated us. So we poured our love into Dexter.
We live in a small mountain town, Ouray, in Colorado, so he quickly became part of the community. Children pass our yard on the way to school and stop to pet him. We named him after a local creek.
When Dexter was nearly a year old, in March 2016, he was involved in a terrible accident. He escaped from our yard – we think he caught the scent of a deer trail. He ran in front of a vehicle, about a mile from our home.
My husband, Tim, found him with his two front legs badly injured. Tim volunteers as a mountain rescue first responder, so wasn’t too fazed. He called me to come quickly. I jumped in the car, and was horrified when I saw my baby. It was worse than I’d imagined, and Dexter was in a lot of pain. There was no doubt that we needed to get him to the vet, but there wasn’t a moment to lose, as the closest one was an hour’s drive away.
It was clear Dexter wanted to live. I sat with him in the back of the car and he rested his head on my lap, trying to comfort me. When we arrived, the vet was waiting, and on seeing Dexter, turned green. He said he needed to get the senior vet. At that point, we didn’t know if Dexter had a brain injury or internal bleeding. The vet acted quickly, and soon determined that we’d need to amputate his right front paw, but that the left could be saved, though it wouldn’t be entirely functional. I knew we’d do everything possible to save Dexter.
After three days, Dexter came home. He’d had a lot of surgery, but the vet was confident he could enjoy a decent quality of life. It took him a long time to recover, and I worked hard on his rehabilitation – building muscle tone, working on his mobility. For a year, Dexter had to wear a cone, and we had a specially commissioned wheelchair made that fitted around his stomach, with wheels at the front, so he could get around on three legs. He was still a puppy, had so much energy and just exuded positivity.
Every morning, first thing, I’d carry him down the porch steps, without his wheelchair, to go out in the yard. One day, I left him at the bottom while I popped inside to get my coffee. When I returned a few seconds later, Dexter was at the top of the steps. I looked around, dumbfounded. How had he got there?
I put him at the bottom again, and waited. Within moments, he jumped up on his two back legs, and hopped up the steps, like he’d been doing it his whole life. I couldn’t believe it. Since then, Dexter has not stopped walking on two legs. He sometimes uses his front left leg for balance, sniffing around on three legs, but when he wants to go fast, he pops up on his two back legs to run.
I spoke to the vet, who was worried about the pressure on his hips. We encouraged him to keep using his wheelchair, but he’d just stand up with it still attached, which could have caused more damage. We never taught Dexter to walk this way, it was all his own idea. He now visits a chiropractor regularly, who says his back is strong and his hips are pure muscle.
Dexter is now seven. He has rewritten the rules of what it means to have a physical impairment. Nothing slows him down, and he’s the most joyful dog – determined and tenacious. I’m so proud of him. I receive letters from around the world from people in tough situations, saying, “If Dexter can do it, so can I.” He went viral after a clip of him, taken by a stranger, ended up on primetime television in the US. He’s delighted with all the attention – and treats. But at the end of the day, he’s still our family pet, a dog who loves chasing balls, fetching sticks and going for a run in the park.//