In the summer of 2020, an Arizona woman was driving through a small town in southwestern Colorado when something caught her eye. She took out her phone.
What she captured and posted on social media was then seen nationwide in a segment of Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show.” The thick pandemic segment was “What Are You Doing Wednesdays” — “where we try to show you uplifting videos from all over the country, the world in fact,” Fallon said. “Just things that warm the heart or things that just make us laugh.”
He described the following clip as “weird”. It was, he said, “this dog walking a little differently.”
A dog walking on its two hind legs.
And there was Dexter, the Brittany Spaniel smiley waltzing on the pavement of Ouray, his ears flapping, his tongue wagging, running ahead of his owner as usual, like a kid rushing to the candy store.
“It was kind of the moment that launched Dexter,” says owner Kentee Pasek.
Dexter Dog Ouray is now known to legions of virtual followers who discovered him in his remote home.
They rank over 107,000 on Instagram. They exceed 705,000 on TikTok, the video platform chronicling his hectic life in the mountains: walking/running, opening fan mail, promoting products, trying on costumes, leading parades, hunting turkeys, etc. comedian who died last week after a battle with cancer.
A video has garnered over 40 million views. It was another laid-back moment: Dexter runs down the stairs, scans the kitchen (for food, presumably), then turns his back and walks over to his favorite couch.
When Pasek posts a video, it’s common for more than 10,000 views to follow. (The population of his hometown of Ouray is about 1,000).
“Being from a small town, I can’t even imagine being with 10,000 people,” says the mother of two. That’s three if you count Dexter, the youngest at 6, who regularly hugs his family and stands nearly as tall as his human sibling when he does.
Another thing Pasek could never have imagined: going on vacation with strangers from all over the world shouting his dog’s name and asking for pictures. Others who are unaware look dismayed, wide-eyed as if witnessing a ghost.
For answers to the questions — Why? How? ‘Or’ What? – they can get a quick summary on social media bios. “My story: major accident, major surgery = 2 fully functional legs.”
In the spring of 2016, not yet 1, little Dexter escaped from the yard and ended up in traffic. His front legs were affected.
He was rushed to the vet, who offered him hope. “I think we can save this dog,” he said.
Pasek and her husband hoped so desperately. They had put down two dogs in two years. For children, they couldn’t bear a third.
“And, honestly, probably more for me,” says Pasek, who has come to adore the furball’s “exuberant personality.” The pup’s shenanigans were so irresistible that Pasek’s daughter started a Dexter Instagram.
This account proved useful during his recovery. Pasek used it to update the concerned people in his town on Dexter’s troubled progress.
The surgery spared a leg, but he was missing it. A wheelchair was tried, but he also struggled with this. The days and weeks have been “difficult, emotional,” says Pasek. “There were times when we were like, ‘What are we doing? “”
Then one morning in the yard, she blinked.
Did this really just happen? she wondered.
Did Dexter just crawl up the porch steps?
That’s how he kept walking. “It’s not good,” said the vet.
So the family tried to encourage the wheelchair. Dexter stood up and walked with the bag strapped to his stomach, risking injury.
The end thinking, “I guess we’ll just let him walk upright,” Pasek recalled. “What else can we do?”
So it’s been about five years.
“Between 2017 and 2020, he was just our family dog,” says Pasek. Then came the video that went viral, from Fallon to web channels around the world.
The fame surprised Pasek. At the time, like so many others at the height of the pandemic, she had lost her job. “I just started spiraling,” she says.
She would wake up in the middle of the night to find Dexter by her side, cuddling. She would see him as the Instagram star her daughter initially saw.
Pasek also took care of Dexter’s TikTok, an instant sensation. She felt “drawn into a different reality,” she says. A happier reality.
“Dexter saved me,” she said.
And maybe he could save others, she thought.
This was suggested by the messages she received. By people with disabilities who say they found inspiration in Dexter. By a therapist who said she sends depressed clients to Dexter’s social media accounts.
It may not be a coincidence that her popularity has skyrocketed, says Pasek.
“I think people were looking for inspiration from Dexter,” she says. “Here we are in a pandemic, and look, Dexter survived. We can too.