Dexter is a 4 ½ year-old Labrador Retriever who at a young age, suffered an injury that would change the course of his life. At just 10 days-old — before his eyes were even open — Dexter’s mother accidentally stepped on him, breaking both of his femurs and dislocating them from his hip joints. Before long, he lost blood supply to his hind legs, and septic shock began to set in.

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“Euthanization was recommended by our first vet at least twice,” says Curtiss Lindsay, a veteran and Middle School teacher who bred his two champion retriever dogs and ended up with a litter that included Dexter. “The second vet recommended amputation only after verifying that we could provide an excellent quality of life for Dex.”

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Curtiss says that he and his wife Sherlyn agonized over the decision. They fielded questions from people about the ethics of euthanizing Dexter or keeping him alive. By this time, however, Dexter was already happily retrieving stuffed animals using a small, homemade wheelchair made by Curtiss, and because mobility was the vet’s primary concern, they felt confident moving forward with amputation over euthanization.

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“As long as he was happy and healthy and wanted to go on, we’d do everything for him,” says Curtiss.

Dexter is now a double amputee who spends his days scooting around the house on his stumps or when outside, rolling around in a wheelchair from Walkin Wheels. But that’s not all Dexter does. He is also an expert swimmer and retriever, and is a Started Hunting Retriever by Hunting Retriever Club Standards through the UKC.

To achieve this recognition, Dexter passed a trial in which retrieved two birds on land and two birds in water every day for four days. When retrieving on land, Dexter uses his wheelchair. When retrieving in the water, he relies only on his swimming abilities.

“Many people underestimate his ability to swim,” Curtiss says. “He can swim better than some of our dogs with four legs.”

And Dexter has Curtiss to thank for those skills. When Dexter first started swimming, Curtiss attached a children’s arm floaty to his backside to keep him buoyant. As time went on, he gradually let out air of the floatation device, and eventually Dexter was swimming without it.

“We are so proud of how far he has come,” Curtiss says. “It is amazing for me to watch him work through obstacles.”

When he’s not swimming or retrieving, Dexter uses his critical thinking skills to overcome day-to-day challenges. For example, if he can’t reach a toy that is on a blanket on the couch, he’ll pull on the corner of the blanket and wait for the toy to tumble down so he can grab it.

“Like parents of a handicapped child, we’ve never reduced him or kept him from being able to do anything. We’ve always let him do everything and anything that he’s wanted,” says Curtiss. “He looks at things and tries to figure out ‘what can I do to do this.’ He never takes ‘no’ for an answer.”

Dexter’s positive attitude and joyful spirit are truly infectious to those around him. He is great with people — especially children — and inspires everyone he meets.

“When we first meet people, there’s a lot of curiosity, a lot of ‘oh poor dog,’” says Curtiss. “But once people see him and they are able to play with him a little bit, they walk away with a different idea —  that he’s not bad off, that he has a pretty good life.”

Curtiss has a good life too, and Dexter plays a big part.

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“Dex has become more than a dog for me,” Curtiss says. “He definitely serves the role of a service dog at times. He has taught me to never give up, because he refuses. He is also happy 100% of the time. I aspire to be like that.”

When asked if he has any advice for owners of recently disabled dogs, Curtiss didn’t hesitate:

“Dex has been a huge undertaking, but I would not trade it for the world. I would say keep fighting; they are worth it. There are no limitations when it comes to these animals. I would also say that as long as the animal is happy, you are doing what is right.”

To thank Curtiss and Sherlyn for all they have done and continue to do for Dexter, PetPlus is giving the family a free trial of their benefit program for pet owners. PetPlus provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, boarding, and more. Find out more at PetPlus.com.

Meredith Alling is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared on PetCareRx.com, PetPlus.com, and in sundry art and literary publications.