By Kevin Kelley
Most dogs make facial expressions that will make people go “awwww.”
But Dexter McGoogles boasts a pair of blue eyes that set him apart.
“Our neighbors call him Sinatra,’” said his owner, Roianne Miele.
Dexter’s unique look has earned him a part-time gig as a model for American Greetings cards. So far, the dachshund has been featured on five cards.
Dexter’s story begins in early 2011, when Miele’s teenage son, Neil, wanted another dog. He came across a photo of Dexter on the website of an animal rescue website.
The Mieles drove just across the Ohio-Michigan border to pick up the dachshund from the foster family that had been caring for him. Dexter had been born eight weeks earlier at a puppy mill, Miele was told.
As the Mieles were driving home, they noticed a feature that would become his calling card. Dexter was slightly cross-eyed.
“I don’t think he does it all the time,” Roianne Miele said, adding that the feature happens more when Dexter is sleepy or nervous. A veterinarian told her it was the result of weak eye muscles.
The dachshund’s foster family had named him Dexter. Miele added McGoogles. “His eyes are so googly,” she explained.
Dexter’s first brush with fame came after a family friend posted a photo of the dog on the Internet that went viral on Reddit. The photo will be featured in an upcoming book entitled “64 Reasons Cats Are Better Than Dogs.”
Miele, who works at a local travel agency, showed the photo to fellow guests at a 2012 New Year’s Eve party. One guest happened to be an American Greetings employee, who proposed that Dexter be featured on its products.
That involved having Dexter participate in a photoshoot, an activity for which he was ill-prepared.
“The first one was horrible,” Miele said, adding that Dexter acted like a stubborn child. “He doesn’t listen. He’s a brat.”
Miele hired an animal trainer for Dexter, and later photoshoots went better, she said. But Miele acknowledged she’s since let Dexter slip back into his bad habits.
Even so, Dexter appeared to be on his best behavior when West Life visited him at his West 223rd Street home recently. Although Miele said Dexter is often nervous with people he doesn’t know well, he came across as very friendly.
Audrey Jones, a photographer with American Greetings, said Dexter has become more agreeable to the demands of being a model.
“We just dress him up in a bunch of accessories,” Jones said of the process.
The pairing of Dexter and American Greetings is a great match, Jones said, because animals are the top subject for their cards, and extreme expressions are easy to write to.
On some cards, American Greetings exaggerates the facial expressions using Photoshop. But that’s not necessary with Dexter.
“Now that we actually found a dog whose eyes look like that, people think we’ve Photoshopped them,” she said.
Cards featuring Dexter have sold well for American Greetings, Jones said. So far, he’s been featured on five cards – including ones for Valentine’s Day and Christmas.
Dexter’s modeling career, though, “barely pays the vet’s bills,” Miele said. She’s looked into getting the dachshund an agent.
For now, Miele takes Dexter to local animal charity events. He won the “most handsome dog” title at Fairview Park Summerfest two years ago, she said.
Miele’s dream is for Dexter to be the star of an animated film. Story topics could include his adventures with his doggy wife, Chelsea, and Logan, the family cat. All get along very well, Miele said.
She’d also like to see her dog become as huge an Internet sensation a Grumpy Cat. Dexter currently has many followers, particularly children, on Facebook and Instagram.
“People just really get a laugh out of him,” she said.