It all started with a tweet.
“Your story could be in Season 2 of DOGS.”
The June 2019 post from Dogs producer Glen Zipper included an announcement about the Netflix show’s second season, along with the news that “you can now submit your furry BFF to be the star of a new pup-isode of the dog-umentary.”
Around the same time, the Live Mascot team at Butler University was secretly planning for the retirement of Butler Blue III (AKA Trip). After serving for more than seven years, the English bulldog would soon be hanging up his collar and passing official mascot duties onto yet-to-be-born Blue IV. As Michael Kaltenmark ’02 and Evan Krauss ’16 prepared to celebrate Trip’s last year and begin the search for a new Butler Bulldog, they knew they had a great story to tell.
They sent in their pitch, and then they waited.
“We didn’t hear anything for a long time,” says Krauss, Senior Marketing Manager and handler of Blue IV. “And then we finally heard from a casting director. They said our story had been narrowed down as one of the top pitches, and they wanted us to go through screen testing. So Michael and I sat down in a conference room and basically had our first Zoom call before COVID hit, and we just talked. They asked us questions about what a live mascot program at a university is like, why Trip was retiring, what that process would look like, what the mascot does on a daily basis, and what makes our program special.”
After a few weeks, Krauss and Kaltenmark had a similar call with the show’s producers, followed by more waiting. The email came in September 2019: An hour-long episode of Dogs: Season 2 would feature Butler’s story.
“It was surreal,” Krauss says. “We were also super emotional around that time because Trip’s retirement was bittersweet for both of us—Trip was such a good mascot, and we wanted to honor him. So, this episode is a great way to not only honor Trip’s legacy, but then to tell the story of what it takes to find a new mascot and launch Blue IV into the world.”
Krauss says he couldn’t believe they were chosen for the show. Kaltenmark, on the other hand, wasn’t too surprised.
“I felt like our story was compelling enough to be on that sort of level. So I was confident in our pitch,” says Kaltenmark, Trip’s handler and Butler’s Director of Community and Government Relations. “Then during the screen tests, we were quick to build rapport with the people on the other side. For them, the plot kept thickening: We’ve got this old dog that we are going to retire, and then bring in a new dog. We’ve also got this old handler who is going to step away, and this new handler is going to take over. And, through all of that, the old handler is getting a kidney transplant. So, I felt pretty confident that this was going to happen, but it was definitely a dream realized.”
After the mascot team was paired with Disarming Films and Emmy-winning director Rudy Valdez, filming began. The crew flew from New York to Indianapolis on six different occasions to chronicle the major milestones of an eventful year—now available to watch on screen in a one-hour episode of Netflix’s Dogs.
The Disarming Films crew first met their cast face-to-face upon visiting campus for Homecoming and the launch of One Last Trip—the aptly named campaign commemorating Trip’s final year as mascot. As Trip hosted the Butler Bulldog Beauty Contest on October 26, the cameras were on to capture 75 wrinkled faces smiling up out of their costumes—everything from E.T. to a bumblebee. Of course, Bruiser—the English-French Bulldog mix puppy who won best of show—dressed up as the Butler Bulldog himself.
Later that evening, the One Last Trip kickoff continued at Hinkle Fieldhouse with Trip’s “last first game” of the Men’s Basketball season. The Netflix crew tailed Trip across the court as he chased down his bone, and the Bulldogs won the night.
Blue IV was born just a few days later. The crew had already left, but Kaltenmark used a Netflix-approved camera to capture the pup’s earliest moments—the first of three in a litter delivered by Dr. Kurt Phillips ’92, then handed directly to Krauss, who helped wake up the future Butler mascot.
The crew returned to see Trip in action at another basketball game on November 22, shooting more footage of the mascot’s pre-game rituals.
Then they stuck around to catch a sneak-peak of the dog who would soon take over the show. Saturday, the Live Mascot Team accompanied the three-week-old puppies and their family to a check-up at City Way Animal Clinics. All the dogs were healthy, but by early December, the one with the spot above his eye would be chosen as the next Butler Blue.
The new year started off busy. Disarming Films visited three times in as many weeks, witnessing the momentous month that makes up the heart of the story.
When Kaltenmark arrived at the hospital for his kidney transplant on January 9, he brought a crowd. His wife, Tiffany. His parents. His brother. His other brother, Doug—who would donate the kidney—and Doug’s wife. Evan and Kennedy Krauss. Then, following all of them, a four-person film crew.
“The doctor was really concerned,” Kaltenmark recalls with a chuckle. “He was like, ‘Who are all these people?’ But when we explained what was happening, and that the story could bring more attention to organ donation, he came around pretty quickly.”
The next morning, the crowd grew into a party for Kaltenmark’s 40th birthday. Krauss brought Trip, who seemed to think the whole party was for him. Some doctors and nurses joined in on the fun. And this time, there were even more cameras.
“I walk in, and it’s not just the Netflix people,” Kaltenmark says. “It’s all the local news outlets, too. That was a little bit wild, but I was excited that we could generate some buzz around organ donations and kidney transplants. It wasn’t about me—it was about something bigger.”
Before heading back to New York, the crew stopped by to visit Blue IV. They spent about an hour at the home of breeders Jodi and Cameron Madaj, capturing scenes to show how Blue had spent the first ten weeks of his life. Or, at least that’s why they said they were there. Krauss thinks they just wanted to pet the puppies.
Blue came home on January 16. From the back seat of a red Kia Soul, Netflix filmed the pup napping for the 45-minute commute. Blue then got to know his bed, his food bowl, and the rest of his new home before falling back to sleep on a crew member’s lap as the humans watched episodes from Dogs: Season 1.
“We are so grateful they were there to chronicle all this, so we’ll be able to go back and relive those moments,” Krauss says. “They weren’t just a fly on the wall—they were helping us celebrate.”
That celebration peaked in late January as Blue was introduced to the world.
After a couple days of social media buzz and guest appearances on local newscasts, the future mascot finally got to meet the campus community he would soon represent. Students, faculty, and staff flooded Atherton Union for the afternoon debut of their new Dawg, cameras following close behind as Krauss carried Blue through the crowd on their way to the stage.
Then it was on to the big night: Blue’s first-ever game in Hinkle Fieldhouse. As Krauss carried the mascot-to-be out of the locker room on their way to the court, two crew members turned to him and asked, Are you ready for your life to change?
“That was their fifth visit,” Krauss says, “so we had just grown so close to them. They really understood how major this moment was for us, our families, and the Butler community.”
The Disarming Films crew stepped off the plane on February 29 with their eyes glistening. They’d spent the flight to Indy watching the rough cut of a Dogs episode now titled “Much Ado About Blue.” Upon arriving at Butler to film the changing of the collar, they said the story was so amazing it made them cry.
“They lived it. They had to travel, shoot it, and edit it together, and it still moved them to tears,” Kaltenmark says. “So, I thought, it must be pretty good.”
After the ceremony that officially marked the transition between mascots, crew members joined Kaltenmark, Krauss, and their families for an after-party at Chatham Tap. Filming wrapped up the following day.
“We experienced so many life-changing events during that year, and these folks were with us through it all,” Kaltenmark says. “Whenever they visited our house for interviews, it was like having your uncles and aunts over. They would be shooting hoops or down on the floor playing video games with the kids. They’re family.”
Dogs: Season 2 premiered on Netflix July 7. Early that morning, donuts in hand, the Krauss and Kaltenmark families crowded together on one couch to see a year of their lives play out on screen.
Both dogs watched along as the humans teared up during scenes about Kaltenmark’s surgery, Trip’s retirement. Kaltenmark felt a surreal sense of accomplishment.
“I’m very proud to be part of this,” he says. “With the amount of footage they captured, our story probably could have been its own series, so I think we all wanted a little more when the episode ended. But it’s really well done—50 minutes of Butler perfection.”
Krauss agrees. “We are able to relive some of the most impactful moments of our lives,” he says. “That is such a blessing.”
“Much Ado About Blue,” episode one of Dogs: Season 2, is now available to watch on Netflix.