It’s a cold December morning in downtown Indianapolis, and the Fountain Square Animal Clinic is about to open.
A red jeep pulls into the parking lot, and out hops a 14-week-old french bulldog. He trots with his owner into the Clinic. A few more cars pull in. Two cats head inside, followed by a lab mix.
Then, a white Toyota RAV4 pulls right up to the Clinic’s front door, bypassing the whole parking thing. A man and a woman emerge from the car, grab a plastic Bella Storage Solution 67-liter bin, and hurry inside. It’s impossible to see through the bin, as layers of blankets cover the sides.
No one knows it at the time, but about an hour later, it becomes official: The bin is holding the next Butler University live mascot, Butler Blue IV.
That day in December, Butler Blue IV was a six-week-old, five pound, American Kennel Club-Registered English Bulldog puppy in a bin with his two sisters. After full-body x-rays, shots, and a close examination by clinic owner Kurt Phillips ‘92, it was determined that the next live mascot would be this dog. Phillips, who delivered the three siblings on October 30, 2019, was in the room with breeders Jodi and Cameron Madaj, as well as current mascot handler Michael Kaltenmark (who owns Butler Blue III “aka Trip”), and the next live mascot handler, Evan Krauss.
The decision marked the end of a process much longer than a one-hour vet appointment. It was a journey that technically started in December 2018, when Kaltenmark, Krauss, and Phillips determined it would be best for Trip to retire at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year due to his older age and long tenure on the job.
But it also marked the beginning of the next phase of preparations for introducing a new live mascot. Now, about a month later, the puppy who snuck into the clinic in a plastic bin has grown into a 12-week-old, 20 pound dog. He has experienced more of the mascot lifestyle—posing for photo shoots, growing out of two Butler jerseys, and listening to a cranked-up Butler fight song on repeat to simulate a raucous Hinkle Fieldhouse. He’s also been exposed to many different people, taken trips to Home Depot, and grown used to the sound of banging pots and pans.
But Blue has also been adjusting to, well, life. He moved away from his two sisters and mother into his new home at 10 weeks old. He’s learning to go to the bathroom outside, and how to walk on a leash.
Butler Blue IV has lived in near anonymity since he was born in October. But as the new mascot-in-training until he takes over full-time when Trip retires in May, the days of being toted around in secret bins are about to be long gone.
How it all began
It was December 2018, and Butler Blue III “aka Trip” had recently turned seven. Kaltenmark and Krauss took him to the vet’s office to see Phillips. Trip was in good health, but Phillips said it would be best if they didn’t push him past his eighth season.
“Trip has been great, and he had no chronic or recurring health issues, but we wanted to make sure we didn’t push him too far,” Phillips says.
In May, Kaltenmark and Krauss sat down and solidified a succession plan. But it didn’t exactly start with talking about Trip and the next dog. Instead, the plan focused on Kaltenmark—the man who has overseen Butler’s live mascot program for 16 years.
At first, Kaltenmark was excited to start again with Butler Blue IV. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized it might be best for him to take a step back.
“I have been married for 16 years, and I’ve been the mascot handler for 16 years,” he says. “My boys are getting older, and they have schedules that compete with the mascot’s schedule.”
Then there was the kidney diagnosis. Kaltenmark was first told in December 2018 that his kidneys were failing. He needed a transplant. He received one from his brother in early January 2020.
“It just made sense to get out of my own way and hand this on to someone who is extremely prepared and ready for this, and that is Evan,” says Kaltenmark, who still plans to stay very involved in the live mascot program after the 2019-2020 academic year.
Once the team settled on a handler, it was time to start looking for the next dog.
Kaltenmark and Krauss relied on Phillips to identify potential litters of bulldog puppies. Phillips interviewed several breeders. He also conducted pre-breeding exams that took health, temperament, and timing into consideration.
They went through about four or five litters, but none of the puppies quite fit what they needed in terms of health and timing. Then, the Madajs entered the picture.
How to find a dog
Jodi Madaj has always been a dog person.
Growing up in Danville, Illinois, she would find stray dogs and bring them to her grandparents’ house. At times there would be eight, nine, even 10 dogs there, all courtesy of Madaj.
That love of dogs has not waned. Madaj, her husband, and their two kids have had basset hounds, boxers, and german boxers, but her son always wanted a bulldog. So, in 2003, Madaj and her husband bought a bulldog puppy, put it in a box with a bow on top, and gave it to their son as a Christmas present. In 2011, they got another: Phoebe, also known as Trip’s sister. Phoebe had puppies in 2013, and the Madajs, of course, kept two of the puppies.
“I am more of a collector than a breeder,” Madaj says.
One of those puppies, Trixie, had a litter of seven in 2016. One of those puppies, Violet, would end up becoming the mother of Butler Blue IV.
Madaj also has a love for Butler. Her kids grew up going to camps at the University, and her son played soccer there. Sixteen years ago, her love of Butler and bulldogs led her to strike up a conversation with Kaltenmark, and she has been bringing pre-game treats for Butler’s live mascots ever since.
When Madaj heard that Trip was retiring, she thought about donating a puppy from Violet’s litter.
“I wanted to donate a dog if I had a healthy dog,” Madaj says. “I wanted to do it because I thought it was the right thing to do.”
Violet gave birth to three healthy puppies on October 30, 2019. But, it was not immediately clear if one would be the next Butler mascot.
The puppies were fed every two hours around the clock for the first three weeks. Madaj slept right next to Violet on the couch every single night. For the first six weeks, Madaj never left the puppies alone.
Then, there was the secret part of it all. Madaj told her kids, but not her mother, hiding Violet in the bedroom when her mother came over.
“She has a big mouth,” Madaj says.
All three of Violet’s puppies ended up being healthy. But during the six-week-old visit with Phillips is December, he decided that one of them stuck out. One of the puppies had a respiratory problem, and the other was a bit aggressive. The third was just right.
“There’s a lot to consider with bulldogs, and we looked at everything,” says Phillips, who has been involved with caring for the Butler mascot since he volunteered to give back to his alma mater in the form of vet care for the first bulldog. “He will be awesome. He is a super cool puppy. He is super easy going and not aggressive at all. Everything fell in line with this dog.”
“He is special,” Madaj says. “When you spend basically 24 hours a day with a dog for three months, you get to know him really well. It will be really hard to leave him, but I know he is going to a great cause—to represent a wonderful institution.”
Madaj, who ended up keeping one of the three puppies, texts Krauss all the time, reminding him not to pick up Blue by the back legs. When Krauss came to pick up Blue in mid-January, she gave him a laminated binder full of instructions, and she cried. About 20 minutes after Krauss left, Madaj texted to see how everything was going.
Everything is new
Butler Blue IV isn’t the only one adjusting to a new life. Krauss, the new mascot handler, is adjusting, too.
Krauss has never owned a dog in his life. When he was growing up, the Krausses were—you guessed it—cat people. Krauss is allergic to dogs, which sometimes even causes him to throw up.
But that didn’t stop him. He would ask his parents for a dog for his birthday, Christmas, New Year’s—every single holiday. Then, when his older sister became a Butler cheerleader and Krauss started going to every basketball game, the team he fell in love with had a dog as their mascot.
“It was the coolest thing ever,” Krauss says. “My Verizon flip phone background was Blue II.”
In his sophomore year at Butler, Krauss applied to join the Butler Blue Crew. The student group helped Kaltenmark with the mascot program, filming video of Trip or assisting at events. Krauss had to lie during his interview when asked if he was allergic to dogs.
After graduation, Krauss joined Kaltenmark’s team permanently to manage the day-to-day operations of the Butler Blue live mascot program.
Now, he is taking over handler duties. The spare bedroom of his apartment is stocked with dog toys, a crate, and food. He checked all his house plants to make sure they weren’t poisonous for animals.
And then there’s the whole new parent thing. Krauss called Kaltenmark when he thought Blue’s stool was a little soft. Kaltenmark assured him it was normal for a puppy, but he brought it to the vet to be sure. Then there was the time Blue’s face turned a bit red after some shots. So, Krauss called the vet, who assured him it was normal, and Kaltenmark brought benadryl over.
“This is my dream come true,” he says. “It is certainly an adjustment, but I couldn’t be more grateful and honored to have this opportunity.”
Butler Blue IV will officially be introduced to the community at his first basketball game on Friday, January 24. Until taking over as full-time mascot at the end of the academic year, he’ll be meeting students, adjusting to his home, and learning how to be the Butler Bulldog.
But behind the scenes, he will focus on going to the bathroom outside, socializing with other dogs, and the adjustment to life without his siblings. It’s an adjustment for everyone.
Senior News Content Manager