Some universities are made to suffer the effects of odd, awkward or just downright weird mascots—consider Purdue Pete, Syracuse’s Otto the Orange, Delta State’s Fighting Okra and Stanford’s Cardinal Tree.
Butler University has been far more fortunate in this regard.
Not only is Butler Blue II, the current Butler mascot, still spunky in his seventh year of life —bulldogs usually live for about eight to 12 years—but he also consistently receives glowing remarks from his veterinarian, Kurt Phillips.
Bulldogs can face a large number of conventional health issues associated with the average bulldog.
The list of medical problems includes congenital heart disease, lymphoma, digestive disorders, loose kneecaps and pinched nostrils.
“Blue II is doing very well,” Phillips said. “He is quite athletic and fit for his breed, being kept so active.”
Butler also has a budget set aside for Blue II. The majority of it is used for marketing, and the costs of nearly all of Blue II’s needs—including transportation, food and health services—are met through donations and gifts.
The only major cost is time, according to his owner Michael Kaltenmark, director of web marketing communications.
“It’s all positive,” he said. “There are certainly sacrifices we make—our nights and weekends get chewed up—but we find time to catch up.”
“We keep him as healthy as we can,” Phillips said.
Phillips most recently extracted a tooth and has been dealing with Blue II’s reversed eyelashes for some time.
Both issues are relatively minor compared to the more common problems found in English bulldogs.
“We always have a hesitancy with older bulldogs,” Phillips said, “and Blue is certainly a senior in his breed.”
Kaltenmark said Blue II is doing amazingly well, especially for how packed his schedule is.
The photo shoots and high-scale appearances would be the first things to go if Blue II started wavering, Kaltenmark said.
“I am always cognizent of him giving me signals,” Kaltenmark said. “But he is completely taken care of.
“For example, [he has] built-in naps so he’s not overworked or overtired. We take advantage of the PR, but his health comes first.”
Butler’s bulldog mascot has represented the school all across the nation, from local appearances with children to nationally-televised features on ESPN.
Blue II has become a prime-time phenomenon, attracting nearly 10,000 followers on his Twitter account @ButlerBlue2, which is run by Kaltenmark.
Blue II also has his own website, YouTube channel, Facebook page and sponsorships, including support from Nike, Holistic Select and Good Dog Hotel and Spa.
“Blue II is not your average bulldog,” Kaltenmark said. “He’s got it made.”
The New York Times recently published an article covering the health of bulldogs used as mascots, pointing out the supposed abuse live mascots put up with.
The author of the piece, Benoit Denizet-Lewis, specifically mentioned a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to Georgia’s athletic director after the death of its last bulldog mascot, “asking him to use an ‘anamatronic dog’ or to rely solely on the school’s costumed bulldog mascot.”
“It is time for the university to put an end to the cycle of suffering endured by dogs who are brought into the world solely to represent the school’s brand,’’ PETA member Kristie Phelps said in the letter.
Any worry surrounding the well-being of Blue II has been kept to a minimum.
Butler’s future mascot, Blue III, could already be on his—or her—way, however.
The Twitter handle @ButlerBlue3 has already been claimed, with 72 followers and a biography pointing users to Blue II’s official Twitter account.
Blue II’s status as Butler’s mascot appears safe for now, though.
“If his health starts to deteriorate, that will be something to take note of,” Phillips said, “but I don’t anticipate that happening anytime soon.”