Butler Blue IV will start his term as official university live mascot after commencement on May 9. Photo by Meghan Stratton.
SORELL GROW | NEWS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
Butler students, faculty, staff, fans, alumni and Indianapolis residents have been waiting and wondering.
Who will be the next bulldog of Butler University? Who will run alongside the players as they take the Hinkle Fieldhouse court? Who will serve as the friendly, furry face to greet students on campus?
Who will succeed Trip as Butler Blue IV?
The questions have lingered since Butler University announced in October 2019 that the beloved live mascot Butler Blue III, or “Trip,” would be finishing his term at the end of the school year.
Today, the wait is over.
On Oct. 30, 2019, Butler Blue IV was born into a litter of three English bulldog puppies.
Evan Krauss, the official caretaker and handler of Blue IV, brought him home on Jan. 16, one day after Blue turned 11 weeks old.
Blue’s coloring is light brown and white. His wrinkly white face is contrasted by perky brown ears and a small patch of brown fur above his left eye; his “eyebrow,” as Krauss likes to call it.
“He’s a loving dog who likes to be held, but doesn’t have to be held,” Krauss said. “It’s just a nice, calm personality — so that, plus his good health, was why we chose him.”
Less than a week since being home, Blue has already been exposed to Trip, other dogs, babies and cats.
Unlike his predecessors, Blue II and Trip, who were both brought home at eight weeks old, Blue IV stayed with his littermates for a few more weeks of socialization.
“That extra four weeks has gotten him OK with a lot of things that can be hard to do without other litter puppies around,” Krauss said.
During Blue’s first days at home, Krauss is working with him on potty training, learning what “No” means and continued socialization. One of Krauss’ current tactics is to play the “Butler War Song” loudly in his apartment to get Blue accustomed to hearing it like he soon will at sporting events.
“I don’t know if I’m fully prepared — and I don’t really want to think about it too much — for that first time Blue gets to go on court at Hinkle, and we get to raise him up and the crowd goes wild for him,” Krauss said.
Blue’s first men’s basketball game for the public to meet him is at 9 p.m. against Marquette in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Jan. 24.
A dream come true
The university announced the retirement of Trip at the end of the school year on Oct. 22.
Michael Kaltenmark, director of community and government relations at Butler, will also retire from his position as Trip’s handler and caretaker, passing the torch to Krauss.
For Kaltenmark, this transition period is a bittersweet time, but overall positive.
“I love doing this work and it’s been a part of my identity at Butler for the last almost 16 years,” Kaltenmark said. “I’ve put a lot of time and energy into it, but at the same time I’m really excited about the direction we’re headed and Evan taking over.”
Kaltenmark said he’s excited about what he’ll be able to do career-wise and further expanding his role in the marketing office once he steps down as mascot handler.
“When it comes to fulfilling the duty and doing the job and being a good steward of the position, I feel well-prepared for that,” Krauss said. “When it comes to my emotional side of it, I’m over the moon.”
Krauss said prepared is a good term to describe how he feels about taking on the responsibility of mascot handler, having worked alongside Kaltenmark and Trip for the past six years.
“It’s hard for me to take the leash from Michael’s hand and take the collar from Trip for my dream to come true,” Krauss said. “It’s the job that I’ve always wanted, it’s the dog I’ve always wanted, but in order to have this dream come true, he [Michael] has to stop being the official caretaker and Trip has to stop being the official mascot.”
A mascot handler six years in the making
Krauss graduated from Butler in 2016 with a degree in digital media production and strategic communication. His sophomore year, he landed a position as Kaltenmark’s intern for the mascot program in Butler’s marketing office.
He finished out the rest of his undergraduate years working with Kaltenmark, and Trip, in the live mascot program. After graduation in 2016, he landed a year-long position in the marketing office as a graphic design contractor.
“I would’ve taken any position at Butler, I would’ve done any job just to stay because I’d found a really nice home for myself,” Krauss said. “Luckily, my number one position kind of came to fruition, so it’s a dream come true.”
After a year, it was determined that the live mascot program had enough credibility and momentum, so they brought on Krauss full time to expand the program.
From that point on, Krauss has worked as Kaltenmark’s right hand man in the mascot program and marketing office, assisting him at games, surprise acceptance letter deliveries and other appearances.
As for Krauss’ relationship with Trip, who Krauss has known since he was a year and a half old, the two are “best buds.” Though Krauss works daily with Trip, he is actually allergic to dogs, and takes Zyrtec and Singulair to manage his allergies.
“It’s not just dogs, I’m allergic to basically anything that’s alive or grows,” Krauss said. “It’s not that bad, I have a great allergist.”
Picking “the one”
The process to select the university’s mascot is extensive, detailed and kept a secret between very few key people.
In selecting Blue IV, Kaltenmark and Krauss worked closely with Kurt Phillips, a ‘92 Butler alumnus and owner of City Way Animal Clinics.
Phillips has been the official veterinarian for Butler’s live mascot program since its inception, when Butler Blue I became the university’s first live mascot in 1998. All of his veterinary services for Butler’s mascots are gifts to the university and free of charge.
“I feel very prideful that I can do that for the university that gave me so much, years ago,” Phillips said. “And it’s simple, it’s easy for me, it’s fun. I love seeing the dogs.”
Phillips and Kaltenmark started preemptively discussing Trip’s successor about two years ago.
“I jokingly said to Michael, ‘Hey, we need to start thinking about a retiree,’ and he looked around and said, ‘He’s only six, Kurt, like, why are you — why are you even talking about it?’” Phillips said.
It was always the plan that when Trip turned seven in the Spring of 2019 — in the middle of basketball season — Phillips would do a full health evaluation. It was determined that Trip could finish out that season, as well as work one more healthily.
A few months later, in May 2019, the team made the decision to retire Trip the following year, which included creating the “One Last Trip” marketing campaign, so they started communicating with bulldog breeders to gauge interest for the next mascot.
As tradition stands since Blue II, every puppy chosen to be the next mascot is donated as a gift to the university. Each interested breeder and their parent dogs attended evaluations with Phillips before moving any further in the process.
“We had many that didn’t muster,” Phillips said. “We said ‘Thanks, but no thanks. There’s something about your dog that I as a veterinarian have concerns about, whether it be a potentially genetic problem, or whether it was a behavioral characteristic.’”
Health-wise, Phillips examined the parent dogs for steady and good breathing patterns, elongated noses and snouts, tall and strong legs, longer bodies for improved mobility. He also closely studied the medical history and lineage of the mother and father bulldogs.
“At any step of the way, you know, Michael and Evan said to me, “Hey, if this is not the right dog, you tell us, you know, and we will, we’ll just politely back away,’” Phillips said. “But everything worked. And the dog is amazing.”
Considering male versus female
The selected breeders for Blue’s litter, Jodi and Cameron Madaj, are the same family who owns Trip’s sister.
“Jodi and her husband have been very, very kind and generous through this whole process and have done exactly what I’ve asked them to do,” Phillips said. “They’ve met all the requirements and have really cared for the litter of puppies from day one.”
Blue has two sisters, Marshmallow and Princess Picklejuice — or Pickles, for short.
Once Phillips determined the entire litter would be healthy, he considered all three as potential mascots.
“There was a lot of discussion about well, gosh, what if we took another male and there were two really viable females that were options and we didn’t pick them? What’s society going to say?” Phillips said.
Ultimately, Blue was selected for his calm and easygoing demeanor, which his sisters did not embody as consistently.
“This is not a sexist comment at all, but we see it a lot that female dogs are just, they’re harder to socialize and to be just laid back, or you know, let you do whatever you want to them-kind-of creatures,” Phillips said. “Male dogs do tend to be that way.”
Krauss started visiting the litter once they were about two weeks old and before the mascot was selected, and from the beginning, Blue stood out.
“The girls would sit for a little bit, then they would scurry off,” Krauss said. “And he would just sit there, and I would move his paw or make him sit a different way or move him around, and he was just fine for that. That’s carried on ever since.”
Trip’s final semester
Trip, who will turn eight this spring, has served as Butler’s third official live mascot since March 2013. He’ll continue to live with the Kaltenmark family and be their family pet once he retires from mascot duties in May.
“When it comes to Trip specifically, I’m sad,” Kaltenmark said. “While he is eight [years old], he has not lost a step, like he just keeps going and we’re eventually going to have to shut that down for him, and I’m not sure how well he’s going to take that.”
As for Trip’s role now that his successor has been chosen, he is still Butler’s official mascot until spring commencement on May 9.
“If the question is, ‘Does Blue go to an event, or does Trip?’ Trip goes to that event,” Krauss said. “He is our official mascot, he is our official Twitter, that’s him. Give him his due until May.”
The transition between Kaltenmark and Krauss as official caretaker and handler of the university’s mascot has more gray area.
Kaltenmark is currently recovering from a kidney transplant he underwent on Jan. 10, and is therefore restricted from handling Trip, a 70-pound English bulldog with ample energy and strength, for the time-being.
Due to this, Krauss has been taking Trip to recent events while Kaltenmark recovers from surgery.
“As he’s home with me as I recover, I think he’s happy to be with me but he’s not really happy to just stay at home,” Kaltenmark said. “He looks at me like ‘Are we gonna go do something?’ And I don’t blame him, I kind of feel the same way, so I’m already getting a glimpse of what retirement is going to be like for him.”
Kaltenmark, his wife and two sons currently live in Apartment Village with Trip. In the next year, the family plans to move off campus, and will bring Trip with them.
“I know he’s just not going to enjoy it, but we’ll work through it,” Kaltenmark said.
Over the past year and a half in preparation for becoming handler, Krauss has been taking over some day-to-day responsibilities, such as managing Trip’s calendar, fulfilling appearance requests, managing the social media accounts and planning and executing Butler Bound surprise visits to homes of prospective students.
“For me, it’s the literal handing over of the leash,” Kaltenmark said. “I’ll still be there to provide support and a little more of the strategic vision, but it’s really going to be Evan’s program to foster and implement and run with.”
Kaltenmark said when Blue IV is out with Krauss, whether it’s on campus or out on the road, chances are he’ll still go with them. From a visibility perspective, it won’t look much different, except that Evan will be holding the leash.
“Part of the reason it’s so bittersweet is because I owe so much of my professional career, but also my collegiate career to Trip and Michael,” Krauss said. “Our relationship is definitely not going to change, which is great.”
A new era begins
Krauss and Blue will do promotional press visits on Jan. 22 and 23, then students, faculty and staff can meet Blue in the Reilly Room at 3 p.m. on Jan. 24.
As for Blue’s training, Jan. 22 is his first day on the job, and he has until commencement in May to lean on Trip for guidance.
“That’s the thing about this job, it’s a dream job and it’s awesome but it always has a sad ending, if you think about it,” Kaltenmark said. “They don’t live forever, I wasn’t going to be able to do it forever, that’s just the nature of it and you have to come to terms with that. But the positives always outweigh the negatives.”