Blue II, the male English bulldog who served as Butler University’s live mascot from 2004-2013, died on Saturday, Aug. 31, due to complications from congestive heart failure. He was 9 years old.
An American Kennel Club-registered dog, Blue became known as “America’s Dog” in 2010 and 2011 when the Butler men’s basketball team played for the NCAA national championship. Blue appeared on the floor of every Butler men’s basketball home game, select away games, and the 2010 and 2011 Final Four games.
Blue retired from live mascot duties on May 20. He officially handed over duties to 1-year-old Butler Blue III, also known as Trip, during a “Changing of the Collar” ceremony in Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 9. In retirement, Blue made fewer public appearances, but he continued to come to his campus office on a regular basis and post on his various social media profiles.
“Blue really galvanized the pride and tradition of having a live mascot at Butler,” said Michael Kaltenmark, Blue’s caretaker. “His daily presence on campus, online, and at everything from athletic events to black tie galas made him a living and breathing fixture of the Butler brand. He was born for the role.”
“Blue epitomized The Butler Way,” University President James M. Danko said. “Without saying a word, Blue demonstrated perfect loyalty, team spirit, and steadfast pride in representing the University to the world.
“And he always made people smile,” Danko said. “We will miss him very much.”
Blue’s painted portrait will be on display at Starbucks in Butler’s Atherton Union from 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, through the weekend for community members who want to pay tribute.
Blue was bred by Frank and Jeane King of Kong King Kennel in Lizton, Ind., and was presented to Butler as a puppy. He was cared for by Kaltenmark, a 2002 Butler graduate and director of Web Marketing at the University. Kaltenmark also served as the bulldog’s voice on Facebook, where he was liked by more than 8,900 people, and Twitter, where he had more than 13,500 followers. In 2011, Klout, a company that measures influence in social media, named Blue’s Twitter feeds among the nation’s Top 10 most influential accounts representing a college or university.
Blue and Trip gained wide media attention at the start of 2013 with the Big Dawgs Tour, on which they traveled to 10 states with the Butler men’s basketball team, visiting U.S. landmarks and attending road games in East Coast markets such as Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, D.C.
Blue was recognized at this year’s Butler Commencement ceremony, walking across the stage after Class of 2013 graduates.
The dog also had his own website, a vehicle provided by Don Hinds Ford, veterinarian care compliments of Butler grad Dr. Kurt Phillips ‘92, a ceremonial silver and leather collar designed by Reis-Nichols, and a host of other sponsors such as the dog food brand Holistic Select.
Over the years, Blue became a media sensation, hobnobbing with celebrities including Colin Powell, Jimmy Fallon, and Jillian Michaels. During the 2011 Final Four in Houston, Blue also met the likes of former President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush.
In an “interview” with Indianapolis Monthly magazine, Blue explained his duties: “At the core of my ‘job responsibilities’ is to truly be an ambassador for Butler University. I’ve found that if I stick to that, then the rest seems to take care of itself. Of course, you can find me at University sporting events, performances, dinners, receptions, admissions events, etc. You name it, I’ve probably done it. I’m also a bit of a spokesdoggy, too, having done numerous media appearances and a great deal of community relations work.”
Blue was Butler’s second live mascot. He replaced Blue I, who was owned by alumna Kelli Walker. She moved from Indianapolis in 2004 to Bellingham, Wash., and eventually to the Chicago, Ill., area, where she and Blue I still reside.
Blue is survived by his “dad” and “mom,” Michael and Tiffany Kaltenmark; his human brother Everett Kaltenmark; and his doggie brother Butler Blue III (Trip).
Michael Kaltenmark said Blue was a master at turning it on when the cameras were rolling and turning it off when they weren’t. He always knew the difference.
“Blue had an uncanny ability to rise to the occasion,” Kaltenmark said. “Whether it was live TV, a visit with elementary school kids, or just a photo shoot, he was a professional. I think it afforded him the respect and envy of a lot of other schools and fans.”
Shortly after his retirement in May, Blue’s health began to decline. The onset of congestive heart failure, compounded by Cushing’s Disease, caused further physical deterioration, and eventually led to Blue’s passing. Still, the situation did not deter Blue or the Butler faithful.
“The outpouring of support for Blue in his final days was emotionally overwhelming,” Kaltenmark said. “The circumstances were less than ideal, but the Butler community and our fans really rallied around him. Even in the end, Blue demonstrated great character and the gift to bring us all together. He will forever be remembered as a Butler legend.”
The University is planning a Bulldog Memorial to honor and remember Blue and all of Butler’s live mascots—past, present, and future. Fundraising for the memorial began with a generous gift from the Butler class of 2013 and Blue’s friends and fans can add their support at this online giving site: https://www.alumniconnections.com/olc/pub/BUU/onlinegiving/showGivingForm.jsp?form_id=158849. Any funds raised above and beyond those needed for the Bulldog Memorial will support the Campaign for Hinkle Fieldhouse.