Butler Blue I, the white English bulldog who served as Butler University’s first official live mascot, died this morning, Friday, May 30, 2014. She was 13 years old.
Blue I was born September 23, 2000, at Frank and Jeane King’s Kong King Kennel in Lizton, Indiana. She served as Butler University’s official mascot from 2000–2004, and then accompanied her human companion, Kelli Walker ’91, to Bellingham, Washington; Morris, Illinois; and Chicago.
“For over 13 years Blue lived an extraordinary life. Her noble heart stopped today; instead of feeling empty, my heart is twice as full for loving her,” said Walker.
The concept of “Butler Blue” existed for about a year before Blue I, as she was known, became an integral part of life at Butler University and beyond. Walker worked in Butler’s Office of Alumni and Parent Programs from 1998–2004; in 1999, Walker began exploring what a live mascot program would encompass.
Under the initially skeptical—and ultimately, supportive—leadership of William T. Farkas ’88, then Executive Director of Alumni and Development Programs, Walker gathered information from peer institutions (including Drake University, University of Georgia, and Yale University). Then-Butler President Gwen Fountain supported the initiative, and in fact insisted on including Blue I in her presidential portrait, which currently hangs in Robertson Hall.
Carving out a place in an academic institution for a live mascot program was a multi-faceted effort, including securing financial support from an anonymous alumni donor (to purchase the original dog; subsequent mascots have been donated generously by Kong King Kennel, which quickly became beloved members of the Butler family), food, and veterinary care (Dr. Kurt Phillips ‘92), as well as managing the complex logistics of the day-to-day life of a mascot.
In fall 2000, Butler held a community-wide naming contest for the new mascot. While “Hinkle,” “Hampton,” and even “Buttercup” were popular vote-getters, “Butler Blue” was the top choice.
Butler Blue I made her inaugural appearance on the court of Hinkle Fieldhouse, carried in the arms of the costumed bulldog mascot (now known as “Hink”). In addition to attending men’s and women’s basketball games—where she rallied with the cheerleaders and the Dawg Pound before retiring to the bleachers to sleep—Blue I attended other collegiate sporting events and made regular visits to classrooms, residence halls, campus events, staff and faculty events, commencement, and even the annual Rejoice holiday concert, where she rode a sleigh across stage to the tune of “Blue Christmas.”
“Bulldog Fridays” drew great numbers of visitors to the Alumni Office in Robertson Hall.
Blue I traveled to the NCAA Tournament in 2003, where she famously was “sneaked into” a hotel under the cover of a Butler hooded sweatshirt and the Butler University Pep Band.
Blue I was almost all white with brown spotted ears. She maintained an ideal conformation her entire life and was not plagued by health problems typical of many bulldogs.
Blue I loved playing tug with her rope toy, lying in the grass at her grandparents’ home, eating carrots and apples, and sleeping under a blanket. In her later years she became close buddies with her two feline brothers. She appeared on stage in Chicago as “Rufus” in “Legally Blonde,” proving that, even at age 12, she still could take the stage and capture the hearts of an audience.
As the matriarch of a Butler Bulldog legacy, Blue I will rest in peace along side her successor, Butler Blue II (March 24, 2004–August 31, 2013), in a new Bulldog Memorial currently being erected on campus. The memorial—a gift of the Class of 2013 along with support from generous donors to the Campaign for Hinkle Fieldhouse and live mascot program—will be dedicated at Butler’s Homecoming festivities in September of this year.
Current mascot duties are being assumed by Butler Blue III (December 23, 2011)—a red brindle English bulldog, also from Kong King Kennel—who took over for Blue II in spring 2013. For more information on Butler University’s live mascot program, visit ButlerBlue.com.
Those wishing to honor the life and service of Blue I may make a gift in her memory to the Bulldog Memorial. To do so, visit Butler’s online giving site, select “Other” from the gift designation drop-down menu and enter “Bulldog Memorial” in the space provided. Additional information about the Bulldog Memorial is available at ButlerBlue.com.