Butterfly’s co-workers joke that she’s the laziest employee at the Dubuque, IA, PetsMart where she works as a greeter because she sometimes falls asleep on the job. But they knew she was an English bulldog when they hired her. (And they are known to be a bit snoozy!)
Her owner is the store’s dog trainer, Jane Wickler.
“Sometimes, customers are greeted with a snore,” Wickler told the Telegraph Herald. “We just wake her up, and they feed her treats.”
Although her face, with its expressive brown eyes, can appear a little sad, her protruding underbite is fixed in a permanent smile. She navigates the store in a foot-tall wheelchair with a small bar that provides some additional support. When customers get a look at her, it’s they who often act first as greeters.
“I just love her teeth and those rolls on her chubby face,” Mateah Reisdorf of Dubuque said as she snapped a photo of Butterfly.
“She just looks so content,” Heidi Reisdorf added.
Wickler, that wonderful rare breed who actively seeks disabled or “unadoptable pets” (she owns several disabled dogs), found Butterfly on a Tennessee puppy mill’s website. At the time, the dog was getting about by dragging herself by her front legs.
“Her back legs were splayed out, almost like butterfly wings,” Wickler said. “That’s how she got her name.”
When Butterfly arrived in Dubuque, Wickler took her to the vet, whose theories about her condition were horrifying.
“What we actually think happened was, she was just sitting like a dog does, and somebody came up behind her and kicked her with so much force, that it knocked her stomach out of her abdomen to the left side, jammed the vertebrae up and blew the disc.
“She was having babies like that, with a fresh cesarean when I got there,” Wickler said.
She also was paralyzed, with an injured back leg that had never been fixed.
Wickler purchased the back section of the wheelchair for about $200 and got Butterfly into it at her house, which she shares with her father, Bert Steger. Butterfly was energized immediately.
“She was zooming all over the place. It was obvious she hadn’t been paralyzed for too long because she easily knew how to go left and to go right,” Wickler said. “Dad was down on his knees, kissing her. He was so happy.”
Butterfly astonishes Wickler’s store manager Marco Sanders.
“It shows we can make a difference,” he said. “There are opportunities to have amazing, soulful animals if you look beyond.”
Sanders said it might not be appropriate policy to have a dog greeter, but he couldn’t turn down Wickler’s request after she adopted her unadoptable pet.
“It’s like this has saved (Butterfly’s) life in so many ways,” he said. “I want people to see that we have a responsibility to care for the Earth and that animals are a part of it.”
Although Wickler said her pet is doing fine now, not everyone appreciates seeing a dog on wheels.
“Ninety-nine percent love her,” she said. “But a couple of people said I should kill her, put her down.”
Butterfly, who will turn 3 in February, was full of life from her very first day on the job.
“She wandered outside,” Wickler said, with a laugh. “Somebody said, ‘Where’s Butterfly?’ We looked out, and she was sitting on the curb, looking like she was waiting for a taxi.”
Her lead is now tied to the front counter.