Disabled dog in Dubuque becomes greeter

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — The English bulldog on wheels at PetSmart in Dubuque has a deceivingly delightful name.

Butterfly is owned by the store’s dog trainer, Jane Wickler, of Dubuque, who has more pep than the store’s “greeter.”

“Sometimes, customers are greeted with a snore,” Wickler said. “We just wake her up, and they feed her treats.”

The Telegraph Herald reports Butterfly has a dark pug face with sad-looking brown eyes. But her lower teeth protrude upward in a permanent smile. At the store, she is found in a “wheelchair” that stands about 1 foot tall and has a metal bar that provides additional support.

When Wickler pulls the rig around the store, customers often become the 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.

It wasn’t always that way.

Following an exhaustive search for a disabled pet, Wickler chose Butterfly last January. She fell in love with her picture on a Tennessee puppy mill’s website.

“I like the unadoptable ones,” said Wickler, who has owned several other disabled dogs. “I’m 48, trying to find my No. 1 dog.”

This one was dragging itself around by her front legs.

“Her back legs were splayed out, almost like butterfly wings,” Wickler said. “That’s how she got her name.”

As soon as Butterfly arrived in Dubuque, she was taken to the vet. The diagnosis was dreadful.

“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 and 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, and her back left leg was busted but never fixed.

After the vet visit, Wickler purchased the back section of the wheelchair for about $200. She hooked it up to the dog in her home, which she shares with her father, Bert Steger.

Butterfly took off.

“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 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.”

Butterfly becomes a part of the shopping experience.

“I love her snaggly tooth,” said Jason Ries, of Dyersville, Iowa, as he waited to check out with his wife Angie and their two children, Landon and Madalyn.

“He’s so cute! He’s so cute!” the children repeatedly said while petting the dog, who was wearing four layers of clothing to stay warm.

Butterfly’s peers are perplexed, however.

“We’ve had big dogs who get down and look at her trying to figure out where are her four legs,” Wickler said. “They get nosing around behind her and (wonder) why can’t they smell a dog butt on her, because she’s in a diaper from the paralysis.”

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.”

The greeter, who turns 3 in February, was very much alive her 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 rope now is tied to the front counter.

Wickler brings her to work about three or four times per week depending on the weather, but not when she is training other dogs.

“The only thing is, they’re a little bit of a lazy breed,” she said of the English bulldog. “We joke that she’s the worst employee at PetSmart because she falls asleep at work.”