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Butler’s bulldog mascot helps handler Michael Kaltenmark’s recovery from kidney transplant

Not even life-saving surgery and IV pumps can separate a man from his dog.

Michael Kaltenmark, who developed Butler University’s mascot into a recognizable symbol nationally, had a 40th birthday Friday like no other. After a kidney transplant Thursday, he reunited at IU Health University Hospital with Butler Blue III, the bulldog that promotes his beloved university.

Of course, Trip (as in triple) was being Trip. The dog was as eager to gulp a bowl of water as he was to be kissed by his handler.

“I love that dog,” Kaltenmark said. “He’s an idiot, but I love him.”

Kaltenmark’s brother, Doug, 46, of Columbus, Ohio, was the donor. Michael was diagnosed with kidney failure last year after doctors discovered medicine to treat Crohn’s disease had harmed his kidneys.

Michael conceded his side was tender from the incision, but his color was good and heart was full.

His voice broke as he spoke about Trip, who has allowed Kaltenmark a platform to encourage sign-ups for kidney donation, and about his brother.

“I don’t want to spend my 40th birthday in the hospital. But it’s a pretty amazing gift,” he said.

Kaltenmark’s doctor, William Goggins, said that the surgery lasted about 2½ hours and that the patient could be released by Monday. Easiest transplant “in my last 50,” he said.

“Doesn’t even look like he had a transplant.”

Kidney transplants are not magic, Goggins said. Dogs might be. They put people in a better frame of mind, the surgeon said, and patients consequently do better in recovery.

Seeing Trip was therapeutic.

Evan Krauss, who takes over as handler of Butler’s live mascot after this school year, told Kaltenmark:

“He missed you.”

Trip, too, retires after this year. Butler will introduce a new bulldog mascot.
Kaltenmark said anti-rejection medication caused nausea, making for a rough night. He was much improved Friday and looking forward to the sixth-ranked Bulldogs’ basketball game at Providence, which they won 70-58. First thing he checked in his hospital room was that TV channels included FS1, the network for most Big East games.

“Let’s hope they play well. I don’t want to have to yell at the TV,” Kaltenmark said.

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