English Bulldogs are adorable, friendly and funny. That’s exactly why Jane Wickler of Dubuque, Iowa, wanted one, and she’s not alone — the breed is one of the most popular in America. Year after year, more families make room for a Bulldog, but few would take a dog like Jane’s pup, Butterfly. Paralyzed and incontinent by age 2, Butterfly was considered unadoptable by many, but to Jane, this puppy mill survivor is absolutely perfect.
“I first saw her on a website,” Jane explains. “She had gone from a puppy mill to a rescue group.”
“They were unable to put her up for adoption until they had a wheelchair for her, so I paid for the wheelchair and went down and got her.”
Jane traveled from Iowa to Tennessee last April to pick up her new family member, who — despite a multitude of physical problems — had exactly the kind of cheerful personality she’d imagined. Butterfly was thrilled to meet her new human and took to her wheelchair like she’d been driving one her whole life.
“She was just a maniac that first day. The wheelchair company had said, ‘put her in for 10 minutes at a time and teach her to go forward,’ but that first night, she was spinning wheelies! She didn’t need to learn how to use it.”
When the duo arrived in Iowa, Jane took Butterfly to the vet to see if she could learn more about how the young dog had ended up without the use of her back legs. Jane wondered if the dog had been dropped or perhaps run over, but the X-rays revealed something even worse.
“It actually looks like she was sitting like a dog sits and somebody came up behind her and kicked her with such force they jammed all her vertebrae up,” Jane explains. “There is one break in the vertebrae, down at the bottom, where it is completely broken, down at the bottom of her spine. Otherwise, at the top of her spine, the vertebrae are all jammed together.”
Butterfly’s back left leg was also broken and never set, and her stomach had been dislodged from its natural location.
Jane also told the vet how she’d noticed a bit of blood on her lap while holding Butterfly on the way home. At first she’d thought maybe Butterfly was in heat, but realized that couldn’t be right, as the dog had very recently whelped a litter of puppies.
The veterinarian shaved Butterfly’s back end and discovered a sore in the dog’s diaper area, right in the paralysis zone.
“At the rescue, she’d been dragging herself around on a dirt lot. We’re guessing it’s something that happened there,” Jane says.
With antibiotics for the sore, Butterfly went home to start her new life. She thrived in Jane’s care, and less than two months after her adoption, Butterfly started accompanying the dog trainer to her job at the PetSmart in Dubuque where she became the store’s canine greeter.
“She comes in when I’m at the register doing customer service,” Jane explains. “It depends on the shift, but she’s usually there about four days a week. She took a few days off last winter — we have those really super cold days — because she does sit in front of the door.”
Butterfly loved the attention she got from customers, and became something of a celebrity around town. Unfortunately, the many antibiotics prescribed for her rear-end sore didn’t work as well as hoped, and in February Butterfly had to have surgery to remove cyst material, scar tissue and necrotic tissue from the wound.
Forced to take a break from work while recovering from surgery, Butterfly is eager to get back to the store and once again receive cookies from Jane’s customers. For now, the little dog is busy getting better, and Jane is busy providing support to other Bulldog people whose dogs are facing paralysis and a future in diapers.
“These dogs can still have good lives. Just because a Bulldog is incontinent isn’t a reason to put it down,” she explains. “[Butterfly] is a happy, loving girl. She is just such a bundle of joy.”