Michigan State's Josh Butler brings his dogs to Senior Day after the death of his parents

Liz Roscher

When college football programs have Senior Day for graduating football players, the players typically bring their parents with them to celebrate the day. That wouldn’t be possible for Michigan State cornerback Josh Butler, who lost both of his parents in the past two years. So instead, Butler brought his adorable dogs Roxy and Remi with him, and brought the excited pups onto the field as his family.

Butler adopted the dogs as a way to cope with his parents’ separate deaths. His father died in 2017, just ahead of MSU’s big matchup with Penn State. According to the Lansing State Journal, hours after Butler got a text from his father that read “Don’t forget to keep God first and play hard. U make daddy happy. Love u,” he got a text from his cousin telling him that his father was gone.

Butler vowed to play hard that day as a tribute to his father, and MSU upset Penn State 27-24.

A year and a half later, in spring 2019, Butler would get more bad news: his mother had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. He drove 18 hours to be at her bedside, and was able to hold her hand as she died.

Losing two parents in less than two years is a tremendous burden to carry, which is why Butler adopted Roxy and Remi. They helped him cope with his parents’ deaths, and helped him heal and become a more vibrant, friendly person. Once shy and quiet, Butler now has an Instagram that he uses to post pics and videos of his teammates and — of course — his dogs.

Butler’s teammates told the Lansing State Journal that he’s come out of his shell in a huge way since his parents died, but that doesn’t mean that Butler has forgotten them. He wears his father’s crematory tag around his neck, and has a pink breast cancer ribbon tattooed on his arm so he can always keep their memory close to him.

“It’s OK to cry sometimes,” he told the Journal. “At the end of the day, you just have to remember the impact they have had on my life, what they have taught me and how I will keep that as long as I live. Just knowing they are in a better place now and you still have to live your life as well.”

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