Nobody panic; Butter the chemistry corgi is doing alright during the pandemic

Despite restrictions, she’s able to go to the dog park, walk around campus and receive all the attention she’s used to.


Emily Pofahl

Butter the Chemistry Corgi poses for a portrait near the St. Paul Student Center on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

by Emalyn Muzzy, Arts and Entertainment Reporter

On the University of Minnesota’s Northrop Mall, a small corgi runs around. She curiously sniffs as she rummages through the bushes, pulling on her leash as students walk past and garnering smiles from various passersby who are too shy to say hi.

Before COVID-19 shut down campus, seeing Butter the chemistry corgi was a regular occurrence for students. Butter’s owner, Bach Nguyen, a graduate student studying computational chemistry, would regularly bring her to work at Kolthoff Hall and walk her around campus multiple times a day.

In the age of COVID, Nguyen mostly works from home but still shares Butter’s life by walking around campus several times a week, sending her on walks with third-year chemistry student Liz Schulz and posting on Butter’s Instagram account.

Butter, described by Nguyen as, “hyper, very hyper,” has become famous on campus. She’s recognized by students who became accustomed to her regular walks, who follow her Instagram, or who, like Schulz, showed up at Nguyen’s office just to meet her.

Schulz said she had Nguyen as a teacher’s assistant last semester and soon began showing up at his office every day to meet with Butter. Eventually Nguyen started sending her out on daily walks with Butter.

Because Nguyen is rarely in his office these days, Schulz, who thinks of herself as Butter’s “cool aunt,” stops by his home and continues to take Butter out for walks once a week.

“If I’m having a down day or am stressed out about school, she helps me get out of my head,” Schulz said.

While Schulz and Nguyen agree that Butter would make a terrible therapy dog, her existence helps them — and others — destress.

“Therapy dogs are trained to be calm and nice, but she’s more playful,” Nguyen said. He thinks that sets her apart from therapy animals; people find her comforting because she’s more energetic.

Nguyen said Butter is handling the pandemic well, because she gets enough walks to sustain her energy levels. But she’s ready to go back to her old routine. Sze Cheng, Ngyuen’s wife and a biochemistry graduate student, said that Butter’s an extrovert and misses meeting new people.

Nguyen and Cheng adopted Butter in October of 2019 and began bringing her on campus to help socialize her shortly afterwards. Cheng said it was important to socialize her early in her life.

Nguyen also didn’t want to leave his baby corgi behind while he was at work.

When he first started bringing her in, there were no rules on whether he was allowed to have a dog at work. Soon after, because of Butter, his department created animal guidelines, and he was able to get Butter registered with the University.

The chemistry department has wholeheartedly welcomed Butter. She’s made friends like Schulz and Mollie Dunlap, an assistant to the chemistry department head, who even bought her a custom University of Minnesota dog jacket with “Butter” stitched into it.

When asked if Nguyen was surprised at people’s reaction to her on campus, he laughed and said, “It’s a baby corgi! I’d be slightly concerned if everybody didn’t respond.”