Cancer survivor finds a friend in flightless butterfly

Tracy Pepper and her pet butterfly Fluffy.
Tracy Pepper

Tracy Pepper and her pet butterfly Fluffy.

It is a story to get hearts fluttering: a cancer survivor and her soaring friendship with a butterfly.

Fluffy the butterfly isn't fluffy and he can't fly. The most air he gets is from hanging off his owner's nose.

Tracy Pepper said the unusual, domesticated butterfly also likes to perch on her ear, shoulder and chest.

"He is like a dog. He gets excited when he sees me. He'll start shaking like a dog.

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"He's definitely a pet butterfly. He's part of the family. Even the cat likes him."

It might sound odd, but Pepper said the flightless butterfly has helped her wing her way into a happier place.

The Mount Maunganui resident survived ovarian cancer - twice. In he early thirties she needed a hysterectomy and therefore can never have children. She has kept herself busy with aid work, but when she returned from Africa in 2015, she fell into a slump.

That was until she found Fluffy, a sluggish caterpillar who failed to take flight when he emerged from his chrysalis on February 1.

After three days, she found him blowing around the concrete so brought him inside and gave him sunflower to feed from.

"When I found him listless and unable to fly, I knew just how he felt. I went through burn-out last year," she said.

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"I wanted to give up ... I felt really lonely."

Fluffy gobbles on apple syrup, honey and sugar water from a little bowl.

"He puts his two front feet on the rim of the dish and drinks it a few times a day after his exercise. It's pretty incredible."

Daily exercise involves him walking around on her hand.

"I realise I sound like a bit of a crazy person, so wrapped up with this butterfly. 

"It's the compassion and empathy that drives me. We all need someone to care for us at different stages in our life."

Pepper said Fluffy has been so inspiring she wanted to write a children's book and is meeting with illustrators in the coming weeks.

 - Stuff

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