Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mike is dead. Long live Mike

Mike VI, October 2011
Mike VI lost his fight with cancer today, and the LSU community mourns.
He was a good boy.

Mike also brought untold joy to countless Tiger fans, and to anyone else who had the privilege of visiting this beautiful animal. He wasn't just a mascot, he was like your dog or cat at home -- part of the family.

He fought hard, and we will miss him terribly.

From The Advocate:

Mike, April 2015
As if to punctuate what has already been a tumultuous and emotional football season for LSU, Mike the Tiger – who many considered to be the living embodiment of the team's spirit – died on Tuesday at the age of 11.
Mike VI was euthanized by his attending veterinarian David Baker, ending what may be the world's most famous case of a tiger battling cancer.

"It's an emotional thing," said LSU sophomore Staci Shelby, shortly after hearing the news. "A lot of people associate the tiger with football and school spirit and things like that."

Over the past few months, Mike VI encountered a lot of firsts. He was already one of only two live tigers mascots for a university team in the nation. And in May, the famous feline was diagnosed with a spindle cell sarcoma in his face after caretakers noticed his eye was bulging.

It was thought to be the first such diagnosis of the rare, incurable cancer in a tiger.

Then Mike became the first such tiger to receive treatment for the cancer in an attempt to extend his life.

LSU Vet school officials, in conjunction with the Mary Bird Perkins-Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, treated Mike in June with stereotactic radiotherapy, something that is often used for humans but had never been used on a tiger. Stereotactic radio therapy uses a beam of X-rays pinpointing the tumor while providing minimal damage to surrounding cells.

It was a massive undertaking, one that required an after-hours police escort, to anesthetize the 420-pound tiger and bring him across town to the hospital for the treatment.

The treatment was considered an initial success, as scans found the tumor had shrunk. Baker optimistically hoped Mike would live for another year or two.

But two weeks ago, just days after LSU coach Les Miles had been fired, Mike was treated for a sinus infection.

A scan found that the infection was attributed to the resumed growth of the tumor, which started blocking the sinus cavity. The cancer had also aggressively spread throughout the tiger's body. Smaller tumors were found on Mike's neck, hind leg, and throughout his lungs.

Medical staff determined that additional cancer treatments would not save Mike.


LSU sophomores and friends Ella Ruth Hill and Victoria Dekerlegand were in their mass communication class when they saw on their phones the news Mike had died.

They watched the news make its way around the room as other students whispered about the latest to one another.

After class the two were among the many who trickled by Mike's empty enclosure, adorned with cards, balloons and flowers from the tiger's many fans.

"With everything that's happened this season, with football and Les and everything, Mike is something that's so precious to the students, and he's so sweet," Hill said.

Dekerlegand added that a live tiger on campus makes LSU unique.

"Mike is a constant," she said. "Nobody else has a live tiger."

LSU Student Government announced it would host a memorial Wednesday in front of the habitat.

"Mike taught us how to fight like tigers and we are forever grateful for the opportunity to make him a part of our lives as LSU students," said Student Government President Zack Faircloth in a statement.

Mike was born on July 23, 2005 and came to LSU when he was two years old.

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