Remembering Mike VI: Pocahontas man reflects on time as caretaker

Local vet says goodbye to Mike the tiger
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - One thing is for sure in the SEC, we love our teams. Even if you're an LSU fan from Arkansas.

That was the case for Trevor Davis. He's a second generation veterinarian from Pocahontas.

Until a couple years ago, the most exotic animal he'd cared for was maybe a Shetland Pony. That was until he earned his stripes at LSU in Tiger Country.

"I did not know they had a live tiger mascot until it was maybe a couple of months in," Davis said. "I see people having pictures of them in front of this big ole tiger and I thought well that's cool and people said, 'yeah that's Mike the Tiger, you can go over and see him!'"

As a veterinary student at LSU, Davis had more than just the opportunity to "go see him." After two years in the program, he had the chance to become his caretaker and he took it.

Davis was one of 18 people to apply for the job, and he got it.

"Daily we feed him, clean him, just monitor him, make sure he's healthy, give him treats, make sure his teeth are healthy," Davis explained.

Just like any pet owner can tell you what mood their pet is in, Trevor picked up on Mike's mannerisms.

"Starting in the first few weeks, Daniel Mace, the previous caretaker, would say 'oh, he's thinking this, oh he's doing that.' I'm like, he looks the exact same. We quickly learned he has facial expressions," Davis said. "He was very affectionate, very loving, very enthusiastic."

Day in and day out, Mike was part of Davis's life. Leading into graduation this May, though, Davis knew he'd have to step down as caretaker and move on.

On his very last night with Mike, Davis and the other student caretaker stopped by to see the tiger one last time.

"We arrived just like every other night, played with him, and he was excited to see both of us," Davis said.

But Mike's excitement quickly turned into their concern.

"We started talking to him and we both stopped mid-sentence," Davis said. "That's when we noticed a little bump under his right eye."

The bump turned out to be a rare, aggressive form of cancer. It had already eaten away a lot of the bone in Mike's face.

"You can see this right side, which is his left side, is normal," Davis said, pointing at Mike's X-Ray. "The right side, you can see there's something that's not supposed to be there. That's the actual tumor."

But by then, Davis had graduated. His time as Mike's caretaker was over and he was back in Pocahontas.

Despite this, Davis was still following Mike's progress closely. So when he got a call from Mike's primary veterinarian, asking him to come back and help with Mike's treatment, he jumped on it.

Pictures from LSU show Davis with the medical team wheeling Mike back from treatment.

"And it worked," Davis said. "The swelling went down. He went back to normal activity."

Mike was even able to celebrate his 11th birthday.

"We got a good four months out of him," Davis said. "Then we started noticing some changes again."

The few remaining cancer cells started to spread again. Mike didn't have much longer.

"It was heartbreaking it," Davis said. "Previous caretakers that had him six or seven years ago would come back and see him and play with him as if it was the same time they were there and I was really hoping that five years from now, I could go back to Baton Rouge and visit my old friend Mike."

Davis did have a chance to go visit his old friend, Mike, though. This past weekend, he went down to Baton Rouge and had a chance to say goodbye. It was two days before Mike passed away.

Davis said Mike VI even greeted him with a chuff, an affectionate noise, to let him know that he knew he was there.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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