Saying goodbye is the hardest thing to do when you work with animals. The bond that is formed between an animal and its caretakers are almost indescribable. They not only become your friend, but part of your family. At NTS we have been fortunate to develop these relationships with countless numbers of animals that have come to call our sanctuary home, and in turn we have been able to share these relationships with our guests and supporters. In the summer of 2017 NTS was presented with the amazing opportunity to build a relationship, from the beginning, with a very special tiger named McKade. Needless to say it did not take long for our youngest resident to firmly entrench himself in our hearts. Unfortunately, though these relationships are integral to the work that we do, they also make the passing of one of our animals incredibly painful for the members of NTS. This is why it is with great sorrow in our heart, that less than a month after saying goodbye to our oldest resident, we had to say goodbye to our youngest.
On the morning of December 20th our animal care team notice McKade acting highly lethargic, and showed no appetite for his morning meal. The drastic change in behavior from the previous day prompted imme
diate action, and McKade was quickly taken to our veterinary clinic. Upon arrival at the clinic M
cKade was diagnosed with pneumonia and a 103.4 degree fever. At just under six months old, McKade was still highly susceptible to illnesses such as pneumonia, especially in the rapidly changing weather that we had experienced in the fall and winter of 2017. To ensure a quick recovery, McKade was placed on a strong regiment of antibiotics and was placed under
24-hour watch to monitor his breathing patterns and behavior.
On the morning of December 21st, after just one regiment of antibiotic, McKade's behavior and health seemed to slowly be returning to normal. However, he still showed no appetite meaning his antibiotic had to be injected via a dart. His morning antibiotics were administered with no complications, and all signs were pointing up. When it came time to administer his second round of antibiotics McKade was feeling well enough in health to be up and moving around in his recovery habitat. Unfortunately his appetite had not rebounded as quickly, meaning once again a dart would have to be utilized. Though his first injection had been administered without incident, it had the unfortunate side effect of making McKade incredibly defensive and skittish.
As our lead animal care staff began to prepare the antibiotics for administration, McKade became frightened at the movement of an animal care staff member and attempted to flee. He quickly began to climb the fence of his recovery pin. Our animal care members were not in close enough proximity to have reached him in time with how fast he ascended and fell, roughly 7 ft onto the padded floor of his enclosure. It was immediately apparent that McKade had been injured and was showing complications with mobility, but our staff was unaware of the severity of the injury. Once again we needed to rush our little boy to the vet.
Once at the vet McKade was immediately sedated and we began the examination to determine the severity of his injury. Following an x-ray we discovered that the fall had crushed one of McKade's posterior vertebra damaging his spinal cord, this injury left him paralyzed in hind legs. Our veterinarian
quickly contacted neurosurgeons at Kansas State University to begin exploring what options would be available for corrective surgeries. Following the consultation we were presented with one option, Mckade would have to undergo and intensive spinal surgery to attempt to repair the damaged vertebra and his spinal cord. A surgery of this magnitude would require numerous months of incredibly intensive recovery, in which McKade's hind end would have to be immobilized; as too much movement in his spinal column could cause further damage. This surgery came with no guarantee that he would ever regain mobility in his back legs or wouldn't need multiple corrective surgeries throughout his life as he continued to grow.
We would move mountains to ensure any of the animals at NT
S received the life they deserve, and our staff was prepared to tackle any obstacle in the recovery and rehabilitation of McKade. However, as in the case with an
y major surgery we perform with our animals we had to ask ourselves a number of questions. The two most telling of these questions were; How much more stress, pain, and suffering would he have to face from spinal surgery? Could we ever guarantee the quality of life for McKade which he truly deserves? Our greatest fears came to fruition when we realized that we would never be able to provide McKade with the quality of life he deserved, and we felt it unfair to subject him to a procedure with had such a low success rate. We realized the most humane decision for McKade would be to ensure he did not have to endure further pain and suffering. We sadly had to make the impossible decision to move forward with a peaceful euthanasia.
Though we lost a member of our family, we are so grateful to have the opportunity to know and
raise our sweet little McKade alongside
his mother Farah. At 6 months old, he was so full of life and happiness. He never missed a moment to say hello,
chuffing continuously and trotting along the fence line making sure he brought smiles to all the staff and tour guests that came his way. He made the most out of every day for himself and us. He loved attention from tour groups, enrichment toys, playing in his water dishes and playfully harassing his mother, Farah.
Farah and McKade had a bond unlike any. Being from the circus industry Farah had been bred multiple times and birthed several litters, but previously was never given the opportunity to actually raise her cubs. Prior to her arrival at NTS Farah's cubs would typically be taken from her within 10 days of birth to avoid any "wild" behaviors from developing and ensuring the tiger cubs would become extremely dependent on humans, making their circus training process easier. Our values here at NTS encourage that cubs should stay with their
mother not only to receive her care, but also to ensure they are able to from a strong bond between them. Though she had never raised cubs before, we knew it would be most beneficial to them both and it blossomed into a beautiful mother-son relationship.
This sudden accident is a sad reminder that life is fragile, no matter the species or size, and that tomorrow is
never guaranteed. There is no amount of time that can pass which makes the loss of such a young vibrant life any less heartbreaking, but we will always cherish the time we were granted with our little man and the memories we created with him will last a life time.
Rest in Peace
July 6, 2017- December 21, 2017