Eclipse left us on the evening of Friday, March 22, 2013 following several days of medication and supportive nursing after she began to have seizures at the beginning of the week.
On Wednesday Monty and I went over to check her we found her in a hole with freezing water in the bottom, too cold and wet to extricate herself. Monty pulled her out and carried her to my car. She got her first car ride awake and uncrated. She tried to bite the car seats and seized my tough seat cover and pulled it partway off as Monty lifted her out of the car and carried her into the puppy nursery room and started her on subcutaneous fluids. Interns brought towels and blankets so we could dry her off. Except for the car seat thing and latching onto Monty’s coat sleeve, she was a real trooper about our supportive nursing. In the nursery she sought out the warm air floor vent and napped on it a lot that day. In the mean-time Dana, Alastair and volunteers Caity, Loren, and Hillary filled in holes in the East Lake Enclosures.
By evening Eclipse was awake, and looking for entertainment. Dr. Becker came out and drew blood. Among other things she wanted to know if Eclipse’s blood sugar was normal. Eclipse was willing to eat and drink and then she wanted to shred things. We drew up a schedule so that two of the animal care staff could stay with her while she was in the nursery. We also laid in a supply of shreddables and she really got into tearing up empty McDonald’s food wrappers! Amanda and Dana stayed overnight as Eclipse napped and shredded until morning.
When Alastair and I came on duty in the morning we got her one of the puppies’ knotted rope toys, which Eclipse approved of by grinding on it with her pre-molars and molars. Its texture seemed near perfect, but it was rather inanimate. More entertainment was needed. Alastair had the brilliant idea of sacrificing a package of tri-fold paper towels. Eclipse exploded it – tri-folds fanned out in broad array from which Eclipse kept selecting mouths-full for more shredding, taking breaks to eat, drink, and chew on the rope toy again. As morning progressed we thought that Eclipse was getting a bit too warm for comfort.
Outside the day had warmed up and we decided to drive her back over to East Lake, where we put her in the center enclosure. She likes that one, and its holes had been filled in. We kept her separate from Chetan but he was next door where he could see her. She walked around, located the water bucket and then settled down to shredding some woody-stemmed weeds. Though she ate and drank and walked she had two more seizures and more on Thursday as well. Monty and I went out in the evening to give her some medication to try and control the seizures. She lay limp and unresponsive as we greeted and touched her. Her eyes were open and she blinked but may not have been aware of us. Sadly we stretchered her out to my car and took her back to the puppy nursery. Dr. Becker was on the way prepared for the probability that this was the end. Eclipse did revive a bit in the warmth, but then she had two seizures. Afterward she seemed very tired. Dr. Becker arrived and gave her a tranquilizer to temporarily stop further seizures. When Eclipse dozed off, Dr. Becker palpated her belly, finding a suspicious mass there. She also tried drawing urine directly from Eclipse’s bladder with a syringe. The fluid she extracted was so bloody it did not look like urine. This was obviously the end game. We said our goodbyes to Eclipse, and Dr. Becker gave her the final gift in our power: release from her failing body.
Afterwards we took her body out to East Lake for Chetan to investigate. He stayed sniffing the body for several minutes and then shuffled slowly off.
A necropsy revealed that Eclipse had a number of masses in her lungs and one very large tumor in her body cavity. We are awaiting the official pathology report but we confidently expect the diagnosis to be cancer. Eclipse lived longer than any pup of her year except her sister, Keeley, who is still living at Wolf Timbers in Ohio. She was almost sixteen. The following is an account of Eclipse’s winter with Chetan:
I think Eclipse enjoyed her last winter. December 12 was the day we walked Chetan and Eclipse together for the first time. She stopped at his gate and greeted him through the wire and he sniffed her, rear, then later her face and sides on their walk. We put them in the new 1.5 acre enclosure and let them stay there for several hours, then we walked them back to East Lake and put them together in #9. They remained friendly: Both oldsters came up together for their pills and one of the benefits of putting them together was that they started taking their pills more readily. That did not last the entire winter; both became a bit suspicious that the new winter interns were part of the international secret society devoted to World Domination and Giving Chetan and Eclipse Pills. (I suspect that Chetan filled Eclipse in on his pet conspiracy theory, but she could be rather picky on her own anyway.)
Monty said: “Happy Apocalypse! Or does one say happy? Anyway, it was a great day for photos, apocalypse or not… We finally had SNOW! There was not much, it will probably melt soon, but Pat and I had MET this morning anyway so after giving Eclipse some Otomax for a gunky ear and giving the old wolves some straw in their huts. Amanda has been getting them fat trimmings from her friends’ restaurant. They still have Spam for treats, but the plain fat, which they like VERY much, has less salt, and is therefore better for their aging kidneys. Volunteer Laura took them some cooked fat for a Christmas Eve gift.”
As we expected, with Eclipse spayed, there was no passion between her and Chetan, but at their age, companionship with neither strife nor breeding season “twitterpation” has something to recommend it. They got to go for a nice walk on the Loup Trail the second week in January.
Now that Eclipse is gone we have memories of a shy, cautiously friendly wolf whose resemblance to her parents gave us many poignant moments. She was well loved by our volunteers who liked telling the story of how Eclipse came back here when she could no longer live at the zoo where she spent her young adulthood. Dana and Amanda remember what a good passenger Eclipse was on her trip back to Wolf Park, during which a pegamoose was spotted along the way. Eclipse was loved at the zoo but needed to come back here due to social dynamics of the pack there. As the poet Robert Frost said, “Home is where, when you have to go there they have to take you in.” Eclipse was a pleasure to take in. We treasure the time we had her. Rest in peace Eclipse.