The most unusual passenger on Seattle public transit never rode the bus for long, just a few stops. She sometimes dozed during her short journeys, drooping her head onto the laps of strangers who never seemed to mind. Approaching her stop, she banged on the door in anticipation.
And other riders loved her for it.
But Seattle’s buses will no longer carry perhaps their most famous passenger. Eclipse, the black Lab-bullmastiff mix who achieved fame by riding to the park alone, died Friday. She was 10.
Eclipse started getting attention in early 2015 when she slipped aboard her usual bus while her owner, Jeff Young, was finishing a cigarette, unaware she had proceeded without him, he said. Guided only by habit, she exited at the correct stop and was very much enjoying herself at the dog park when Young, relieved from his panic, found her. After that, Eclipse became a regular commuter, taking two to three solo trips to the dog park each week, looking out the window to make sure she didn’t miss her stop.
Stardom soon followed. A local radio host noticed her get off the bus without an owner, which led to an on-air segment which, in turn, piqued the interest of Seattle TV station KOMO. National media coverage followed, and the internet did the rest.
Seattle’s public transportation system, King County Metro, quickly celebrated its newly famous pawed passenger, making a highly produced music video for the song “Bus Doggy Dog.” It closed with a tagline: “Get around like Eclipse. Plan your next trip.”
Young also leaned into his pet’s newfound fame, creating a public-figure Facebook page for “Eclipse Seattle’s Bus Riding Dog” where he shared Eclipse updates with her followers, which on Monday numbered 122,000. In 2016, Young co-wrote a children’s book titled “Dog on Board: The True Story of Eclipse, the Bus-Riding Dog.” And over the years, he and Eclipse acquired loads of swag — leashes, treats, harnesses.
“It just goes on and on and on,” Young said.
But stripped of the hoopla, their relationship at its core was that of a human and his dog — best friends, he said. Young got Eclipse when she was a 10-week-old puppy. He said they have spent all but three nights together in the nearly 11 years since.
Then on Wednesday, Young announced on Eclipse’s Facebook page that the vet had found cancerous tumors. He implored her fans to send “spare vibes” their way.
Two days later, he had bad news: Eclipse had died overnight in her sleep.
“She’s gone, and I miss her, and it really sucks,” he told The Washington Post.
King County Metro replied to Young’s announcement, offering condolences.
“Eclipse was a super sweet, world-famous, bus riding dog and true Seattle icon,” the agency wrote on Twitter. “You brought joy and happiness to everyone and showed us all that good dogs belong on the bus.”