As my friend Stewart was driving on a errand last night, he casually mentioned that he heard Ayveq the walrus had died. He thought I had heard but I hadn't. You would think that working for 5 years with these animals for barely any salary would entitle me to a least a courtesy call, but I've learned not to expect it.
After calling some friends in the know, the officials aren't telling much of anything concerning Ayveq's death. A necropsy was of course performed, but any conclusions were not released. And since zoo animals aren't given graves or epitaths, I thought I'd do my best.
I first met Ayveq when he was about 4 or 5 years old and coming into his sexual maturity. To say it made for an interesting summer is of course an understatement. His antics at the discovery of his 5th appendage would make you chuckle if not outright laugh. Oh how do I even begin to explain this summer to you.
First, most people need a lesson on walrus anatomy. Males have a bone and it's 3 feet long. Although the bone makes for an interesting eskimo conversation piece, it makes for an even more interesting solitary sex life, especially in front of 6 year old humans. All of a sudden, you would see Ayvek stopping his swim around the enclosure, and then the magic whistle would begin. Eventually Ayvek would bound to the top of the pool, roll over on his back and you would see that 3 foot salami being held by those flippers.
Mark the keeper had to point out the magic whistle to me. I forget what we were doing together, but we heard the whistle and Mark said "alas, there he goes again". I even think Mark is the one who came up with the term magic whislte. Of course I needed a guy to point out the correlation to me (sometime I'm such a girl). And it's not like this was a quiet little tune either. I often would hear it while walking on the Coney Island Board Walk from more than a mile away. At least it always promised an interesting day for visitors.
That year Ayveq's favorite toy was a Fisher Price stearing wheel from some child's toy and he loved to hang it from that famouse 5th appendage. Eventually he just wore that steering wheel out and although they replaced it with similar toys, he never seemed to show the same fondness for any of them. He did grow out of the whistling phase over the next few years. He was always a crowd favorite and loved to interact with visitors at the underground window to his enclosure. He was also one of my favorites just because I loved to watch him move. I loved seeing the play of his hip bones as he manuvered on land and his good natured temperment which showed clearly on his face.
And despite maturing at the age of 4, it took him another 8-9 years before he finally managed to get a girl pregnant. At least we still have a little part of him left. And even though it's been years since I've seen him, I will always remember him and always miss him. I will tuck him into my heart with all the other unsung heros of my world. He is there with Kathy the Beluga and her son Casey. Osoy, the Chimpanzee and all the rest who's beauty only came briefly into my life. I've been so lucky and I promise never to forget.