His closest friend and ally, Miss Buggy Bengal Cat, was in attendance, as well as his sweet older sisters, Tessa and Calamity Jane Chausies. All who were present watched from a respectful distance with knowing eyes and warm grief in their hearts.
Termite, affectionately nicknamed Termie by his caretakers, earned his somewhat curious name at his previous home, where he actually chewed through the entire wooden leg of a table in his enclosure! At the ripe old age of 19, Termite was an elderly jungle cat hybrid with a contagious zest for life. His caretakers could always rely on him to be first at the door during feeding time, announcing the butler with his trademark jungle-cat-cross-domestic cat “wow-meow, wow-meow” vocalization.
There was always some speculation about what Termite was trying to convey when he spoke outside of meal time (because of course at breakfast, all he ever said was, “Mine, mine, mine, move over, Bugs!”). The keepers had a creeping suspicion that old Termie may have been calling for his long-distance love, Miss Ezebert Jungle Cat, who Termite got to know very well when she briefly lived in the silo right next to the old field kitchen. Termite may never have met Ms. Ez in the flesh and blood, but anyone could tell from his mournful wailing that there was some serious love sickness going on.
Old Mr. Termite wasn’t stingy with his love, though. On the contrary, he could be quite a flirt, especially when an attractive young intern walked by just before breakfast. That’s when Termite would pull out all the stops and transform into the perfect specimen of a handsome, polite chausie with his well-rehearsed “wows” and a strut like no other, chin up, tail flicking high in the air, back slightly arched, and his characteristic gold-green eyes dazzling in the sun. He flashed dashing looks to the nearest passerby that would make even the most prudent young lady swoon.
Of course, once anyone actually entered his enclosure space, his demeanor would alter ever-so-slightly and all the “look at me, I’m so pretty” playfulness would turn into a riotous game of cat and mouse or a rivalry of “you can’t touch me!”, especially at the most critical times of the month when his dewormer was due. Termite was notorious for the one boot drive-by, which means he was an expert at skirting just near enough to your shoe that he would get one good sniff…but he would never get close enough or stay still long enough for one to actually administer any topical medication onto his sandy brown coat!
Termite’s coat was actually one of his most distinguishing features. It had the appearance of butterscotch pudding mixed with an excessive amount of whipped cream, so that the brilliance of the caramel coloration was diluted to a subtle greyish hue. Yet, inexplicably, specks of gold still shown through his tawny fur, bringing to mind a Polaroid picture just coming into focus, where the image is blurry and discolored at first, yet as the photo matures, fragments of the true color begin to develop, chaotically interspersed with the dull grey background that has not yet reached full exposure. Termite was a bit like a Polaroid picture himself, a blast from the past who served as a nostalgic reminder of the beginnings of the Conservators Center while simultaneously fostering new memories and inviting the upcoming generations into an old world of his own creation.
Mr. Termite will be sorely missed among the people and animals who knew him, and his passing will be felt both far and wide across the park. His bright, mischievous eyes and small ballerina paws will hold places in all of our hearts, and Termite will not soon be forgotten.
Briana Halliwell is one of the Conservators Center’s beloved keepers — and also a fantastic writer who often speaks on behalf of our animals.