Voice Card  -  Volume 21  -  John Card Number 4  -  Wed, Sep 4, 1991 4:27 PM

This is a response to VC 20 John 30 ("Shana")...

It saddens me to report the death of another pet. Greymalkin, a long-haired gray cat who grew up with Paul and I (and her sister, Aristippus) a decade ago in Salt Lake, died this July. Coming as it does less than a month after the death of Betsy's dog Shana, Greymalkin's passing is a further irony. It is strange that Besty and I should each lose a pet at the dawn of our life together.

Greymalkin and Aristippus were the most unlikely pair of sisters imaginable. Greymalkin's fur was long and gray, Aristippus's fur short and black & white. Greymalkin loved to roam outdoors, Aristippus is still terrified by open space. Although moderately affectionate, Greymalkin was never comfortable in a lap, a spot Aristippus cannot resist. Their taste in snacks never once coincided; Greymalkin loved popcorn and potato chips, Aristippus preferred scrambled eggs. And Aristippus is an incessant "talker," while Greymalkin would go for months without so much as a whisper.

Greymalkin spent every day and every night of her life with her sister. During the day they would usually find separate napping spots, but at night they often slept together, curled up into a gray, white, and black ball. Sometimes in the morning they would play tag, vaulting over easychairs and tearing around corners. After meals, each would lick the other's hard-to-reach spots, and then, one would hiss at the other, they would fence briefly, and then stomp away in opposite directions and ignore each other completely as only cats can.

Greymalkin was more mischievous than Aristippus and far more crafty. Again and again Greymalkin would commit some kitty crime of vandalism or trespass, and then leave a confused Aristippus holding the bag.

For years now I have wondered what would happen if one should die before the other. How would the survivor react? Would there be any signs of mourning? Any change at all?

Last autumn I moved the two sisters from their comfortable haven in my parent's Idaho Falls house to my little cabin in the woods. Because I gave them free run of the house and full access to the already dilapidated furniture, both cats seemed to enjoy their new home. And with the onset of spring, Greymalkin became a real hunter, regularly bagging mice and birds and dragging them home for my applause. But as spring warmed into summer, Greymalkin grew thinner and thinner. I thought it was worms. But the veterinarian immediately suspected, and then confirmed, a diagnosis of diabetes, not uncommon in an eleven year old cat. She prescribed daily insulin injections, and as I had already departed for California, this task fell to my mother. A few days later my mother woke to find Greymalkin cold and stiff, apparently a victim of insulin shock.

Aristippus seemed uninterested in the body of her sister and insisted, as always, on breakfast. In the days that followed Mom looked for signs of any change in Aristippus's behavior, but found nothing obvious. Aristippus might have been meowing more than usual, but it was hard to say. Mom said she sometimes made the kind of sound she used to make to remind us to let in Greymalkin when Greymalkin was left outside at night, but again, it was hard to be sure about this.

Aristippus is now here with me in Huntington Beach. She follows me around the apartment like a shadow, sleeping at my feet or jumping in my lap. Betsy and I always awake to find her nestled in our bed. If anything, she seems more content than she was, but also perhaps a bit more talkative. I look into her eyes, and I wonder if she remembers her sister, but I'm sure I'll never know. Like all cats, Aristippus and Greymalkin delight in keeping secrets.