I am the second of two kids. When I was little, I wanted my mom to have another kid … so I could raise it. More accurately, so I could boss it around.
My dad had had a vasectomy, so the next best thing was a cat.
Juliette was born to my next-door neighbor’s cat when I was in the third grade. I met her and her siblings shortly after they were born. I would go over to my neighbor Joe’s house to pet and hold the kittens while they stayed close to their mama for milk.
As they got a little bigger and more independent, I brought one home to spend the night. With permission from Joe and my parents, of course.
She was an orange-and-white tabby, and there were several kittens with similar coloring. How could I know which kitten was which, once I returned my sleepover kitten to the litter? Don’t worry, I marked her ear with black Sharpie.
(As an adult, I am aware that mother cats groom their kittens. It is highly likely the kitten I ended up bringing home as my “forever cat” was not the same one I brought home that first night. But I won’t tell “little me” that.)
Once she was old enough to be weened from her mother, I brought her home for good.
She was still tiny and probably missed her mother, so I would get down on all fours and pick her up by the nape of her neck using my teeth. Each carrying session was short, but I could tell she liked it, and it helped her bond with me, as her mother.
As she continued to grow, I wanted to teach her how to walk. Like a human. How cute would it be if I could hold one of her front paws in my hand while she walked next to me on her hind legs? Apparently, the answer was “too cute” because it never happened. Her back legs never got strong enough, and she never nailed that whole balancing on two legs things.
In elementary school, my mother sewed an Easter dress for me every year. She would sew a matching dress for my Cabbage Patch doll. Before getting Juliette, I would carry my doll to church in her matching dress.
Once Juliette was big enough, I put the dresses on her.
The dresses were too nice for her to wear all the time. I had a cute little light pink knit dress that was more durable and more of an “everyday” dress. For the better part of a year, if the dress wasn’t in the wash, Juliette was wearing it.
She sat on my lap like a kid. I carried her on my hip with her paws on either side of my shoulder, just like a human child. I even carried her around the neighborhood in a carrier my mom had made for me to use for my dolls.
Juliette was my child and my best friend.
Even though walking on her hind legs hadn’t worked out, I never lost my desire for her to be more human than cat. I would hold her mouth closed with a tissue over her nose and lightly squeeze her belly, so she could blow her nose like a kid.
As she and I got older, I started thinking about what would happen if she died. Would I see her in heaven?
I needed to baptize her.
I should note that most cats hate water. Juliette was no exception.
I filled the bathroom sink with water. I put Juliette in and gently dunked her in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Over the next few years, I decided it was better to be safe than sorry, so I baptized her a total of three times.
Juliette died in 2003 at the ripe old age of fifteen. She was one of the most docile, loving, along-for-the-ride cats I’ve ever known.
I can’t wait to see her in heaven.