Goodbye, Julius

sphinx

I got an e-mail from my mom today. Our family’s 14 year old cat, Julius, has been missing for 10 days. My mom is pretty sure he’s dead.

I knew I would be sad when Julius died, but I have to say I didn’t really expect the flood of memories and emotions that came along with this news.

We adopted Julius in July of 1995. I was eleven. Mom and Papa told us we could get a cat after we returned from our trip to Alaska that summer. Obviously, that meant the morning after our red-eye flight, I was already lobbying to go find our cat. We piled in the station wagon and drove out to Hooterville Pets in Woodinville, which I think is called Homeward Bound or something, now.

I remember looking at the cats and dogs waiting in their crates. I was especially upset by a pit bull that had some sort of medical ailment. He had little drainage tubes sticking out of his neck. Anyway, we observed the small cats and talked to them.

One little orange guy was particularly talkative and interacted with us right away. I guess that’s all it took. Before long, our orange stripey cat joined the crowd in the station wagon in his cardboard crate. On the way home, we discussed names.

I voted immediately for Orange Julius. Susannah, nearly 4, who happened to be in her ‘name things after foods’ phase, voted for Caesar Salad, (she already had a stuffed cat named Casserole and a toy dolphin named Soup, as I recall…). I’m not sure who figured out the names went well together, but before we pulled into the driveway, our new family member was christened Orange Julius Caesar Salad Diamant Bruck. For years after, friends would ask us to repeat his entire name and so they could remember each part.

With his name promptly shortened to Julius, our cat settled into our nutty household. He was relatively patient with our somewhat rough displays of affection and asserted his odd personality on a regular basis.

Not long after coming to live with us, Julius disappeared. We worried that he had slipped out the front door, and as he wasn’t allowed outside yet, we feared he was lost. After much anxious searching in and out of the house, the gathering dark made us decide to look again the next day. I remember being very upset and crying to think that our kitten was already gone. In my memory, I found Julius, but it might have been one of my brothers. Either way, someone opened the closet in the bathroom and discovered the cat curled up for a cozy nap in a nest of toilet paper. Everyone was alerted, and sleepy bewildered Julius endured much cheering and hugs.

Another distinctive memory is Susannah’s 5th birthday party, when Julius was extremely agitated by the flock of marauding preschoolers, so I protectively scooped him into my arms, whereupon I was dealt a very deep scratch in my hand as he leapt to the floor and out of sight. I still have the scar.

For years, if you came up the staircase in the morning, there would be an attack cat waiting just around the wall. If you were foolish enough to step onto the landing, you would be rewarded with a sudden flurry of movement as Julius flung himself around your ankles, kicking and biting. We took to throwing decoys, (socks, stuffed animals, little sisters…), onto the top step to distract him as we scurried past into the kitchen. Other times you could just stand on the lower step and peer around the corner, to see him lurking, until he looked up, completely puzzled and surprised to see your head looming above.

Julius was an indoor/outdoor cat, but I don’t remember him ever bringing us any prey. Maybe he ate them before he made it through the door, or maybe he was a bad hunter, but I’m glad we didn’t have to deal with discarded mice and birds, like many cat families.

He was very independent, like most cats, and also loved to sleep, of course. I remember one time my mom was driving us somewhere, when who should pop into the front seat, but Julius? We were certainly startled, but then remembered that one of the windows had been left open the night before. Apparently the warm carpeted way back of the station wagon was an irresistable spot for a nap. This actually happened at least once more, before we took to searching for the cat before we drove off.

Julius had hairballs, occasionally, and I loved giving him the medicine for it. The vet gave us a tube of this gooey brown laxative, that we were to squeeze onto the tops of each of his paws. The idea, was that the goo would drive him bonkers until he licked it all off. It worked. And it was hilarious.

After we moved to Snohomish, I saw Julius less and less. He was probably settling into his new surroundings and finding new places to nap, but I was also preparing to head off to Bellingham for school. I imagine he had a lot to explore in that woodsy area and enjoyed the solitude. When my family started acquiring dogs, he became even more scarse. I worry that he didn’t feel welcome anymore. As the years went by, his impressive size dwindled a bit and he started to move more like an old man. But every time Shane and I visited we were excited to see him and exclaimed over him, telling him how very handsome he was.

Julius, like any cat, was eccentric and independent, but I like to think that he was a little more good-looking, a little more bizarre, and a bit more awesome than the average tabby.

Goodbye, Julius. I’m so glad you were a part of our family.

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6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jessica said,

    I’m sad… I got all teary. I mean, I’m not super surprised, the last few times we’ve been over there he has been SO thin and just kind of tired. But even though I haven’t known him long, he was pretty awesome. I was always threatening to get rid of my brood and take him home with me.

    • 2

      valleyvegan said,

      Thank you for that 🙂 Yeah. He was awesome. I wanted to take him home, too. Apparently Su was planning to take him to Bellingham, as well! A lot of people loved that crazy cat.

  2. 3

    Susannah said,

    I’ve been trying for a few days to write a memorial for him. I never know what to say. It came at an especially bad time for me because the day I heard I had just gone up to Bellingham and had selected a place that was very pet friendly, and I really wanted to tell him. I just hope I don’t start crying during graduation when the picture of me holding him when I was four comes up. He meant so much to all of us.

    • 4

      Rebecca said,

      If you still want to write about him, just start with your memories. Persoanlly, I’d like to hear what sticks in your mind from the years we had him. And if you start crying at graduation, nobody will think anything of it. They’ll just think you’re really sentimental. Which you are sometimes. Which is fine.

  3. 5

    kimmykokonut said,

    Oh, becca! I’m sorry to hear about Julius. A big e-hug your way!

  4. 6

    Aaron said,

    I loved that cat. When I was thirteen, I’d cuddle up to him when I was depressed and he was very patient with my affections. I think I rambled to him as well. He was a very present feline…both in the sense that he truly seemed to be in the moment with me, not spacing out, and in the sense that he had great presence.

    And definitely better looking than the average tabby.

    A toast to Orange Julius. May his hunt in Valhalla be fruitful, and his naps always sunny and warm.


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