Small Town Crazy Cat Lady

Calling a small-town ski resort community my home has some distinct advantages. Most of the time I adore being hours away from the smoggy metropolis of Los Angeles. I can only take the concrete jungle of southern California in very small doses. Life in Big Bear Lake in the pine forest can make me feel like we don’t reside in the ass-backwards state of California where our liberal governor can go out to Michelon star dinners with friends in Napa but govern the rest of the state with an iron fist during this pandemic. According to the comrade, I mean Governor Newsom it’s okay for his wineries to be open and he can enjoy birthday dinners with all his liberal friends while close to three million Californians are out of work during this pandemic in California from all the businesses that can’t stay open.

small townLiving beneath the pines of southern California helps me forget for just an hour or two what a shitshow this state is. Maybe it’s breathing in the fresh clean air. Or maybe it’s that we finally managed to adopt two almost perfect kittens this fall. Fluffy purring kittens can bring a little zen to our household even during the stress of a pandemic.

Being in the wilderness also helps me forget about the assholes who rule this blue state. I can walk out my front door and within just a five-minute stroll my pup and I can be frolicking in fresh snow in the woods. It’s so peaceful to walk in the freshly fallen snow with nothing but the sounds of the birds in the trees, the squirrels in the bush and me yelling at my dog. It almost makes me forget about how stupid our politicians are in this trash can of a state.small town

I’ve talked to so many folks from the city recently who tell me since the pandemic all the wild places near Los Angeles; Runyon Canyon, the Bridge to Nowhere and the like are so massively over-crowded with people since some Californians began being safe at home. It’s awesome that so many city dwellers are getting outside and going for a hike but I’ve heard city hiking hot spots like the trail to the Hollywood sign are just a mess with discarded face masks, gloves and worse. This is why I choose to make my home away from the masses, who treat the great outdoors like it’s Disneyworld. No, Mickey Mouse is not going to walk up behind you to pick up your discarded Starbucks cups, cigarette butts and blue dog poo filled baggies. That’s why I choose to live in the mountains away from most other inconsiderate people. Even if that means it’s a two-hour drive to Whole Foods for coconut flour.

Our quarantine kittens

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A new home and life for baby Leo.

Life on a mountain top at over six thousand feet amidst a pine forest has so many distinct advantages for someone like me. I’m kind of obsessed with the outdoors and attempt to spend as much my time outside as possible. I mean that is until we adopted two new fluffy baby kittens this past week. Suddenly I’m finding time to sit by the fire with a good book and a purring fluffball on my lap. (And possibly a Pumpkin Spice White Russian in my coffee mug.) But before our days started to revolve around whose turn it was to hold the purring baby kittens we had to locate them.

Do you have any possible idea of how hard it is to adopt a kitten during a pandemic? I think adopting a baby might have been easier. It was, even more, complicated for us living in a small town an hour from the concrete jungle where most of the shelters and animal rescue groups are located. My search for a kitten after ten days was going so poorly that I had actually expanded my search to a hundred-mile radius. I was ready to drive as far as Pasadena for a cute little fluffball or two! We were so committed to bringing a baby kitten home. I spent a lot of time in October scouring the internet, filling out pet adoption forms online and basically not hearing back from any adoption agencies what so ever. Luckily after a few weeks of spending a lot of time on my computer, the perfect two little fluffballs basically fell into my lap.

I was born in a small town

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Sasha is a sleepyhead

One of the only things I dislike about living so far back in the forest is it’s a long drive on winding forest roads to drive to my favorite thrift stores, organic markets, Petco or emergency veterinarian. I’ve lived in the mountain communities basically ninety percent of my life and until this week I have never needed to leave our small town and drive to the emergency vet but then we adopted little Leo, a kitten who came from a life of neglect. I’ve had cats from the time I was a little kid growing up in these mountain communities. In these secluded small towns, we only have a few veterinary clinics. If your pet gets sick after hours or on the weekend it’s a long car ride with an angry hissing mewing cat to the concrete jungle city six thousand feet and an hours drive away for a vet visit.

We soon found all this out on day five of life with little Leo, the tiny grey Norwegian Forest Cat. After wasting so many hours on my computer sending so many emails, having phone interviews and visiting six different Petco’s, I had an appointment to meet two little grey kittens at the cat sanctuary that had opened up the year before in the small town I grew up in. This was half an hours drive from our home in Big Bear Lake and after spending all day in the city an hours drive from our mountain home chasing down invisible kitten leads I figured the Catty Shack in Running Springs was my last hope before giving up and enjoying my weekend with no kitten.small town

My hometown of Running Springs has no stoplights, no Walmart and no Trader Joe’s but now they have a cat sanctuary. It is not a place I ever recommend anyone go for cat adoption. Part of this is because I waited for three hours for the owner of the cat sanctuary to show up for our appointment. She never showed. After hours and hours of waiting a friend of mine from high school who I hadn’t seen in ten years wandered by and it tuned out, she also volunteered at the Catty Shack. So she actually let me in and that is when I met our little Leo. And rescued him from certain death at the hands of this “cat rescue”

Like most of the cats at the Catty Shack, Leo had a messed up eye because the Catty Shack keeps all the adult cats and kittens together and the adult cats are pissed about this. At least Leo had his eye, unlike many kittens who only had one

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Rescuing Leo from the Shitty Shack in Running Springs

eye. Yeah, it was that kind of place. Meanwhile, by the time I picked out two grey fluffballs the owner had still not shown up for our appointment, I had been waiting for three hours, I really had to pee and the place was filthy. I did not want to touch anything besides kittens, especially not anything in their restroom. I threw forty dollars worth of adoption fees at the volunteers, grabbed my wonky eyed kitten and was out of there.

Before I left the Shitty Shack I asked the volunteers if Leo had any medication for his messed-up eye and they told me they thought he had? They really had no idea as this ass-backwards rescue organization kept no records. This was on a Friday evening so I just hoped and prayed Leo’s eye would be okay until he could go to our vet Monday morning.

My job is so small town

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Just some asses I ran into in our small town.

Since we brought little Leo home ten days ago his health has gone from bad to worse. I feel like all I have done for the past ten days is nurse this silly little kitten back to health and take mountain visitors on guided hikes. When I’m not hiking just for the hell of it, I’m usually leading visitors on hiking tours throughout our national forest as a nature guide. Life in this small town of Big Bear Lake means I might go hiking and see wild burros hanging out on the trail sides. These are leftover descendants of the Gold Rush donkeys. Being just about the most sought out after hiking guide in the Big Bear Valley means that I can get very busy at times, especially in the winter months when everyone wants to hike in the fresh snow. But after that sweaty hike if our new little baby kitten is still unbelievably sick and it happens to be a weekend we have a far drive to go to the emergency vet.

Our senior citizen cat passed away over a month ago so I began the search in late October for two new baby kittens. Apparently, November is not kitten season whatsoever. We do have an animal shelter here in our town of 5,200 citizens, Big Bear Lake, but quite happily I guess, they did not have a single cat available at that shelter. So I would have to put on my fancy pants and drive into the city. Living in the mountains, working as a hiking guide and spending most of my free time hiking, mountain biking, stacking firewood or working in the garden I wear yoga pants or leggings most every day. Going to the city for a day means I can wear my nice clothes that don’t have dog slobber on them. I mean by nice clothes my favorite thrift store finds because besides loving the great outdoors and fluffy kittens, I also love to try to live my life a bit sustainably and that means not destroying the environment by keeping textiles out of dumpsters and purchasing most of my fashion recycled.

Oh those small communities

Growing up in a small mountain town means that I still see people I went to high school with at the local market. I run into my high school teachers at the post office. I love running into old friends from church at the farmers market. I really enjoy catching up with old friends from high school when I happen to run into them at the cat sanctuary from hell. I love that the small town I grew up in has a cat sanctuary. Why does it have to be so poorly run? Also, I may be a bit bitter after seeing all the cats and kittens in the shelter that had serious illnesses. They were so damaged and were receiving no vet care.

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I am so thankful we adopted our little Leo from the Shitty Shack because all though we have now spent hundreds of dollars on vet bills. We are probably nowhere near done yet. He most likely would have died from neglect if we had not adopted him. I hate to see animals sick and neglected so my experience at the Catty Shack left a real bad taste in my mouth.

Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town

So it may not actually be kitten season but now that we have finally and after some hassle, found us some kittens it seems like kittens are popping up everywhere. I heard a story today involving kittens that really pissed me off. I was raised a Christian and still consider myself one. My faith makes me believe that you should treat all creatures with kindness, especially helpless animals. So when a person I know here in our small town found a litter of kittens in her kayaks two days before our first storm of the season, it pisses me off that she shoed them off. I can’t believe she didn’t cancel kayaking to even attempt to trap the stray kittens. But first kayaking! It makes me so sad to think those kittens probably froze to death in the storm.

With the holiday season fast approaching, it makes me think about those less fortunate, even if it is poor little kittens freezing in the cold. Or the little neglected one-eyed kittens at the Catty Shack. The holidays are a time of year to reach out to those in need. Yes, I’m the type to care more about animals than all those tourists leaving broken sleds and Starbucks cups in our blanket of new snow. But happy holidays anyway from the Hungry Mountaineer and her plethora of snuggly new kittens.


  1. Jean | Delightful Repast

    I’m so happy there are crazy, but responsible and caring, cat ladies like you around to help some of these unfortunate felines have a good life. I hope something can be done about that horrible “rescue” place! #HearthAndSoul

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  2. Suzy Turner

    OMG it sounds like you (and that poor little kitten) have been through hell recently! I’m so happy that you finally found what you were looking for, and rescued cute little kitty from the Shitty Shack (!). And I’m still in shock to read about the woman who shooed away those kittens so she could go kayaking! I’m like you, I can’t bear to see any animal in distress. I would have cried my eyes out had I visited the Shitty Shack.
    The town is lucky to have you in it!

  3. April Harris

    I’m sorry your kitten has been poorly but it’s so lovely you have added these sweet little ones to your family. Thank you for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul Link Party. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

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  4. Tiffine Loughery

    Amber can you please call your friend and help me get a kitten I can’t ever reach anyone in the catty shack

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      Amber Woodyard

      The Catty Shack is extremely hard, almost impossible to get ahold of. Just a warning, both kittens I adopted from them were extremely sick and had ringworm which is extremely contagious. I’m sure they are not doing adoptions right now as I’m assuming most of their cats are infected with the ringworm?

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