Heather and Bodhi, happy to be home. Courtesy photo

By Nancy Peterson
Special to The Sopris Sun

How lucky am I to have gone from being a couch potato in Maryland to hiking in the mountains of Colorado? This summer’s adventures included Sutey Ranch to Red Hill, American Lake, East Maroon Creek, Linkins Lake, Fisher Creek, Pilot Knob, Capitol Creek Loop and Lost Man Lake. 

The invigorating hike to Lost Man Lake was filled with wildflowers, pikas, American Pipits and a tricky, steep descent and ascent over large, irregular rocks; thankfully, there were no scary stream crossings during September.

And then, half an hour from returning to the parking lot, I face planted while walking on level ground. Fortunately, I only broke my upper front tooth and bit through my lower lip. In addition, I severed the nerve in the tooth, so I wasn’t in pain. My companions were more upset than I was, probably because they could see my lower lip becoming more and more swollen.

On the drive home, we stopped at Aspen Valley Hospital’s emergency room, where my head was scanned, my wound was cleaned and a stitch was placed in the gash below my lip.

While chilling on the exam table, I pointed out my adorable cat socks to the nurse, Heather Peterson. We discovered that not only did we share last names, we also share a love of cats. I showed her photos of my cat, Jenny, and the beautiful mural outside Carbondale’s Third Street Center featuring Jenny, native birds and plants and local scenery; she swiped through photos on her phone of her cat, Bodhi. One thing led to another, and here you are reading an article about a traveling nurse and her traveling cat. 

Heather grew up with cats in Wisconsin and, like me, she often brought home kittens. She got to keep them; I had to find homes for them. I’ve made up for lost time by adopting cats, being an animal nurse and working as the community cats program manager for the nation’s largest animal protection organization (The Humane Society of the United States). Since retiring to Colorado in 2016, I have been fostering kittens for Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) and serving on the boards of nonprofits — Neighborhood Cats, The National Kitten Coalition and Mama Paka in Zanzibar — dedicated to helping felines.

As a traveling nurse, Heather enjoys getting to know new places and friends and acquiring new knowledge. It was in September 2021, during her time in Chicago on a travel contract, that she adopted a 3-month-old kitten, Bodhi, to be her traveling companion. Other than when Bodhi travels with Heather by car, she’s an indoor-only kitty. 

I was very touched by the great love that Heather feels for Bodhi. Her time on the road and on her own has likely increased the bond they share. Heather looks forward to returning home to Bodhi after a long work day in the ICU, and Heather’s return is a highlight of Bodhi’s day. She runs to the door to greet Heather, and then it’s time for belly rubs, water from the faucet, a little wet food and play time. 

Although she never dreamed of living here, Heather has always loved Colorado and its mountains. It’s no surprise that she renewed her three-month contract at Aspen Valley Hospital to stay until December, which will be a total of seven months in our mountain paradise. She’s thinking of staying longer and describes the valley as a vortex that you don’t want to leave. Sound familiar?

Heather is grateful to share a powerful human-animal bond with Bodhi. “Everything that I may be holding onto from work is lifted with her excitement and nonjudgmental love,” she says.

Would you like to experience the wonder of sharing your life with a feline companion and saving a life? Shelters are overwhelmed with animals who need homes. If you can provide a loving home, please adopt. You can also save lives by fostering, volunteering and donating. 

If you’re a pet parent who can’t afford food or medical care for your pet, or your pet’s behavior is challenging, your local animal shelter or rescue organization may be able to help you. 

Here’s to our mountains and pets!