Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020 - 66

GUEST COLUMN

The Enthusiastic Mutt

Susan Wagner works as a small-animal veterinarian at Cedar Ridge Animal Hospital in Asheville,
North Carolina, and considers her profession to be the best job in the world. She loves exploring the
Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, two daughters and enthusiastic mutt Mackenzie.
By SUSAN WAGNER

I

f you have ever hiked Big Bradley Falls near Saluda,
North Carolina, you know crossing Cove Creek to
get there requires some navigation. Determining
which rocks are the sturdiest to step on and which
route is the safest takes a little planning and strategy,
which is where our rescue mutt, Mackenzie, shines.
She doesn't hesitate to charge through the water,
darting back and forth multiple times with a smile on her
doggy face as if to show us "you can go this way, or you
can go this way" while we cautiously take our time. To
Mackenzie, there are endless options. No path is wrong.
In her mind, they're all the best.
Mackenzie is a shelter mutt who was the opposite of
the "pick of the litter." She was the last puppy in her litter
to be adopted and often gets called "Buddy" by strangers
who think she's a boy. She hates wearing a bandana or
any type of clothing and has no idea what to do with
a tennis ball. It will hit her right in the head if you try

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BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

to get her to catch it. She doesn't know any tricks. But
when she's on a trail, she becomes a completely different
dog. It's as if she has found her purpose to life. There is
no sofa, treat or activity that makes her happier. She was
meant to be a mountain dog and comes alive when she's
amongst them.
Mackzenzie spent the first several years of her life with
us in Raleigh, where I settled after graduating from North
Carolina State's Veterinary School in 2003. I loved my job
in a busy small animal hospital for 14 years, but I never
had much time to take Mackenzie on walks. You would
think a veterinarian's dog would be spoiled beyond belief,
but with two kids, a husband and a busy career she was at
the bottom of my priority list.
On weekends, our family would often travel to the
mountains. We needed hikes with an incline and more
nature in general. My husband, Ron, and I both grew up
in Hendersonville, and I can easily say that I never appreciated the peaks around us. I took for granted
the significance of the fresh air and beauty they
provided. It wasn't until I was working 11-hour
days that I realized the only time I was coming
up for that much-needed fresh air was on those
weekends. So we decided to come back.
After moving to Asheville, I joined an animal
hospital that operates at a much slower pace and
have taken on a schedule that has allowed me
to spend more time with my family. I've also
expanded my veterinary skills to treating cases
unique to mountain living, such as the 12-yearold Shih Tzu who felt the need to defend her
yard from a bear to closing the wounds of a dog
on the wrong end of an angry wild turkey. I never once saw cases like that working in Raleigh.
But mostly, living in the Blue Ridge Mountains has allowed me to get Mackenzie back to
her happy place, charging through trails and
creeks with that look on her face-a dog and her
mom who feel fully free and excited about so
many paths that can be taken. The mountains
have a way of bringing that out.


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Blue Ridge Country November/December 2020

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