VIP Pets

04 Oct 2021

Rolling out the welcome mat for our four-legged friends

By Dawn Liles

In the past year, if you’ve found yourself pampering your pooches and coddling your kitties a little more than usual, then you’re in good company. 

“Pets have played a central role in comforting Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Steve King, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA), in an article for Pet Business. “Thirty-five percent of pet owners surveyed said they spent more on their pets in the previous 12 months than in the preceding year.”

Although spending levels on pets are returning to pre-pandemic stages in 2021, owners’ enthusiasm for pets on the plateau continues. We’ve gathered many of the resources you need to rescue a pet, volunteer to help or care for a pet, play with a pet and indulge a pet. 

Animal Advocates  

Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society

For more than a quarter-century, the Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society has rescued, provided compassionate care and found forever homes for thousands of abandoned and neglected animals. They receive no federal, state or county tax dollars and no funding from any national animal organization.

“The Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society is one of the most picturesque no-kill shelters in the United States,” explains CHHS Executive Director David Stroud. “Our dogs romp and run in acres of outdoor play yards and our cats relax and roam in cageless playrooms and sunlit porches. Residents from 24 different states have traveled to CHHS to meet their new best friend. We invite you to do the same.” For more information, go to their website at

Advocates for Animals of WNC, Sylva

AAWNC is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to keep at-risk pets with their families and assist the community in rescuing homeless animals off the streets. Collaborating with local veterinarians, boarding facilities, pet supply stores, other surrounding rescue organizations and dog trainers, AAWNC has been able to provide successful measures of intervention resulting in pet-owner retention. They hope to continue to provide emergency care and cover the cost of expensive veterinary procedures to the underserved and at risk in our communities. 

"We can't emphasize enough the importance of having your pet spayed or neutered, and the impact it will have on reducing pet overpopulation and suffering, as well as the pet’s health as they age,” explains AAWNC’s founder Pat Thomas. “Having your pet vaccinated, especially as a puppy, will eliminate diseases such as parvo and distemper. It is your duty to both your pet and the community to ensure your pet receives vaccinations throughout their life, for both their health and for the public health.”

Donations are much needed and have decreased in the past year. To donate or volunteer, visit their website at

Dog Parks

Cashiers Dog Park 

Cashiers’ first dog park is the result of a collaboration between the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department and Vision Cashiers, a not-for-profit organization led by volunteers devoted to improving the Cashiers community. The park is a clean, beautiful and safe recreational area for families and their four-legged friends.

The park is open 24/7, and dogs must be fully vaccinated. There is space set aside for smaller dogs.

“We are delighted at the reception the park has received, especially now that the benches and doggie water fountain are in place. We look forward to continued cooperation with the county on other projects to enhance the natural beauty and livability of Cashiers,” said Ann Wrobleski, Vision Cashiers board member.

Highlands Dog Park  

The Highlands Dog Park is part of the Highlands Recreation Park just off Foreman Road and is open from dawn to dusk. The park is fully fenced with a separate area for small, skittish or elderly dogs. The base for the park is mulch, and there is a covered area and water for dogs. 

According to Lester Norris, program director for the town of Highlands, “it’s great to see that the park is usually very busy, which is just what it was built for.” 

Pet Stores

Woof Gang Bakery, Cashiers 

Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming offers a wide selection of high-quality, natural and healthy pet foods, fun and tough toys, stylish collars and leads, bowls, doggy spa products and fashionable doggy apparel. They have a huge treat table filled with delicious seasonal decorated baked treats. “Absolutely no rawhide is allowed in our store,” said Kassie Puzzello, store manager. “Our all-natural chews are easily digestible and good for cleaning their teeth, skin and coat.”

Their pet stylists are ready to lavish love and gentle care on your furry friends. They offer full and a la carte services.

“We’re here to help our community be the best they can for their dogs, and we want to help our furry friends live their best life possible!” said Puzzello. 

Highlands Mountain Paws  

This family-run boutique on Main Street in Highlands was established in 2014. Dogs are welcome and encouraged to join their owners in the store, which carries locally made fresh, grain-free treats. 

“We also pride ourselves on helping customers select the right gear to help their furry friends enjoy the outdoors,” said owner Mia Nelson. The store stocks collars, leashes, harnesses and toys for your next pet adventure. Nelson hand selects these items at the world’s largest pet expo, held annually in Orlando. “How lucky am I?” asks Nelson. “Every day, I’m fortunate to chat with wonderful customers and meet their pets.” 

Paws on the Mountain, Cashiers  

Paws on the Mountain is dedicated to dogs and cats. Owners Matt and Angel Stanley focus on nutrition, but they also offer products, treats and toys to help enrich your pet’s life through play and training. Their self-serve dog wash offers natural shampoos, thick towels and a hair dryer.  

Matt and Angel’s passion for healthy pet nutrition comes from the loss of their cat Dylan due to tainted pet food in 2007. Their store freezers are full of species-appropriate food, and they plan to add more soon. They love what they do, are always willing to share their knowledge and hope to have nutrition seminars again in 2022. 

The Village Hound, Cashiers  

Housed in a charming 1930s era building, the eclectic boutique houses much more than just items for your pets. But you’ll find one large room filled with dog leashes, harnesses, doggie dresses, safety vests, flotation vests and backpacks. They also carry a huge selection of dog beds and offer organic homemade dog biscuits.

Owner Lee Boone Dages loves meeting customers and their furry friends. “I have been at The Village Hound for the past seven years and have loved every second of it,” said Dages. “I never tire of watching my customers' enthusiasm as they browse through my shop, eventually ending up in the dog room grinning ear to ear.”


Highlands-Cashiers Animal Clinic  

The Highlands-Cashiers Animal Clinic has been serving pets and their owners in the area since 1987. Their goal is to provide the highest level of veterinary medicine along with friendly, compassionate service.

Veterinarian Dr. Amy Patterson, her sister Cookie, a licensed veterinary technician, and their staff believe in treating every patient as if they were their own pet and giving them the same loving attention and care. They believe in nurturing the human-animal bond and creating a harmonious relationship between people and animals. 

Animal Wellness Hospital of Highlands 

The Animal Wellness Hospital of Highlands is a well-established, full-service, small animal veterinary hospital providing comprehensive medical, surgical and dental care.

Their services and facilities are designed to assist in routine preventive care for young, healthy pets, early detection and treatment of disease as your pet ages and complete medical and surgical care as necessary during his or her lifetime. Veterinarian Dr. Brad Smith feels fortunate to provide medical care to the animals in a community that values their pets as true members of the family.


Mountain Dog Spa, Cashiers 

Mountain Dog Spa offers a luxurious warm water bath that includes massage and nail trim, as well as dog training, boarding and day care.

“We are very proud of our day care,” said owner and trainer Alissa Short who has trained dogs for 15 plus years. “It’s not just free-for-all play; our program is structured like a preschool, with creative time, play time, structured learning time and nap time. Dogs are organized into play groups based on size, temperament and energy and every dog is taught how to be crated in a positive way. Our clients are happy with the results they see in their dogs. We send them home at the end of the day happy, calm and less stressed.” 

Posh Paws Pet Spa, Highlands  

This full-service pet spa offers bathing, grooming, blow dries, teeth brushing and toenail trimming as well as some retail items such as dog treats. Owners Michael and Shea Fox opened their doors in 2015 and have been busy ever since. They currently don’t have the capacity to groom any additional larger breed dogs but are still accepting smaller breeds.   

Pet-friendly Hotels

Highlander Mountain House 

The Highlander Mountain House is an English country house hotel full of incredible curated art and literature, roaring fires, cozy seating and a warm staff. Dogs are welcome to stay in the Bunk House rooms. 

“Dogs are as much a part of the landscape as the waterfalls up here, so we love being able to accommodate dogs and their owners,” said Jason Reeves, creator/owner. There is an additional fee for pets; please call the hotel regarding exact details of their pet policy as they do have breed restrictions.  

The Park on Main 

The Park on Main is a 24-suite luxury dog-friendly hotel in Highlands with an upscale-rustic theme and a private garden. The hotel has a relaxed vibe and offers dog treats, dog beds and towels in every room. The hotel partners with the Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society to foster pets and help them get adopted. There is no additional charge for pets. 

“We’re all a part of a community here and dogs are certainly no exception,” said John Woods, general manager. 

All of these businesses are grateful for their clients’ patronage and support. Our community is proud to welcome pets, and you can indulge your four-legged friends’ every desire at spas, groomers, pet stores, veterinarians, dog parks and pet-friendly hotels. But pet advocacy organizations remind us that not all dogs and cats live pampered lives, so please don’t forget about the neglected and abandoned animals who are also part of our community.

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