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A Dog's Life on the Plateau

Words by Emily Davis

Photography by Courtney Snyder

The mountain towns of Highlands and Cashiers provide their residents and visitors with unparalleled experiences, both indoors and out. But what of their furry best friends; must they stay at home and miss all of the fun? Definitely not! The Highlands-Cashiers Plateau is paws-itively welcoming to canines and their owners, offering up a smorgasbord of services, shopping, and outdoor adventure. 

Strap on the harness and hook up the leash because in our small towns, Max, Roxy, and Bear are welcome to come along, too. In fact, we’re counting on it. Many local businesses roll out the red carpet to welcome both two-legged and four-legged visitors, and they’re eager to treat you both like local celebrities.

Adventuring Together

For intrepid dog owners, the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau offers numerous opportunities for adventure. Head out to Panthertown, the “Yosemite of the East,” where you and Buddy can explore 30 miles of trails on more than 6,000 acres of wilderness together. In addition to exploring the Great Wide Open, it’s not uncommon to see dogs enthusiastically paddling along rivers and at the base of waterfalls in Panthertown. Just remember: This is bear country (and country for a lot of other wild animals). Keeping your pet on a leash is the best way to keep them safe and prevent elopement. 

For those who wish to stick a little closer to home, the area provides plenty of outdoor opportunities without the untamed wilderness. An afternoon at Silver Run Falls or Sliding Rock can supply furry friends with a walk and swim without excessive effort for their human companions. In Highlands, Cliffside Park allows for a quiet picnic, hiking, and family time in a relaxed setting. Or, a simple walk through The Village Green in Cashiers or Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park in Highlands provides plenty of fresh air and exercise for both canines and their human counterparts. 

Cashiers, Highlands, and Sapphire offer dog parks for those who desire to get off the leash and chase their tails. In Cashiers, dog owners can visit the park near the Recreation Center on Frank Allen Road, and Highlands Recreation Park offers a fenced area for dogs and their human companions off Foreman Road. Those in Sapphire enjoy their own dog park within the community recreation area. Not only will Doggo have fun, but “Mom” or “Dad” can make friends, too. 

A Day at the Spa

When it’s time to pamper your pup, make an appointment at Mountain Dog Spa in Cashiers. Fido can enjoy a full range of grooming services and leave the spa looking quite fetching. Meanwhile, thanks to doggie daycare, you can run necessary errands while your furry sidekick is living his best life. 

In addition to baths, haircuts, and nail trimmings, the spa provides obedience training for puppies who need to develop their “house manners” or those canine friends who could use some assistance with their social skills. And, in the event you need to leave town, the spa’s boarding facilities allow your fur kid a comfortable stay in a place that feels like a second home. 

Coming soon, a second location in Sapphire will allow for more convenience to Mountain Dog customers “down the big hill.” 

Highlands residents and visitors will wag their tails at Posh Paws Pet Spa, a full-service pet spa located in the Mill Creek shopping center. Highlands was historically a spa town for humans, with its cool mountain climate providing a much-needed respite from southern heat and humidity. At Posh Paws, your best friend can enjoy a much-needed vacation, too. 

Even at a higher altitude, a trim can relieve your canine friend of a thick, burdensome coat during the warmer months of the year. A bath will relieve your mind of flea and tick worries, and ear cleanings and nail trimmings keep your pet feeling clean and comfortable year-round.

Shopping Together

You enjoy strolling through Highlands, window shopping, and treating yourself, so why wouldn’t your pup? Head on over to Highlands Mountain Paws. Located on Main Street downtown, this is one store where your favorite pal is sure to feel welcome. Treat your pal to kangaroo jerky, pumpkin chews, chicken chips, or a stylish new harness or collar. 

Offering food, treats, and gear for both dogs and cats, this is the spot to pick up a little something for Mittens, too. After all, she didn’t get to go shopping. How about some catnip or a new mouse toy? The shop also features her favorite kitty snacks, perfect for an obligate carnivore, with no added ingredients. 

Highlands Mountain Paws also features an array of gifts for humans, so don’t be shy. Pick out something for yourself while you’re here.

Your dog deserves the very best, and there’s no reason they can’t have it. Although Cashiers might feel like a remote mountain town, local pets are fully and lavishly equipped by their local pet supply store, Paws on the Mountain. Many years ago, owners Angel and Matt Stanley lost a beloved member of their family due to tainted pet food. The tragic event inspired them to open their own pet store, and they passionately educate their customers on dog and cat nutrition. 

If high-quality, biologically appropriate food is important to you, you’re in luck. Located conveniently in the Ingles shopping center, Paws on the Mountain supplies customers with luxe pet foods, including dry, canned, freeze-dried, and frozen varieties. They even stock unpasteurized goat’s milk and a variety of natural remedies for those in the know. 

In addition to quality pet foods, the store carries an array of pet bedding, toys, and other goods. The well-informed can provide friendly, personal assistance to pet owners who experience a range of dilemmas from flea spottings to anxiety to marking territory. If there is a pet ownership complication, this shop probably has the solution. 

A day out with the kids just isn’t complete without a pit stop for snacks at the local bakery. Well, that holds true for fur kids, too. At Woof Gang Bakery, your dog can select a special artisanal snack from the treat table. Each artfully decorated item is crafted only from safe ingredients of the highest quality.

In addition to the baked goods, Woof Gang sells a variety of pet bedding and supplies, and the shop provides a full range of grooming services. It’s not just a store but a complete experience aimed to please both you and your pet. 

If you’re in search of all-organic dog treats made in-house, head on over to The Village Hound in Cashiers. The quinoa-based recipe is so popular that the store frequently ships the goodies to customers out of state. You’ll also find leashes, harnesses, bedding, and other essentials in the “dog room.” And, if your pup has forgotten where he buried his bone, you can pick up an elk antler as an upgrade. 

Now that you’ve treated your pet, perhaps it’s time to pamper yourself. The Village Hound offers home decor and gifts to those who have dogs, love dogs, and wish to celebrate dogs. The charming shop, located adjacent to The Village Green, is the perfect spot to pick up a gift for your favorite dog lover. Take your time and browse because inspiration is sure to strike here. 

Medical Services on the Plateau

No one ever wants to get sick while relaxing in their home away from home, but it’s an unfortunate reality for some of us. That includes your four-legged friend. Luckily, Cashiers is equipped with Cashiers Village Veterinary, and its sister town boasts the Animal Wellness Hospital of Highlands. Both facilities are fully equipped to handle a variety of canine and feline health concerns and, for more serious emergencies, can provide referrals to after-hours and weekend clinics in Asheville and Greenville. 

Grab a Bite to Eat — Together

After a day at the groomer, a visit to the vet, and a walk through town, you and your pup are likely feeling parched and hungry. Luckily, Highlands and Cashiers both feature restaurants perfectly suited to canine aficionados. The Ugly Dog Pub, with locations in both towns, provides outdoor seating along with delicious food, tempting drink menus, and a welcoming doggy-themed atmosphere. 

The restaurant’s motto — “Come. Sit. Stay.” — and available outdoor seating extends an open invitation to dog owners, along with their dogs, to put up their feet or paws and rest awhile. Try the Ugly Dog Dip, a savory combination of spicy sausage, tomatoes, peppers, and cream cheese. Grab a house cocktail, but only water for Sadie. 

While you’re there, ask the staff about the patron-provided decor. In exchange for a donation to the local humane society, your pup’s framed photo can permanently grace the restaurant’s wall. And the best part of all? Beautiful dogs — which yours surely is — are welcome, too. 

Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society

The Plateau certainly extends a friendly welcome to dogs and their owners, but what about those who have yet to find their fur-ever friend? A visit to the Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society might be in order. As a no-kill shelter, the local humane society relies upon its generous donors as well as a steady turnover rate in adoptions to prevent overcrowding and budget shortfalls. The support of the local community is crucial to their success.

So far, so good: The shelter’s dogs enjoy acres of fenced, open-air areas to play, and adoptions continue to recruit the residents into new forever homes. Because dogs often end up homeless for reasons ranging from lack of housing to the inability of owners to properly care for them, adopting a pet often equals the meeting of a loyal and eternally grateful best friend.

A Second Home for All

With so much to see and explore, the idyllic mountain towns of Highlands and Cashiers certainly feel like home to every member of the family. What a great place to “paws” and rejuvenate! Next time you go adventuring, make sure to bring along your favorite furry sidekick. Everyone is welcome in the mountains — whiskers, tails, and all. 

Plateau Pups at a Glance

  • Mountain Dog Spa is located at 1006 US-64, Cashiers. To learn more, visit mountaindogspa.com or call 828-743-5532.

  • Posh Paws Pet Spa is located at 411 N. 4th St., Highlands. To learn more, call 828-526-9581.

  • Paws on the Mountain is located at 36 Cashiers Shopping Center, Cashiers. To learn more, call 828-743-7500. 

  • Highlands Mountain Paws is located at 390 Main St., Highlands. To learn more, call 828-526-7297.

  • Woof Gang Bakery is located at 11 Pillar Dr., Cashiers. To learn more, visit woofgangbakery.com or call 828-743-9663.

  • The Village Hound is located at 25 Burns St., Cashiers. To learn more, call 828-743-5990.

  • Cashiers Village Veterinary is located at 855 US 64-W, Cashiers. To learn more, call 828-742-5656.

  • Animal Wellness Hospital of Highlands is located at 19 Cave Rd., Highlands. To learn more, visit awhhighlands.com or call 828-526-8700.

  • The Ugly Dog Pub Highlands is located at 292 S. 4th St., Highlands. To learn more, visit theuglydogpub.com or call 828-526-8364.

  • The Ugly Dog Pub Cashiers is located at 25 Frank Allen Rd., Cashiers. To learn more, visit theuglydogpub.com or call 828-743-3000.

  • Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society is located at 200 Gable Dr., Sapphire. To learn more, visit chhumanesociety.org or call 828-743-5752.

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