by Todd Cohen
photographs by Travis Long
Page Wages’ pet peeve is literally that – a pet peeve: “Long nails and dirty ears in dogs,” says Wages, a veterinarian at CareFirst Animal Hospital in Raleigh. “I’m always cleaning ears and cutting nails because it drives me crazy.”
“Always” is almost an understatement for Wages, who spends her days caring for sick animals, her evenings and weekends volunteering for local pet shelters, and her vacations on trips for the Christian Veterinary Mission to care for animals to the Navajo Nation, Cherokee Nation, and other places where veterinary medicine is unavailable. She lives alone on what she calls “The Funny Farm,” 3.7 acres she recently purchased to have enough room for her cat, pig, duck, two rabbits, two geese, seven dogs and 74 chickens.
“Usually when I tell people how many animals I have, they say, ‘Oh, so you’re not married,’ ” she quips.
For Wages, 35, whose parents ran amusement parks in the Northeast, there is no line between work and play. She learned as a child that work should be fun, and that giving back is part of work.
On Sundays, she plays the harp at her church, North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene. And she has “adopted” 10 children through World Vision, a Christian organization that connects donors with children throughout the world.
A graduate of N.C. State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Wages is a finalist for “America’s Favorite Veterinarian,” an award to be presented this fall by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“I help people because I like to help,” she says. “I don’t really do it for me. It’s fun.”
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I knew I was going to go into medicine. I used to read a lot, and Florence Nightingale (the founder of modern nursing) was the person I wanted to be. I had set up a first-aid station in my bedroom. I put Band-Aids on everybody.
What led you to veterinary medicine?
As an undergrad biology major, I had some really good professors. We started doing some procedures on rabbits. And I got involved in research on rat brains. I had 50 rats in the lab and would sneak them to my dorm rooms at times because they’re cute. They were my pets, even though I cut their heads off later on. And I volunteered with a veterinarian there and worked as an EMT medical professional with the volunteer squad.
What is it about veterinary medicine that you like?
I love working with the clients. You become part of their family. I love the animals. I can go to work every day and sit on the floor and be licked by dogs. You get dirty all day and nobody says anything. Every day is different. Every day is fun. You never know what you’re going to get.
Where do you volunteer locally?
Wake SPCA and Second Chance, a rescue group. For Wake SPCA, if there’s a dog walk or outside event, I’m there to implant a microchip in the dog so if they get lost they can be found. At Second Chance. I’m their veterinarian. They will bring animals to us, or I go there if I need to. They call every night. And one Sunday a month, I lead a group of vet students for Spay Day. We spay and neuter their animals up for adoption.
What is your volunteer work for Christian Veterinary Mission?
I’m the advisor for students at the (N.C. State) Vet School for CVM. I teach a missions preparedness class on Friday night for anybody who wants to go on a trip. It’s four hours, one night a month, for seven months. I’ve accompanied students on trips to Alaska, the Cherokee Nation in Western North Carolina, and the Navajo Nation in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. We try and go to places where there’s no vet care. When we started going to the Navajo Nation 12 years ago, they had never heard of vaccines or deworming or spays or neuters. But over the years, we’ve been educating. We’re teaching them how to take care of their animals. And at the same time, sharing Christ’s love.
Your parents managed amusement parks, where you worked as a kid. What did you learn from them and from that work?
We started working at a very young age. My grandfather owned the park. We learned to have fun at work, but also to be creative, trying to name rides, riding water slides in the winter to test them out for my dad, freezing my butt off. I learned a strong work ethic and to have fun at work, and leadership skills.
Who are your heroes?
My grandfather, Charles R. Wood. He worked his way through the Depression. He built an amusement park starting with $20. His passion was helping people. He started a foundation I sit on. It built a camp for critically ill children, the Double-H Hole in the Woods Camp. He started it with Paul Newman (the late actor and philanthropist).
And Arto Monaco (an artist, theme park designer, toy designer and cartoonist). He taught me how to paint. He gave his life for children to have fun. And he gave everything he owned away. He was always poor. He was a giver. He gave to everybody.
If you could have dinner with any three people, alive or dead, real or fictional, who would they be?
Florence Nightingale, to learn about her courage. Walt Disney, to pick his brain. Gandhi, to learn about his leadership style, what made him tick.
Who do you admire in Raleigh, and why?
Joe Gordon, my boss and partner. He has a gentle personality. He’s always giving. He’s compassionate. And anytime you need help, he’s right there.
What motivates you each day to do something to give back?
My faith and a passion for others.
What do you like about Raleigh?
I love the people. They’re kind and they’re sincere. They’re fun.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I clean my chicken houses. There’s a lot of parks. I go for a lot of walks with the dogs. I play the harp but just at church. I go to the ballet and the symphony.
Where do like to go for vacations?
I don’t take a vacation.
If you could fix a social problem, what would it be and how would you do it?
If you can teach people to love, a lot of the other things will go away. It’s one of the things we do at Christian Veterinary Mission. If we teach people to care for their animals, they then care for their children, and then they respect each other. So the abuse and all of that goes away. They develop a better sense of self and they will start to take care of themselves better and the suicides rates will drop. I’ve seen that in places over the years with Native Americans.
What inspires you?
My faith is part of that. Every day, the sun comes up and it’s a new day, and we can make a difference in that day. So you want to use it to the fullest.
What is your favorite movie?
Cinderella. It has a happy ending and there are animals in it.
What are you reading?
Restoring Broken Things, on how to help people who are broken; Rework, on redefining your business; and Aha, on finding that God moment in every day.
What is something people don’t know about you?
The harp is my secret.
What is your philosophy of life?
Live every day to the fullest as God intended.