Stephen “Doc” Mackenzie, 73, lifelong educator, enthusiastic snacker, beloved father, and the world’s most un-boring husband, passed away on March 22, 2021. Born in Brownsville Texas, he was predeceased by his parents, Joan (Ellen) and Robert Mackenzie, older brother Brian Mackenzie, youngest brother Colin Mackenzie and a line of devoted horse and dog partners including Rusty, Jason, Delta, Tommy, Captain, Kellogg, Nelson, Wizard, Snickers, and Rico. He is survived by his devoted wife Laurie (Fink) Mackenzie of Cobleskill NY, daughter Dawn Mackenzie of Somerville MA, son Alex Mackenzie of Denver CO, brother Lee Mackenzie and sister-in-law Dianne Odegard, both of Austin TX, and another collection of four-legged mourners led by Kimo, Ruufus, Lilly, Hopkins, and a growing club of working dogs named “Doc” in his honor.
Steve served as a Master Trainer in the North American Police Work Dog Association (awarded Trainer of the Year in 2017), board member of the Northeast Wilderness Search and Rescue, enjoyed judging National Association of Canine Scent Work competitions, founding member of the New York State Canine Association, and decades teaching for the Eden International Police K9 Conference, and taught for numerous other working dog organizations around the world. When he wasn’t on the road, he dedicated his life as a professor of nearly 40 years in SUNY Cobleskill’s animal science program, where he taught unique and popular equine and canine behavior classes. Through his career he perfected the art of discovering the snacks his students brought to class with him (occasionally deploying a search dog in the effort) and spent much time sorting through the strata of papers on his desk, while explaining that he knew exactly where everything was. In the final years of his career, “Doc” established the only known accredited Canine Training and Management bachelor’s degree program and was recognized by the SUNY system in 2020 with the selective Distinguished Service Professor award for his extraordinary lifetime of service to the campus and the community at large. He authored several books, and wrote K9 training columns for Dog Sports, Working Dog, and Police magazines. Despite being one of the planet’s leaders in his field was never comfortable trying to decide the monetary value his knowledge was worth. It was priceless.
“Doc” enjoyed a robust life filled with travel, incredible stories, and forays into blacksmithing, gunsmithing, falconry, groan-worthy Dad jokes, and in later years living vicariously by interviewing his daughter as to the social media updates of his many students and colleagues (don’t worry, she only shared the appropriate ones). He looked forward to eventually running a retirement business with his friends charging tourists to chase Bigfoot (or maybe large exotic snakes in the Everglades). These cherished friends will now have to proceed without his occasional wide-eyed reality checks, bellowed protests from the back seat, and naughty mealtime suggestions he thought his wife never caught wind of. His family will miss his text ring tone going off all hours of the day and night, frequently accompanied by his giggles, as they hatched scheme after scheme.
Steve was frequently bewildered by yet fiercely supportive of his children and had perfected the long-suffering sigh of a father whose kids interpreted his teachings to suit them in ways he never saw coming. He enjoyed the sound of the serving spoon sinking into his wife’s shepherd’s pie and bringing home dogs completely unfit for any normal household (we loved every one of them). More important than any of his awards, he saw the unique potential and talents of every student he had, was adamantly steadfast in his support of them throughout their careers, and took incredible pride in their lives and accomplishments, no matter where life took them. His family is comforted by knowing his teachings and knowledge were cherished by so many and will continue to make the world better long after he is gone.
Gifts in Doc’s memory may be made to the Dr. Stephen Mackenzie Endowed Scholarship in Canine Training & Management or the Dr. Stephen Mackenzie Canine Equipment Endowment. Gifts can be mailed with the endowment name specified payable to SUNY Cobleskill Foundation, 106 Suffolk Circle, 228 Knapp Hall, Cobleskill NY 12043. Online giving is also available at www.cobleskill.edu/give.
A celebration of his life will be held at a later date when restrictions for gatherings have lessened due to Covid.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Mereness-Putnam Funeral Home, 171 Elm St., Cobleskill.