Dog Chapel in Vermont is a special place for humans and dogs alike

It feels like the past ten years have flown by. I spent 9 years freelancing as a trade magazine / corporate communications writer and then the past year at a brand-new news web site as part of a very small staff. Recently, I got to the point in life when it was time to get off the crazy train of working myself blind and take some time to reflect and reassess. Life is so painfully short, a fact I’m reminded of even more since I happen to be writing this post on 9/11.

A few weeks ago, we were able to spend some days in Northern New Hampshire, just a short drive from the Vermont border. The area where we stayed is a haven for hikers, kayakers, and general outdoorsy people. Not the kind of place where you can party until dawn. (Actually, you couldn’t really party past 9 p.m.) It was a perfect place to spend a decent chunk of days with my husband and my dog, something I haven’t been able to do in the past year or so.

During our stay, we made the drive to Dog Chapel, located on 150 acres – dubbed Dog Mountain – in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. As a longtime dog owner and animal lover, I had heard of Dog Mountain and had always wanted to make the trip. Dog Chapel was created by the late Vermont artist Stephen Huneck as a place to honor and love our pets – both present and past. The chapel and the pews inside were handcrafted by Huneck, but what grabs your attention are the thousands of notes pinned to the Remembrance Wall like the one below.

A remembrance tacked to the wall at Dog Chapel for a dog lost in 1974. Because some dogs stay with you forever.
A remembrance tacked to the wall at Dog Chapel for a dog lost in 1974. Because some dogs stay with you forever.

The notes are from all over the world and range from a simple “I miss you” to long notes about a long-deceased loved pet.

A card mailed to Dog Chapel and pinned on the Remembrance Wall.
A card mailed to Dog Chapel and pinned on the Remembrance Wall.

There are no leash laws on Dog Mountain so well-behaved pets can roam free on the paths and to the pond on the 150-acre property. There is no charge to visit Dog Chapel or the grounds on Dog Mountain either. Having it open to the public was part of Huneck’s grand plan. Sadly, however, Huneck took his own life in 2010 shortly after the economy forced him to lay off most of his employees. Today, the sole Huneck gallery is located next to Dog Chapel, but his artwork is available for sale via the online store.

Gwen, his widow, works in the gallery and is trying to keep Dog Mountain going. As you can imagine, paying property taxes on 150 acres isn’t cheap, even in Vermont where land is aplenty. Is there something that I/you/we can do? Yes. Tell people about Dog Mountain. Go visit if you can. Donate or buy a print or a t-shirt to help Gwen keep Dog Mountain and Dog Chapel open.

The sign in front of Dog Chapel reads: "Welcome All Creeds, All Breeds. No Dogmas Allowed." Is that perfect or what?
The sign in front of Dog Chapel reads: “Welcome All Creeds, All Breeds. No Dogmas Allowed.” Is that perfect or what?

So what did I learn from making a visit to the Mountain? What I already knew: Life is over in the blink of an eye or the wag of a tail. Find what inspires you and you will go forth and do great things.

 

 Related:

The Dog Mountain web site

More photos from Vermont

Stephen Huneck’s obituary from the New York Times

 

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