If I had trouble last week describing Dog Mountain, how will I ever do justice to Dog Chapel.
Folk artist and furniture craftsman Stephen Huneck built the chapel to celebrate the spiritual bond between people and dogs. Dogs have always been welcome there, as are people of all faiths and beliefs.
I knew those things when I arrived at Dog Mountain, having stumbled across some literature while planning our trip to Vermont this summer. I’m always looking for dog-friendly places and I couldn’t have found a dog-friendlier place than Dog Mountain. I wish I’d dug a little deeper. Maybe I could have prepared myself a little better.
There is an air about Dog Mountain, a sense of peace and serenity, but also a sense of something spiritual. But walking into Dog Chapel was almost like walking into a wall for me. Within seconds, I was hit hard with the feeling of the place. To me, it felt almost like a shrine.
There are thousands of small, brightly-coloured pieces of paper tacked on the walls, along with hundreds of photographs, covering every available bit of space. After reading just one, I realized each commemorated someone’s love for their pet and I was completely overwhelmed. Maybe because I had Jake in my arms (it was after all a chapel and I hadn’t yet quite grasped the concept), or maybe it wasn’t, but I had a meltdown. I’m not a big crier, but I just burst into tears, utterly overcome with emotion.
After going outside to catch my breath and calm down, I ventured back into the chapel to take a closer look. I wandered around reading some of the tributes and really looked at the chapel itself. What a totally amazing place.
Stephen Huneck built the chapel after surviving a near-fatal illness. He told people he had a “wild idea” one day to build the chapel, styled like a small village church. It has stained glass windows depicting his artwork and dog carvings everywhere. He called it the largest and most personal artwork of his life and you can feel that when you are there. It’s an intensely personal place, a place where people come to pour out their emotions and those emotions seem to hang in the air.
I wrote a note for our first dog, Nicki, and found a tiny available spot to hang it. I hugged Jake a little tighter and went outside, even gladder than usual for the bond we share with our beloved Cairn and the wonderful experiences we have with him.
Everyone who has ever loved a dog should have the chance to visit that chapel.