Welcome All Creeds, All Breeds—to Dog Chapel

WBUR Boston's NPR News, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
WBUR Boston's NPR News, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / WBUR Boston's NPR News, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

They say that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, but man’s best friend would probably enjoy frolicking on Dog Mountain a little bit more. Set upon a private mountaintop in St. Johnsbury, Vt., the 150-acre property dubbed “Dog Mountain” was the longtime home to artist Stephen Huneck and his family. While recovering from a grave illness, Huneck spent a lot of time reflecting on the rituals associated with death and closure. With three dogs of his own, he thought that there should be an appropriate space to mourn the loss of one’s four-legged family members—and thus Dog Chapel was born.

Built in the style of an 1820s Vermont church, the chapel was the perfect addition to Dog Mountain. A sign leading into the chapel reads: “Welcome all creeds, all breeds. No dogmas allowed,” while a winged Labrador watches over you from the top of the steeple. Inside, hand-carved wooden dogs bookend the pews while light shines in through the stained glass windows, adorned with canine motifs. Visitors are welcome to post a photo of their departed dog on the chapel walls and to write a short tribute to his or her memory. “Grieving for a lost dog is one aspect of the Dog Chapel, but equally important is celebrating the joy of living and the bond between dogs and their owners,” quotes a passage from one of Huneck’s books.

In addition to the chapel, the spacious grounds feature hiking trails, dog ponds, and even an agility course for the dogs to play on. There is no leash law on Dog Mountain, leaving them free to run, swim, and play with other dogs. The mountain is also home to Huneck’s gallery of woodcarvings, many of which feature his beloved black Lab, Sally. Sadly, Huneck and his wife are no longer with us, but their spirit and love continue to thrive on the grounds of Dog Mountain.