A perfect place

I’ve always believed there are perfect places on earth — inspirational spots where your heart, mind and spirit are all in harmony. Although elusive, they still can be found.

On a country road near St. Johnsbury, Vermont, a beautiful folk-art sign said “DOG CHAPEL.” An ardent pet lover, I was intrigued and ascended what locals call “Dog Mountain.” I knew I had found something special with the sight of more than a dozen dogs romping and playing on the mountainside meadow.  

This was a 150-acre heaven on earth — hiking trails, swimming ponds, wildflower meadows and vistas all designed for the enjoyment of man’s best friend. It’s a labor-of-love from the Vermont folk artist, woodcarver and children’s book author Stephen Huneck, who wanted to design a place that honors the healing power of “dogs, nature, love and art.” A restored farmhouse serves as a gallery full of Huneck’s dog-related artwork, but the main attraction here is The Dog Chapel. 

The sign outside beckons “Welcome, All Breeds, All Creeds, No Dogmas Allowed.”  My heart skipped a beat:  Could this be a perfect place?

Designed in the style of an 1820s Vermont country church, The Dog Chapel features gorgeous stained-glass windows that are unlike any you’ve seen before, with images of dogs (haloed and angel-winged) being petted by human hands, licking scoops of ice cream off cones and facing forward with their tongues hanging out. Each is labeled with a canine-related theme like Faith, Friend, Play, Lick, Peace, Trust and Joy. You can’t hold back a smile when you see the whimsical carved pews that feature beloved dog breeds as the end pieces.

But the smile soon turns to a tear when you realize the walls are covered from floor to ceiling with thousands of Post-it notes and photographs of beloved pets who have passed over Rainbow Bridge. People make pilgrimages to The Dog Chapel from all over the globe to leave beautiful messages of love, loss and gratitude to the animal companions who have made their lives here a little more joyful, loving and complete.

Huneck endeavored to create a puppy paradise, where dogs and their owners can spend time together running free, off-the-leash in bucolic pastures. He also wanted to create a sacred space where owners could remember and memorialize these sweet creatures that spend their whole lives loving us. He has succeeded beyond measure.

Novelist Robert Louis Stevenson said, “You say there are no dogs in heaven. I tell you this: They will be there before any of us.” If the love on display at Dog Mountain is an early sign, no bones about it, we will all be together in that other perfect place.

For more, visit dogmt.com.

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