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Dog Chapel

2020 marks the 20th Anniversary of the Dog Chapel.

As we pass this important milestone, we reflect on the history of Stephen Huneck's greatest and most personal artistic contribution. In 2000, the Dog Chapel was introduced to the world as a symbol of peace, love, and remembrance. In the 20 years since, it has been transformed into a living piece of communal art and history, ever-evolving with each new note and photo pinned to the overflowing walls. The Chapel has become a unique and moving physical embodiment of the unending love people have to give.

Dog Chapel in the winter

The story of the inception of the Dog Chapel is one of adversity, perseverance, and hope. Stephen Huneck's own words, from the Introduction to his book, Even Bad Dogs Go to Heaven - More From the Dog Chapel, 2010:

"It is hard to believe that it has been ten years since I finished building the Dog Chapel and almost that long since I first wrote about my mission in The Dog Chapel: Welcome, All Creeds, All Breeds, No Dogmas Allowed. Looking back on these years, I realize more and more that my life has been filled with miracles. Let me tell you about a few...

Dog Chapel sign - No Dogmas

"Fifteen years ago I became gravely ill. I was in a coma for two months. The doctors had little hope for my recovery, but recover I did. I had to learn to walk, write, and carve all over again. You've heard the expression, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' My illness did make me stronger, and it also made me more sensitive, and more appreciative of life. ...

"During the time following my recovery, I thought a lot about life and death. I pondered the rituals we perform when a person dies, such as throwing a handful of dirt on the lowered casket to symbolize that the person has passed on, which helps bring closure for the living. Since dogs are family members, too, I thought it would be wonderful if we could create a ritual space to help achieve closure and lessen the pain when we lose a beloved dog.

"I remember a particular evening early in my recovery very clearly. I was using a walker because my muscles had atrophied, moving with difficulty from one room into another so I could speak with Gwen. As I placed the walker over the threshold of the room a thought flooded my head: Build a dog chapel. My first reaction was excitement. And then I started thinking, 'Geez, with what I owe in medical bills I'd be lucky to build a little dog house.'

"But for months I couldn't get the idea of the Dog Chapel out of my mind. I wanted to build a chapel in the style of an 1820s Vermont church on Dog Mountain, our mountaintop farm. I wanted it to fit into the landscape, as if it had always been there.

Dog Mountain in autumn

"Although I had no money, I didn't let that stop me. I put the word out to some people I knew who tear down antique buildings. I told them I was looking for stained-glass windows for my Dog Chapel.

"One day when I was at our gallery in Vermont, I got a call from a fellow who had just torn down an old church in upstate New York. He was sure the windows would be perfect. I asked him how much the stained-glass windows would cost and he told me six thousand dollars. This was a lot more money that I could come up with, but I knew I had to go and take a look, and worry about that later.

"There was an elderly couple in the gallery while I was on the phone, and they asked me what the conversation was all about.

"I explained my vision of building a Dog Chapel. They did not say to me, 'You're crazy,' which was the typical response. Being dog lovers themselves, they thought my idea of a Dog Chapel made perfect sense. They said, 'Listen, tell you what. You agree to make us a six-foot harvest table out of tiger maple and we'll give you the six thousand dollars right now, so you can go over and buy those stained-glass windows.' Of course I told them we had a deal!

"I went straight over to look at the windows and the fellow was right, they were perfect. I just had to add my dog motifs to their circular panels.

Dog Chapel stained glass window

“With that purchase, the Dog Chapel started to seem like a reality. Three years and a lot of work later I completed the Dog Chapel. I spared no expense or labor to make it just as beautiful as I possibly could.


Dog Chapel interior when first built

Dog Chapel original pews

"As soon as the Dog Chapel was open to the public, I invited everyone who came to visit to put up a photo of their departed dog and to write a few sentences about what their dog meant to them.

Original remembrance wall in The Dog Chapel

“I set aside a wall in the foyer of the Dog Chapel, which I called the Remembrance Wall, for this purpose.

Dog Chapel foyer filled with remembrances

“I had envisioned maybe someday having the foyer filled top to bottom with dog pictures. I never anticipated the whole building - every single space - covered with photos and words of remembrance, as the chapel is today.

Dog Chapel walls filled with notes and remembrances

"When you visit the Dog Chapel you are totally enveloped with messages of love. It is a very moving experience - sad, certainly, but also uplifting - to see how much everyone cherishes his or her dog. 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. I wanted people and dogs to have the most fun they possibly could. To this end, I have put in hiking trails, ponds for dogs to swim in, and an agility course for them to play on. In the winter folks come and snowshoe with their dogs, enjoying the pristine surroundings and the spectacular views. ...

Dog Chapel dog head door knob

"Dogs bring us closer to nature, and they help us live in the moment and feel unconditionally loved. They give us so much and ask for so little in return."

Several times a year, the Stephen Huneck Gallery on Dog Mountain hosts unforgettable Dog Parties. Hundreds of people with hundreds of dogs attend these festivities. Dogs are free to play, swim, greet one another, and of course sit by the food tables and ask for food (which we provide in abundance with food trucks for the dogs and their people). Everyone has a ball!

Click here for photo slideshows and videos of Dog Mountain, the Dog Chapel, and Dog Parties.

Dog Mountain scenic view

The property on Dog Mountain is always open to the public, even when the gallery and Dog Chapel are closed. It's great to hear from tourists and local residents from nearby towns who bring their dogs up to Dog Mountain to run them around. It means a lot to us that we can accommodate our guests. Each and every purchase helps make Dog Mountain possible and helps it remain free and open to the public and our dog-loving community.







Dog Mountain is a certified 501(c)(3) non-profit.