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At Vermont's Dog Mountain, Comfort And Community For Pet Lovers
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At Vermont's Dog Mountain, Comfort And Community For Pet Lovers

Animals

At Vermont's Dog Mountain, Comfort And Community For Pet Lovers

At Vermont's Dog Mountain, Comfort And Community For Pet Lovers
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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/410536722/411044436" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The walls inside Dog Mountain's chapel are filled with thousands of notes, cards and photos, all heartfelt tributes to pets loved and lost. i

The walls inside Dog Mountain's chapel are filled with thousands of notes, cards and photos, all heartfelt tributes to pets loved and lost. Carlton SooHoo/Courtesy of Dan Collison hide caption

toggle caption Carlton SooHoo/Courtesy of Dan Collison
The walls inside Dog Mountain's chapel are filled with thousands of notes, cards and photos, all heartfelt tributes to pets loved and lost.

The walls inside Dog Mountain's chapel are filled with thousands of notes, cards and photos, all heartfelt tributes to pets loved and lost.

Carlton SooHoo/Courtesy of Dan Collison

Vermont artists Stephen and Gwen Huneck were married for 35 years. They never had kids, but they always had dogs, their constant companions. In his mid-30s, Stephen Huneck taught himself to carve wood. Naturally, his subject was dogs — lots and lots of dogs.

He was also a dreamer. And he dreamed of building a chapel for dogs in St. Johnsbury, Vt. "I remember when Gwen first told me that they were going to build this dog chapel," Jon Ide, her brother, told producers Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister. "And I thought, 'Well, that's kind of nutty.' You know, dogs are great, but you've got to eat."

Vermont artists Stephen and Gwen Huneck loved their dogs, including Sally, pictured here with them in 2003. Sally was the inspiration for many of Stephen's carvings and best-selling children's books. i

Vermont artists Stephen and Gwen Huneck loved their dogs, including Sally, pictured here with them in 2003. Sally was the inspiration for many of Stephen's carvings and best-selling children's books. Karen Pike/Courtesy of Dan Collison hide caption

toggle caption Karen Pike/Courtesy of Dan Collison
Vermont artists Stephen and Gwen Huneck loved their dogs, including Sally, pictured here with them in 2003. Sally was the inspiration for many of Stephen's carvings and best-selling children's books.

Vermont artists Stephen and Gwen Huneck loved their dogs, including Sally, pictured here with them in 2003. Sally was the inspiration for many of Stephen's carvings and best-selling children's books.

Karen Pike/Courtesy of Dan Collison

Collison and Meister follow the story of the Hunecks and their dream in the radio documentary Dog Mountain: A Love Story.

The Hunecks made financial sacrifices and, over a period of three years, built their chapel on 150 mountaintop acres. They envisioned their Dog Mountain as a place where dog owners could come and enjoy time with their pets — and where those whose dogs had died could find comfort by leaving "notes, little pictures, photos, remembrances of pets that they had loved and lost," Ide says.

The chapel itself — small, white, with a steeple and stained-glass windows — quickly filled with thousands of notes from people paying tribute to their pets and with Stephen's carvings. Stephen "said that the dog chapel was his largest and most personal artwork. And it really is — it's a masterwork," Ide says.

Thousands of notes paying tribute to bygone pets line the walls of Dog Mountain's chapel. i

Thousands of notes paying tribute to bygone pets line the walls of Dog Mountain's chapel. Carlton Soo/Courtesy of Dan Collison hide caption

toggle caption Carlton Soo/Courtesy of Dan Collison
Thousands of notes paying tribute to bygone pets line the walls of Dog Mountain's chapel.

Thousands of notes paying tribute to bygone pets line the walls of Dog Mountain's chapel.

Carlton Soo/Courtesy of Dan Collison

The Hunecks fell on hard times during the 2008 financial crisis. Tragedy followed: Stephen took his own life in 2010. Gwen struggled to keep Dog Mountain going; she died in 2013.

Nowadays Ide, her brother, is in charge of the place. He considers it "almost like a point of honor to do what we can to help Dog Mountain survive." The place continues, he says, to be "the source of enormous healing and joy."

You can listen to the full story by Long Haul Productions at the audio link at the top of this story. And you can hear a longer version of the documentary, as well as explore photos and learn more about Dog Mountain, at longhaulpro.org.


Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister are independent producers with Long Haul Productions.

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