Friday, September 10, 2010

Going to the Chapel . . .Finally

About the time you think that nobody ever reads these silly blog posts, someone chimes in and says, "About a month or so ago you said something about telling us about a dog chapel. Are you ever going to do that?"

I love you guys who humor me by reading what I write. I love your comments; I love your encouragement: I love the accountability that the comes from having readers like you.

Okay, I am not so keen on the accountability; I hate the feelings of guilt that overcome me when I fail to follow through on something that I said I would do. So, here is the story of the Dog Chapel at Dog Mountain, Vermont.

Most hotels, even small inns like the one we stayed in in Stowe, Vermont, have those racks near their entrance that contain an abundance of information about all of the local attractions. In a corner of said rack, was a small advertisement for "The Dog Chapel." Weber picked it up and asked if I knew anything about it. Strangely, I had a faint memory of having read something about it several years ago in the magazine Spirituality and Health.

The Dog Chapel is the work of artist Stephen Huneck. Huneck, whose medium is primarily wood, suffered a bout of Adult Respiratory Distress, which left him in a coma for two months, back in 1994. Though the doctors were not optimistic, Stephen made a full recovery thanks to the loving support of his wife Gwen and his three dogs, black labs Artie and Sally and golden retriever Molly.

As a tribute to those canine companions, Stephen Huneck vowed to build a dog chapel where all were welcome to come to honor and give thanks for the spiritual bond that grows between humankind and our dogs.

These brief details do not begin to do justice to the life of the man whose vision built Dog Mountain or the art that grew from his heart and hands. To read more about this man and see his beautiful works of art, visit the Dog Mountain website at Sadly, Stephen Huneck took his own life in January of this year. He is greatly missed, but his spirit lives on thanks to his wife who is continuing the mission of Dog Mountain - to be a place where all creeds and all breeds are welcome.

The statue below alerts visitors to the turn-off onto the small country road that winds its way through the Vermont countryside for a few miles eventually coming to the Dog Chapel. For those who are not familiar with the wood carvings of Stephen Huneck, this is their first glimpse of his amazing work.

The chapel itself rests at the top of a rise which also houses the Dog Mountain gallery, and the Huneck's home and workshop.

As you enter the chapel, you see the carving that has become the icon of Dog Mountain. In the background, are messages written to honor and remember Stephen.

The chapel proper is filled with wood carved dogs. The ends of the pews are dogs. Free standing dog statues sit throughout. And for those who prefer feline companionship, there are a few of those too. The back wall that almost looks like stained glass is actually covered with stories, prayers, and pictures that have been left by those wishing to pay tribute to their beloved pets.

For animal lovers, this is truly a sacred place. Even if you are not an animal lover, you will be wowed by the workmanship of artist Stephen Huneck.
I have to share a story from our visit.

All those involved didn't think I saw any of this, but they were wrong!

Beware of the person with the camera.
So I was wandering around the gallery looking at all of the wonderful pieces of art.
This is what I saw . . .
. . .and heard.
"I can't do this. I'm a married man. You need to stop coming on to me like this before my wife sees!"

"Aw, c'mon big boy. You know that ever since that wedding thing and the priest said no tongue on that part about kissing the bride that all you have wanted is a slobbery tongue kiss. Just relax and let it happen."
"I can't. I can't!
"Oh, WOW! Bring it on!"
"Oh dog crap, there's your owner. I mean there's the person who feeds and waters you. I mean, there's your wife."
"I'm sure she didn't see anything. Just be cool."

"We're just sittin' here getting to know one another. Nothing going on except a benign discussion about Science Diet verses Iams and latex verses vinyl with regard to durability.. That's all. Really, a little bow wow pow wow."
"I think she bought it. I would hate for him to have to spend the rest of his honeymoon in the dog house."
Perhaps they all should have been discussing Kennel Ration verses home cooking and Tempurpedic verses a foam mat on the floor. And maybe I should have titled this post Going to the Dogs. :-)

Here is the steeple from Dog Chapel. As you look at it, say a prayer for all of those four-legged friends who have blessed your life.