Barney's Journey Continues...
I had never been to Vermont before.
A dear friend of mine asked me one day if I had ever been to
Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
Not only had I never traveled
to Vermont before, but Dog Mountain?
I quickly Googled up "Dog Mountain"
to find that it was a place
to good to be true!!
The web site says that "Dog Mountain is set on 150 acres on a mountain top location in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The grounds are always open to people and their dogs. This unspoiled haven is covered with hiking trails and dog ponds. Dogs are not just welcome here, they are cherished!" That was so inviting to me. A place that you can take your dog to run free. Amazing...Simply amazing!
But, the "greatest thing since sliced bread" to me was when I learned that on the grounds situated on the top of a hill is a chapel. Now, this chapel is unlike any other chapel I had ever been to. Built by hand, by artist Stephen Huneck, it's a chapel that Stephen considered his "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 more than 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." The most unique and remarkable part of the Dog Chapel on Dog Mountain are the many dogs that are a part of the chapel. There are dogs in the stained glass windows, the pews have dogs intricately carved out of wood. There's even a dog weather vane on the steeple of the Chapel.
Stephen and his wife, Gwendolyn had a mission and a vision...After Stephen passed away his wife Gwendolyn wrote this touching love letter which appears on the Dog Mountain website. It reads:
"Stephen first wrote The Dog Chapel Mission Statement in 1997, when the Dog Chapel was merely an inspiration in his mind's eye. In 2000, against all odds, Stephen’s dream came true. In 2000, he revised his mission statement and explained what had inspired him to conceive and eventually build The Dog Chapel. Stephen often said, “Dream Without Limits,” and dream he did. The Dog Chapel’s walls are now covered with thousands upon thousands of Remembrances of Dogs Loved and Lost. It is a tremendously moving sight.
I believe Stephen accomplished what he set out to do with flying colors! He wanted to help us honor animals as the feeling, spiritual beings they are and to also help us all find closure and healing. The Dog Chapel is a tranquil, sacred space to meditate with your dog as well.
WELCOME ALL CREEDS, ALL BREEDS, NO DOGMAS ALLOWED!
Let’s not forget Stephen’s other dream for Dog Mountain. That it be a place where hundreds of dogs and people could find Joy, Love, and Friendship by hiking the miles of trails, enjoying the swimming pond for dogs and the breathtaking views. He wanted everyone to take a break and allow themselves to be silly, playful and childlike (of course that comes naturally to dogs and children!).
Smell the flowers! Breathe the air! Listen to the songbirds. It is splendid to be out in Nature on our own little piece of heaven.
IN STEPHEN’S HONOR AND MEMORY, AND WITH YOUR HELP, I PLEDGE TO KEEP THE DOG CHAPEL AND DOG MOUNTAIN OPEN AND FREE FOR ALL TO ENJOY, ESPECIALLY DOGS, FOREVER.
With love and gratitude, Gwendolyn Huneck
Invited by the producers of the PBS Show that Dagger was featured on
("Shelter Me- The Art of Kindness"), Denis, Barney and I journeyed up to Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, this past Memorial Day Weekend. In one word, it was "AMAZING." It's a little bit of heaven right here on earth. Sacred, peaceful and joyful. Driving up the dirt road to the mountain, we began to see dogs frolicking freely all over the place. There was laughing and crying all at the same time going on. Because, you see, the Dog Chapel is where folks leave photos. drawings, tributes and notes to the dogs and pets that have passed. Some people, we've since learned. scatter their beloved's ashes on the grounds where they once frolicked for years. That's the only sad part of Dog Mountain. But people can cry there and never feel judged or shame for feeling so deeply grief stricken by the loss of their pet.
Before we entered Dog Chapel, I thought I would weep like a baby, but instead a peace and warmth enveloped me. Perhaps seeing all of the dogs running and having fun when we first arrived helped my grief. As we gazed at all of the layers and layers of photos and notes left by people, Denis and I thought about all of the lives scotch taped and pinned to the walls of Dog Chapel. Each had a history, a family, a life filled with love. There was love that permeated those walls. It was truly breathtaking. An awesome moment, for sure!. When the time came that we had to leave our tribute to Dagger DogVinci, it was a bit painful, I must admit. We left one of Dagger's red berets, photos of him, a sketch I created of him and 2 notes...one from Denis the other from me. Reflecting on Dagger's life at Dog Chapel was in a sense healing for us. Nothing will ever take away the grief that we still feel after losing him, but the grief was eased by this act of leaving a part of how special he was to us and meeting other "like" minded people who shared the same feelings as we do. Some people say that "Dog Mountain is the happiest place to be sad."
Barney was such a good boy on the trip. He's a wonderful travel buddy to Denis and I. He LOVED Dog Mountain especially playing with the dogs that worked there. He became fast friends with Honey and Maggie Mae pet dogs to Creative Director Amanda McDermott and Pam the wonderful Greeter.
Dog Mountain is a very special place.
I encourage you to go and experience it for yourselves.
It's truly a slice of heaven on earth.
Barney will be featured in the show that was filmed at Dog Mountain.
The PBS producers of the show "Shelter Me,"
Steven Latham and Conrad Stanley,
are hopeful that it will be premiering this fall.
As Barney Dagger's Journey continues!!
Happy Tales to you,
A Place where I can Bark, Blog and Woof a Little
written by Yvonne Dagger