Dog Mountain: A Love Story
Dog Mountain was the life's work of two dog-loving dreamers, Vermont artists Stephen and Gwen Huneck. Tour the grounds, and find even more love stories in the Dog Chapel, where thousands of visitors have memorialized their beloved animal companions.Explore
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Dog Mountain: A Love Story
The story of Dog Mountain is a love story between two artists – Stephen and Gwen Huneck – and a whole lot of dogs. It’s also the story of what it means to follow a dream, and the difficulties that can bring.
If you’d prefer, you can download and listen via our podcast.
Dog Mountain: A Love Story was produced by Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister for Long Haul Productions, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and KCRW’s Independent Producer Project. Special thanks to KCRW’s Bob Carlson; Ali Ide (who generously allowed us to excerpt from her interview with Gwen Huneck); our panoramic photographer, Carlton SooHoo; Tom Jennings (who added beautiful still photographs); Rebecca Perl (who assisted with recordings); and to Martin Lee at the digital design firm Research+Design. Thanks also to Josephine Foster for her music and Benjamin & Katherine Almquist for their reading of Sally Goes to the Beach. We are especially grateful to Jon Ide & his family; the Dog Mountain staff; Darcie McCann; Chris Aubry & Ana Hernandez (and their dog, Tomas); Katie Hangley & Howard Simon; and to Stephen & Gwen Huneck, who gave us, and our dogs (Fern & Dovekie), one of the best days of our lives.
How to Help
Long Haul productions like Dog Mountain: A Love Story are entirely dependent on small foundation grants and listener contributions. If you enjoyed this story, help us make more with a small tax-deductible donation. Even if you’re only able to give just a few dollars, it means the world to us. If you can’t visit Dog Mountain in person, the staff is always delighted to post a memorial note or picture in the Dog Chapel; visit their site for details. And consider remembering your own companion animals, or those of your friends and family, through a purchase from the Dog Mountain online store, or even better, through a memorial donation on behalf of a beloved pet. Dog Mountain continues to struggle financially. Keeping it going is a real labor of love; without continued public support, we’ll all lose this gem.
Memories of the Dogs in Our Lives
The first time we walked into the Dog Chapel, we cried – hard. But our tears weren’t so much in grief; they were rooted more in release, in a recognition of the amazing bond we all have with our animal companions, and in the thousands of stories represented on the Chapel’s walls.
This is a salute to all those who have a friend in the Dog Chapel.
Like Dog Mountain on Facebook
Like Dog Mountain on Facebook, and post photos, love letters, and tributes to your own dogs on their page.
Labor of Love Parties
Every summer, Dog Mountain hosts a Labor of Love party, where volunteers come from around the Northeast to paint, polish, and spruce things up. This sign, outside the Gallery, got the royal treatment in 2014.
The Angel Dog
This Angel Dog sticker (which is tucked in a corner of a Gallery window), is emblematic of Dog Mountain. The Angel Dog appears everywhere, as different breeds, in different colors and sizes, but always with golden wings. Here, Gwen Huneck’s brother, Jon Ide, talks about the Angel Dog.
The Memorials Tell a Story
Some memorials include nothing more than a name and a date, but others are more elaborate, and include drawings and stories.
More Names, More Memorials, All Love
As we’ve worked on this website and story, we’ve thought often about the many dogs (and cats) in our lives, both past and present. They’ve been the best teachers we’ve ever had, and we’ve been honored to share our days with them. We couldn’t have done this without them!
With love to Dorothy Gene (a.k.a DG); Lovejoy 1 (a.k.a. Aussie); Lovejoy 2; Rodent (a.k.a. Roe); Hank & Ernie; Mac; Michelle; Lambchop; Comiskey, Ebbets, & Camden (a.k.a. Top Cat); Bronte; Reiki, Sedge, & Eyak; and Fern & Dovekie
Many people make the pilgrimage to Dog Mountain with photos, artifacts, and notes already tucked in their pockets. Some come with ashes to scatter on the grounds.
Economy of Words
Sometimes a picture or a name and a date is all it takes.
The Road to Dog Mountain
Visitors arrive at Dog Mountain on this gravel road – a road that might be hard to find if not for The Dog Walker. This road marker, pictured at right, sits just off US Highway 2 and directs travelers up Spaulding Road. It was crafted by Stephen Huneck, who modeled the Dog Walker after his wife, Gwen.
Dog Mountain is one of the premier stops on US Highway 2, one of the few remaining old-school cross-country highways. Highway 2 runs from Maine to Washington state (with a brief jaunt through Canada near the UP of Michigan); St. Johnsbury, Vermont, is just a few miles to the west. See Roadside America for their Dog Mountain entry.
Stephen and Gwen Huneck had lots of dogs — but they also had a herd of cats. And occasionally, you’ll find a carved feline perusing the grounds.
The Dog Sink
The canines are loose — even in the Gallery’s bathroom! Pull on the cast-bronze dog’s tail, and let the hand-washing commence.
Tomas & Dovekie
Tomas (the Poodle/Shih Tzu) of Maryland and Dovekie (the Golden Retriever/Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) of Michigan on the best day of their lives.
Stephen Huneck’s original work is scattered all around Dog Mountain. These are around and on the Gallery’s expansive front porch.
Visitors come to Dog Mountain from all over the world. Here, meet Tina and Suzanne Baum, who visited in August 2014 with their three beloved dogs: Zeppo, Jake, and Lily.
The Dog Ponds
There are two dog ponds on Dog Mountain; this is the lower pond. Both are favorite spots, especially during Dog Parties.
Stephen Huneck spent hours in solitude in this production workshop, carving and creating. Years after his death, Dog Mountain staff are still discovering pieces and prints tucked in this building.
Even the carved benches are open to all breeds, all creeds. Here’s Dovekie the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon/Golden Retriever mix taking a break from some serious play.
The Golden Weathervane
Designed by Stephen Huneck, this weathervane is perched over the the gallery that bears his name.
Stephen Huneck’s attention to detail shows in the Dog Chapel; note the custom designed, hand-cast doorknobs, and the special Dog Door.
Sally & Amanda
This incarnation of Sally the Black Lab was just a pup when Dog Mountain’s Amanda McDermott adopted her after Gwen Huneck’s death. She’s the latest in a long line of Black Labs — all named Sally — that have called Dog Mountain home. Sally serves as the Welcome Committee Chairdog, greeting Dog Mountain visitors as they arrive.
The Dog Chapel "No Dogmas" Sign
While this sign outside the Dog Chapel might seem like a play on words, Stephen and Gwen Huneck took it pretty seriously. The Chapel may look like a traditional New England church, but it’s meant to serve as a non-denominational sacred space in which all – humans and animals – would feel safe and welcome. Stephen talked about the sign in this excerpt from an interview in Modern Dog magazine.
“Asked if he’s ever received any flak from religious factions for building a dog chapel, Huneck answers, ‘When I was conceptualizing doing it that was a concern, but it’s been just the opposite. I’ve never gotten any flak and I’ve had a lot of ministers here. What was funny was when the chapel was completed, Fox News sent a reporter up here to do a story on it. They immediately went down to the local Catholic church and asked the priest all these leading questions trying to get him to say something negative, but he just said it’s really a wonderful thing that adds a lot to the area. I think there’s a fine line and I’ve sort of maintained that. I’m not making fun of anyone or anything. People understand and appreciate that.'”
Twice a year, Dog Mountain throws a party. Dogs invite their humans to join for food, drinks, mud, and more.
A trail leads to the top of the mountain. There, overlooking the valley below, there’s a grassy lawn and a stone column with an Angel Dog carving on top. It’s where Stephen Huneck’s memorial service was held, a serene spot for reflection.
Dog Mountain's Production Workshop
This huge old barn, original to the property, was home to Dog Mountain’s production shop, where Stephen, Gwen, and a staff of artisans crafted prints and carvings. Gwen’s brother, Jon Ide, and Dog Mountain’s Amanda McDermott, tell the story.
The Stephen Huneck Gallery
This building is home to the Stephen Huneck Gallery, now the lifeblood of Dog Mountain. The Gallery houses the remaining stock of Stephen’s original woodcuts and carvings, along with prints, Stephen’s best-selling Sally books (all following the adventures of Sally, his black lab), and Dog Mountain souvenirs. Proceeds from sales here are critical; Gallery and website income is really the only way Dog Mountain keeps the grounds open and the tax collector at bay.
Sally Watches Over Us
Sally, Stephen and Gwen’s beloved Black Lab, was Stephen’s beloved muse. You’ll see Sally in her different incarnations almost everywhere, and this little carving at the top of the Dog Chapel arch is one of our favorites.
The Memorials Keep Coming ...
When we shot these photos in August, 2014, this labrador’s photo was one of the first to reach the ceiling. This wasn’t really part of the plan. When Stephen and Gwen opened the Dog Chapel in 2000, they set aside a single wall on which they invited visitors to post notes and photos remembering their lost pets. Fourteen years later, the walls have four or five layers of posts; even the light switch is buried by photos and notes.
Gwen talks about the flood of pet memorials in this audio snippet.
The Sally Pews
Over the years, Stephen and Gwen had a slew of Black Labs – and almost always, one of them was named Sally. The various Sallies pepper Stephen’s art: his books, prints, and here, a meticulously-crafted, hand-carved chapel pew. Stephen and Amanda tell the story of Dog Mountain’s various Sallies in this audio piece.
While the vast majority of remembrances honor lost dogs, the scattered memorials to cats are tremendously touching.
The Sally Chairs
The Dog Chapel is home to a pair of these beautiful curvy, carved chairs, replete with tiger maple seats. They were handmade by Stephen Huneck and inspired by his Black Lab, Sally.
Gwen & Stephen Huneck
Gwen and Stephen Huneck met as art students, and were married 35 years. They never had children, but they always had dogs. Dog Mountain was their life’s work — a true labor of love.
The Stained Glass Windows
The Dog Chapel’s gorgeous stained glass windows add beautiful light and character to the room. Each window is intended to represent a different gift dogs offer in our lives: friend, play, trust, peace, joy, and faith. Here’e the story behind how Stephen was able to purchase these windows for the Chapel.