As many of you know, in June, soon after we started this trip, we lost a dear member of our family, my co-pilot and wonderful old Basset Hound Buddy. Today, Victoria and I finally had a chance to pay our respects, and reflect on, our best friend the way we should. And, thanks to the magic and healing powers of The Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury, New Hampshire, I believe we are finally at peace with the time we were given with him.
Stephen Huneck was a dog lover and a well-respected folk artist who made a pretty good living selling wood carvings and paintings dedicated to his four legged friends. In 1997, after a near death experience he began building a chapel dedicated to dogs just outside his studio on property he called “Dog Mountain.”
When the chapel was completed in 2000, the visitors began arriving. Its tall, vaulted ceilings, beautiful stained-glass windows and doggy-themed pews drew the crowds. And everyone was accommodated – with a door for humans and a door for dogs. What began as a simple tribute to the family dog has developed into one of the most wonderfully spiritual and uplifting places I’ve ever been.
Of course, I was already emotional before we got there as we had planned to have a special day with Buddy at the Chapel, if he could stick with us long enough. We knew he was dying, and we knew there was little we could do, but I hoped against hope that he would hold on. Unfortunately he did not, so we made this particularly sad journey alone. Though the sign outside “Welcome all creeds, all breeds. No dogmas allowed,” did make us chuckle a bit.
Inside the chapel, literally thousands of notes of remembrance cover the walls, posted by grieving owners. Photos, poems and even ashes are tacked up with notes so personal and so familiar that I felt Buddy’s presence, and missed him more each time I read a note to “Rex” or “Lulu” or “Soda Pop.” I imagined them each playing in a field somewhere just waiting for one of us to cross over to meet them at the Rainbow Bridge.
Though the founder died in 2010, the chapel and his studio remain open year round for visitors. If you’ve ever lost a dog, I highly recommend a visit – it will heal and uplift your spirit. Click here for more information.
Rest in Peace Buddy. We love you.