One of the absolute highlights of Vermont for me was Dog Mountain in Saint Johnsbury. At first, since it was a bit out of our way and would have added 3 plus hours onto our trip back home, we didn’t think we could pay it a visit, but Katie had the sneaky plan of us following her car (she had the GPS, after all) and surprising me.
Passing a sign that read “DOG CHAPEL” on a dirt road tipped me off and I became a little emotional. You see, some people call Dog Mountain one of the most sacred places in Vermont and I’d have to agree. The property has rolling hills for dogs to run around on, a man made pond for them to take a swim in, statues of stoic looking pugs and schnazuzers looked out into the misty distance from their posts, and most importantly of all, their very own Dog Chapel.
What’s a dog chapel, you ask? A tiny little chapel, or a place of worship for our four legged friends. When I walked through the front doors (Willie and Marzipan went through the doggy door of course) I was greeted with thousands of little notes tacked up onto the chapel walls in memories of best friends who have passed. Some notes were sad “I think about you every day, I miss you all the time” and some were comical “We miss you even though you never went pee outside when it was snowing or raining”. Some notes were accompanied with pictures, a bulldog dozing away on the couch, a golden retriever in a lake carrying a big stick, a brown toy poodle sitting in someone’s living room. It was so beautiful.
Stained glass of dogs being pet or given ice cream glowed from all corners. Little pews with carved labs and golden retrievers on the ends welcomed you to sit and take it all in. A basket sat on the chapel floor, right in the front, bearing more notes and trinkets of dogs loved before, decorated with little ornaments of Terriers and Dalmatians with angel wings. I could feel the overwhelming love and care owners had taken to write heartfelt notes, jokes and tack up funny pictures. My eyes watered and my voice broke many times while visiting the chapel. I left behind one of my beloved dog Murphy’s old toys. A stuffed beaten up old squirrel now sits in a shrine on a mighty mountain that many dogs must think of as paradise.
I’ve never not had a dog, I was lucky enough to grow up with one, a lovely, loyal schnauzer named Sophie and I’ve had great company ever since with Harley, Dylan, Murphy and now my little pomapoo named Willie ( my husband named him after Willie Nelson). They are such an important part of my life and I couldn’t imagine not taking care of one, or rushing home after work to be greeted with a happy doggy dance. I feel like they are such gifts from the universe and that we could learn so much from their constant unconditional love and living in the moment. I get such joy from hiking with them or cuddling up to sleep at night with their little heartbeat at my feet. To me, it’s an honour to live amongst these creatures so the visit to the Mecca for dogs was so welcomed.
Dog Mountain was born from the minds of local artists Stephen and Gwen Huneck, the couple of 35 years ran and managed the small gallery on the mountain until they passed away and Gwen’s brother Jonathan took over the business. They were true dog lovers and hoped to create a tranquil place where people could come spend time with their pups and mourn the ones they’ve lost. Stephen, who carved images of dogs into wood and decorations, built the small chapel himself in the style of an 1820’s Vermont village church. (We passed through may small towns on our road trip and each seemed to have a giant 1820’s white church with a steeple, it was quite stunning)
You’re able to buy charming prints of the artist’s work (including my favourite of a golden lab flying into heaven with a man’s shoe in his mouth that reads “Dogs Have a Soul”) or Christmas tree ornaments, t-shirts, books and calendars, you name it. They were simple yet beautiful and captured the love of a dog perfectly. “Life is a Ball” one painting reads, showing a black lab in a lake swimming after a bright read floating ball. “Love is Give and Take” reads another, two dogs playing tug of war with a rope. I walked away with some greeting cards and a calendar.
Willie and Marzipan had a blast running around the mountain on our short visit. They barked at dog statues, sniffed around the gallery, probably catching the scent of thousands of other dogs that have visited before. Willie even walked cautiously around the pond, he hates water. By the time we were packing up the car again to leave, Willie pretty much fell into his bed in the back seat, soggy legs and all and dozed for a few hours. Maybe we’ll be back one day and maybe we won’t, but I won’t soon forget the way I felt visiting the mountain and if you want to plan a visit of your own and see what fun events are coming up, visit their website at www.dogmt.com, its open to the public Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm. Don’t miss the magic of Dog Mountain.
Hey! I'm Sarah! A 30 something living in downtown Toronto with a great guy and an OK dog. I love seeing what my city has to offer and try to hit up as many fun events or attractions as I can! I haven't slept since 2004.