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World’s Only Dog Chapel Faces Shutdown Due to Unpaid Debts

Created by artist Stephen Huneck as a place where people of all religions could celebrate the spiritual connection they have with their dogs, the famous Dog Chapel of Vermont is now in danger of being closed down due to unpaid property taxes.

Stephen Huneck loved dogs for as far as he could remember, but growing up in a family with seven children, he couldn’t afford to get one of his own. That all changed when he became an adult, and the special bond between him and his dogs was never stronger than when he came out of the hospital, following a two-month coma caused by a serious fall, 14 years ago. His four legged friends stood by his side as he learned to walk again. They would go into the forests to walk on trails and the dogs walked two feet in front of him and always looked after him and waited for him to catch up. The dog’s behaviour during this time really moved him and he felt like he was in the hands of God’s helpers…Stephen truly believed “dogs make us better people” and that “they can teach us more about love than most relationships we enter into”.

Photo via Architectural Digest

In 2000, Stephen Huneck and his wife Gwen opened the Dog Chapel – a special church that celebrated the special relationship between man and dog – in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and people from all around the world started making their pilgrimage to the 150-acre property known as Dog Mountain. They walked their dogs on the green fields surrounding the chapel , and paid their respects to lost pets by posting thousands of tributes (photos and notes) on the chapel’s walls. Dog Mountain and Dog Chapel were always non-profit ventures, and Stephen’s only income came form selling dog-inspired artworks, but when the recession came in 2008, business went sour and they couldn’t pay proerty taxes anymore. Then Stephen Huneck died two years ago and Gwen has been fighting to keep Dog Chapel alive ever since.

Photo via Architectural Digest

In July of this year the amount of unpaid property taxes amounted to $50,000 and the local authority threatened to sell Dog Mountain. Gwen organized a marathon sale of her husband’s artworks that could save Stephen’s legacy, and managed to raise $20,000 in donations and sold artworks. Now she has to come up with another $35,000 before the authorities’deadline. ‘I am still in a state of grief but it is nice to know just how much Stephen and Dog Mountain is loved. It has given me a purpose in life to keep Dog Mountain open and I am now planning to make the place into a charity so that people can enjoy it after I’m gone. Stephen’s vision was to bring dogs and people closer to nature in these beautiful surroundings. But he also wanted to give people a place where they could come to grieve the loss of a pet.’

 Photo via Architectural Digest

 

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