On a quiet hilltop farm in St. Johnsbury, you'll find a landmark that speaks volumes of the special relationship between people and their pets. Darcie McCann of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce says, "It's very, very touching."
It is the Dog Chapel: the masterpiece of artist Stephen Huneck, who created a place for dog owners to mourn the pets they've lost. But this weekend, the Dog Chapel became a memorial to its builder. "It really surprised a lot of people," McCann sighs.
Huneck committed suicide last week. He was despondent, his wife said, after having to lay off employees. The death shocked Huneck's Northeast Kingdom community and fans of his dog paintings and carvings in large part because the artist's work seemed so full of joy.
Alex Aldrich, the executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, says, "You think, 'That can't happen! Especially not to him!'"
Channel 3 visited Huneck in July of 1999, when the Dog Chapel was under construction. He told us then, "It's like the baseball movie. 'You build it, and they will come!'"
And they did. Over the last decade, thousands of visitors on two legs and four made Dog Mountain a tourist destination. They bought prints, carvings, greeting cards and more. "When you think about Vermont artists, one you'll think of is Stephen Huneck," Aldrich explains.
Huneck became one of the state's most commercially successful artists and shared his spotlight with St. Johnsbury and the region. When national and international press came calling, he always spoke of the beauty of the Northeast Kingdom, earning him honorary status as a diplomat for the Chamber of Commerce. Chamber director Darcie McCann says, "It's been a tough couple days for the Kingdom, I think."
Since Huneck's death, admirers have left messages and flowers at the Dog Chapel, thanking him for making the world more beautiful and fun, and for understanding how pets are family members, too.
We asked an employee of Stephen Huneck's gallery what the future holds for the gallery and the dog chapel. She said nothing's been decided yet, but everyone hopes both can stay open. "It means so much to so many," McCann says.
People who have found comfort at the Dog Chapel or who've taken away colorful keepsakes are now finding new meaning in a line from Stephen Huneck's own book about the chapel. It reads, "It hurts beyond words to suffer the loss of a friend."
Tuesday, March 11 2014 10:28 PM EDT2014-03-12 02:28:52 GMT
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill passed Tuesday allows an unlimited number of qualified Vermonters to access medical marijuana -- removing theMore >>
The Vermont Senate has loosened restrictions on the state's medical marijuana dispensaries.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 10:20 PM EDT2014-03-12 02:20:41 GMT
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman. 43-year-old Craig Dubuque was arrested for the alleged financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Police sayMore >>
A St. George man is behind bars accused of stealing from an elderly South Burlington woman.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 7:56 PM EDT2014-03-11 23:56:46 GMT
"You know, people say you might not need it, which is true, but this way you get a choice. I don't have to go out tomorrow," said Lorinda Henry of Milton. Henry says she hit the grocery stores TuesdayMore >>
Parts of Vermont could get up to 24 inches of snow in the coming storm. And VTrans officials are warning drivers they may not be able to keep up with the storm rolling in Wednesday.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 8:02 PM EDT2014-03-12 00:02:07 GMT
"Seems like it was just yesterday. Doesn't seem like it's been two years at all," said Glenda Reandeau of Tupper Lake. Residents of Tupper Lake still have their eyes out for Colin Gillis, a now 20-year-oldMore >>
Colin Gillis of Tupper Lake, N.Y., disappeared two years ago. And authorities are still searching for him. They say the investigation now focuses on tips from the public and from those who were the last to see Gillis.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 6:17 PM EDT2014-03-11 22:17:43 GMT
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser. Authorities say Officer Adam Lucia was one of two officers responding to an aggravated assault call Monday at TopsMore >>
A Rutland City Police officer is recovering at home after a crash involving his cruiser.More >>
Tuesday, March 11 2014 11:49 AM EDT2014-03-11 15:49:17 GMT
A Plattsburgh woman faces charges for allegedly attacking someone with a knife. New York State Police were called to the Best Value Inn on Booth Drive Sunday night for a report of a domestic dispute. InvestigatorsMore >>
A Plattsburgh woman faces charges for allegedly attacking someone with a knife.More >>