The mug I’d chosen for the morning coffee Friday gave me today’s NewsCut Flashback — yeah, it’s going to be a thing for the next few months. I picked it up at Dog Mountain a few years ago, a place created by a man and his love for dogs, particularly his black lab, Sally.
Stephen Huneck, an artist, said the worst thing he’d ever heard people say is, “It’s just a dog.”
His widow, Gwen, worked hard to keep the place open against fierce financial headwinds. But in 2013, she killed herself, too.
But Dog Mountain? Against all odds, it’s still there.
(Originally posted August 29, 2011)
Other than the phone call on the second day of vacation that my wife is losing her job, the vacation was just fine, thank you for asking. While that was the lowlight, this was the highlight:
This is Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont — my wife’s ancestral home. It was created by artist Stephen Huneck, who ran his gallery from the city, which is a pretty hardscrabble, straight-laced community of old New Englanders who once worked the mills, the woods, and the railroads. None of those jobs is coming back, but Huneck’s was doing well when he created the Dog Chapel.
Inside, it’s impossible not to reflect on the love between people and their dogs. From floor to ceiling, Post-It notes pay tribute to a long-lost pal…
But Dog Mountain comes with a heavy sadness beyond lost animal friends. Huneck suffered from depression and when the economy tanked in 2008, his business declined, he had to lay off people from his company and he faced losing the mountain. He shot himself in the head while sitting in his car outside his psychiatrist’s office.
So Dog Mountain is also a chance to reflect on the love — or quite often, the lack of it — between us and those who suffer from depression and are at war with their own brain.
It was a timely visit, given that many of those people are the people my wife helped. Her services are no longer needed and it’s not because there’s been a sudden drop in the number of people with mental illness who are desperate for help.
We are shameless in our deep devotion to our dogs. We have a long way to go to elevate the mentally ill to a dog’s status.
Here’s an article in a recent Yankee Magazine about Huneck and Dog Mountain that’s well worth taking the time to read.
Related: Do you like dogs? You will love ‘Dogs.’ (The Week)