Despondent over money issues, Stephen Huneck reportedly took his own life on Jan. 7

By Moira Bailey
Updated January 15, 2010 06:00 PM
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Dog owners – and their dogs – are mourning the death last week of Stephen Huneck. The Vermont artist had created a quirky Dog Chapel on a hill, christened “Dog Mountain,” and invited people and their pets to come visit.

According to reports, Huneck, 60, committed suicide on Jan. 7, despondent over money issues. “Stephen feared losing Dog Mountain and our home,” his wife, Gwen, said in a letter published by the Associated Press, noting that Huneck had to lay off employees two days before he died. “This hurt Stephen deeply.”

Since then, an online guest book on www.legacy.com has filled with heartfelt remembrances of Huneck, his art, and happy times on his 175-acre St. Johnsbury farm.

A typical reaction, from Joyce in Connecticut: “We visited Dog Mountain this past summer. It was the highlight of our vacation. Stephen captured the love and special relationship that exists between animals and their humans.”

From Anne and Tony “and our dogs” in New Jersey: “Dog Mountain has been a magical and peaceful place for us to visit many times.”

Even those who never made it to Vermont, where the Hunecks ran a gallery as well as the chapel, wrote to say they were touched by his vision of pets, expressed in his books and artwork.

In a 2009 interview with PEOPLEPets.com, Huneck explained his reasons for building the New England church, saying the idea was to create a place “for people to celebrate their life with their dogs,” both living and deceased. “People look at their dogs as part of their family,” said Huneck. “And dogs do have a spirit, you know?”

Those mourning Huneck agree.

Says Karen in Austin: “I am sure that there is a special place in Heaven just for Stephen where he will be loved and watched over by many four legged angels.”

Click here to read more about Huneck’s dog chapel on PEOPLEPets.com. And leave your condolences for Huneck’s family below.