Whimsey takes its toll. An artist I am very fond of, Stephen Huneck, who captured the steadfast devotion of dogs in his woodcuts and prints, has killed himself in Vermont. He built a Dog Chapel in East St. Johnsbury, Vermont, at the top of a hill called Dog Mountain. Though some may view this as folly, or sacrilege, he was honoring the value of loyalty and connectivity with nature after a near fatal respiratory illness. I have never been to Vermont, but Huneck’s hill top chapel speaks of his appreciation for his canine companions. His wife says he shot himself outside of his psychiatrist’s office. He had been struggling with depression as his business contracted, and he had to lay off employees. Sometimes the sadness is just too big to be lifted by a romp with the dogs.
His generous spirit will be appreciated for generations to come via his sweet books, and optimistic, dog centric woodcuts. As a chronic owner of Labs and Golden Retrievers, I can say that he captured their joy and devotion, as well as the lessons they impart by weaving themselves into daily life.
His Chapel had a Remembrance Wall, where owners could express their despair at losing a companion without embarrassment. People sent him letters to post there, often expressing regret that they did not realize how much they loved their pets until there was no one to greet them and love them unconditionally. Perhaps he was weighted down by absorbing all the sadness. Who can say? Now those who enjoyed Huneck’s work, and appreciated his gifts from afar will pause to remember him. I am among them.
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