"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Stroll: Elegy

The news came yesterday morning via the local public radio station, before I was fully conscious. Stephen Huneck, the Vermont artist and children's author and dog-lover, crossed the border to NH and committed suicide. For so many reasons I was overwhelmed with grief.

Only a few weeks ago, while Christmas shopping, we stopped in a Portsmouth gallery that features Huneck's doggy art and notecards. We've visited the Dog Chapel on Dog Mountain (near St. Johnsbury, Vermont) more than once.

I can't think of a better tribute than posting photos of that amazing site as today's Sunday Stroll.

the Dog Chapel

Decoration on the steeple, a gilded labrador angel.

the dog steeple at the Dog Chapel

welcome sign

The walls of the Dog Chapel vestibule display vistors' written and photo tributes to their late dogs.

tributes to dogs, entrance to Dog Chapel

On our very first visit, the interiour walls were bare.

interior of the Dog Chapel

On a later visit, they were almost entirely covered.

one of the stained glass windows featuring a dog

carved dog heads on pedestals on the grounds of the Dog Chapel

Weathervane on the shop/gallery.

The black lab's name is Sally. In Huneck world, black labs are iconic, and always called Sally.

The shop and gallery are open to four-legged customers.

an item in the shop

Bathroom faucet and sink. If you pull down on the dog's tail, the water pours from its mouth.

bathroom faucet and sink inside the gallery/shop

handrail and benches in front of the gallery/shop

I hope and pray that despite the financial difficulties that contributed to Huneck's depression, the unique ministry and enterprise atop Dog Mountain can continue.

Simultaneously I've been dealing with doggy matters closer to home.

On Friday afternoon as I returned from my music lesson and Concord errands, I saw two unfamiliar dogs running loose on our private road. Heading towards the Lodge I met, between our two drives, a large black lab and a pug dog. I assumed they belonged to a new-ish neighbour. I further assumed that they were walking with their owner and had run ahead of of him/her. Ruth and Jewel, aware of the near-trespass, were barking crazily in their enclosure. When I brought them inside the house they ran from window to window, on high alert.

In the evening, well after dark and around suppertime, the owner of the dogs stopped by, frantically searching for her lost pug. She told the Chap that the pair had somehow got loose. Her black lab returned home on his own but the pug hadn't. She was searching the neighbourhood on foot, trudging through the fresh inch of snow. It was about four hours after I'd sighted the runaways.

It was the coldest night of the year so far. The woods are a dangerous place for domestic animals. All night long I tossed and turned, worrying about the pug. As we drove about the state yesterday on numerous errands--purchasing snow tires for the Chap, shopping at Macy's and Target, dining at La Carreta--I was alternately grieving Stephen Huneck and wondering about the pug's fate.

When we came home the Chap rang the neighbour's number to check in, but he'd mis-copied it. As he was taking the girls for a a walk before sundown anyway, he decided they'd stroll all the way to the end of the road to seek news about the pug.

Good intentions sometimes have bad consequences.

On the positive side, he found out that the pug returned safely home on Friday night.

On the negative side, the dogs (2 pugs and the lab) were running loose when he stopped by. Our dogs are always on leash. The lab lunged at Jewel. In a frantic moment of separating them the Chap didn't realise that the lab's jaws had made contact with Jewel's right leg.

Just before feeding time I spotted the tiny bloody nicks along her leg and on one toe. She was limping slightly and a more thorough examination showed why--there was a small but alarmingly deep slash at the back of her leg above the paw. I applied pressure to the wound and eventually the bleeding subsided. After a while she wasn't limping any more.

All my fretting about dogs resulted in a very strange dream...in which Ruth chewed through the screen of my laptop. I don't know what subliminal issues this represents, it's beyond my ability to interpret.

Jewel exhibits no adverse effects from her accident yesterday, apart from some exploratory licking of her front leg.

At this very moment the Chap and the girls are heading out on today's walk...I'm trying not to be nervous. I know where they won't be strolling!

I wish all dogs and dog owners a happy and a very safe Sunday. And everyone else, too.

Thanks for stopping by, and if you want to continue strolling carry on to Aisling's blog. For more information about the work of the late, great Stephen Huneck, visit the Dog Mountain site.

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