“The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.” -- Mark Twain
I have a rug by Stephen Huneck in my bedroom. It shows one dog pulling a boat, with other dogs inside it, through the water. It says “Friendship” and indicates that we can pull each other through anything.
Unfortunately, no one could pull Huneck through his recent tragedy. Sadly for all in the dog world, and non-dog people, too, celebrated dog artist Huneck, 60, of St. Johnsbury, Vt., took his own life early on Jan. 8. He had apparently been battling with depression for a long time. His wife cites the downfall in the economy as a factor, including the fact that Huneck had to let approximately half his employees go recently. It made the tragedy even worse in that he shot himself outside his psychiatrist's office, just a few feet from possible help.
Huneck’s talent was to depict everyday concepts using dogs as the players. His prints, rugs, notecards and furniture were sometimes straightforward, sometimes naughty and always witty. He warmed our hearts with prints such as “A Day at the Beach” and tickled us with those such as “Menage Trois.” He had a great understanding of modern culture and of the dog mind, too.
Huneck was no stranger to the concept of death, opening the acclaimed Dog Chapel for people to come remember their pets who had passed. Huneck also credited his choice to pursue his artwork to a near-death-experience years ago.
I feel certain Huneck has gone to his concept of Dog Heaven, “Welcome all creeds, all breeds. No dogmas allowed,” as it says at the Dog Chapel. He must also wear the golden wings he so often depicted in his prints. And now he has inspiration for more “heavenly” subjects, such as dogs chasing a dogcatcher ’round the Elysian Fields.