Our humans have lots of choices when it comes to vacations, with hotels coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes. However, one of the most unusual choices can be found in Cottonwood, Idaho.
The Dog Bark Park Inn is a bed and breakfast (B&B) shaped like a giant beagle and sits among other large, whimsical sculptures in a relaxing oasis created by chainsaw sculpture artist Dennis Sullivan.
The 30-foot-high beagle, who is named Sweet Willy, has an entry deck on the second floor that opens onto a large room filled with doggy decorations, including pillows, wall art and a headboard full of different breed cut-outs.
Guests can walk up more steps to a cozy loft area, which is technically located in Sweet Willy’s head. It contains more sleeping space.
And you want to know the best part? Well-behaved dogs and kitties are allowed to visit!
“Guests have said it’s a magical place. Once you come inside and close the door, it’s like a whole new world that makes people smile, which is why we built it,” Sullivan explained.
Noting that he had never been interviewed before by a dog reporter, he added that there are lots of books and board games in the rooms, but no television or phone. “We wanted this to be a serene and relaxing place. And it’s worked. We have a lot of visitors who keep coming back.”
The Dog Bark Park
Outside the inn, a variety of other Sullivan-created sculptures are scattered among 2.25 acres of land. Right next to Sweet Willy is a smaller, 12-foot tall beagle named Toby. A 12-foot tall fire hydrant, which also houses a public restroom for humans, sits nearby.
A little further away, guests can take their picture beside 4-foot blocks that spell out “Doggy,” or by a large fish, toaster or walk-in coffee pot, which will eventually hold a Corningware museum inside. Sullivan is also finishing up an 8 x 8 x 8-foot carved pickup truck, which is actually a storage building.
“It’s a fun place but we’re very serious about the business. We try to make it a great experience for any visitor, whether they are staying in the inn or just here to see the grounds,” said Sullivan.
That’s right, anybody is welcome to come by and explore the area, including leashed doggies. (I’m already dreaming about giant toast and “examining” that fire hydrant!)
Building the Dog House
Sullivan started out as a builder but took up carving dogs from wood about 28 years ago. “I had dogs all my life and I saw what a big connection people have with them,” he explained.
After selling his carvings at dog shows, he formed a short-term relationship with the QVC shopping network in 1995. Over the course of 18 months, they bought 10,000 of the dogs created by Sullivan, his wife Frances Conklin, and a crew of seven.
“After that, we decided we didn’t want to be a dog factory, so took the QVC money and bought this property.” Soon after, he created Toby to be a good-will ambassador, being pulled by truck to several doggy fundraisers around the region.
Then nine years ago, Dennis and Frances came up with the idea for a permanent, large dog B&B. “And that was the moment that changed our lives.”
At this point I had to ask: why a beagle? Why not something different (such as a Siberian Husky/German Shepherd mix)? He just laughed and explained that was one of the first breeds he ever carved and has remained his most popular seller. “So it really just seemed like a natural fit.”
Noble and Absurd
Today, the inn is open from April to October, but the grounds are open all year long. Sweet Willy has been named a Best of America by Reader’s Digest and has been featured on HGTV, the Rachael Ray Show and even MTV’s Extreme Cribs.
Dennis, who is now 70 years old, is still carving with Frances in an on-site studio where guests can drop in and watch. A next-door gift shop holds their creations, including more than 60 different dog breeds, as well as bear, moose and fish.
The gift shop is also where you’ll usually find friendly dog ambassador Sprocket, a very calm golden retriever who LOVES tummy rubs. (But then don’t we all?)
Sullivan said he tries to encourage everyone he meets to go for their dreams. “If you have a real passion, and it’s reasonable, then you can achieve it! You can be a success because when others get tired or when roadblocks come up, your passion and inner strength can carry you through.”
He added that it is also important to always give back whenever possible. He has donated or slashed the prices of his dog sculptures for several organizations.
This includes an on-going donated project for the local infusion center. While cancer patients at the center go through their procedures, they can look directly out onto a roof where a variety of carved dogs wear tags that spell out “Be Well.”
Speaking of tags, there’s a large one on Sweet Willy that reads “A Noble and Absurd Undertaking.” Appropriately, the inn was recently named as one of Yahoo’s “Top 5 Odd Hotels” in the country.
“We have the most delightful and meaningful business,” said Sullivan. “When we first built the big dog, we didn’t really know what we were getting into, but it’s just been extraordinary. We love people and love our guests. And in addition to taking care of them, if you can make a difference in people’s lives, isn’t that just about the best thing ever?”
Facts: The inn doesn’t accept drop-ins and does not take online reservations. Instead, they ask potential guests to call 208-962-3647 “So we can get to know you!,” explained Sullivan with a good-natured laugh.
There is an online catalogue of 10-inch and 16-inch dog sculptures on their website. The couple can also customize orders, painting to match pet photos. They can also carve cats, although there hasn’t been as much of a call for them.
All photos supplied by Frances Sullivan, from the Dog Bark Park Inn.