Dog Bark Park.
Sign on the back leg of the giant beagle reads, "A noble and absurd undertaking."

World's Largest Beagle: Dog Bark Park

Field review by the editors.

Cottonwood, Idaho

Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin have heard enough "in the doghouse" puns to last a lifetime -- but that's to be expected when you have a house shaped like a 30-foot-tall beagle.

Dog Bark Park.
Beagle under construction circa 2001.

The architectural oddity, with the pet name of "Sweet Willy," was not envisioned as a house, nor even a building, according to Frances. She and Dennis are folk artists, known for their chainsaw-carved dogs (and particularly their beagles), and they opened a studio and gallery named Dog Bark Park in Cottonwood in the late 1990s. Dennis built a 12-foot-tall beagle named "Toby" as a way to draw curious travelers to the studio from nearby US 95. The big dog worked well in his role as a roadside ambassador, and that got Dennis to thinking.

Dog Bark Park.
Dennis Sullivan, Frances Conklin, and a chainsawed dog.

"One day he said, 'You know, that 12-foot-tall beagle does pretty good. What if I made a 30-foot-tall beagle?'" said Frances, speaking to us while Dennis was in the studio chainsawing new dogs. The idea of making the beagle a 30-foot-tall building only came later, Frances said, "over a dinner with a glass of wine, sketching things on a napkin that we didn't have the foresight to keep."

The purpose of the building didn't seem important at the time. "We'll make it into some kind of a building and do something with it," Frances recalled. Dennis's philosophy, she said, is, 'Everything I build at Dog Bark Park I build because I want to, and then figure out what it's going to be later.'"

It wasn't until Sweet Willy was year into his four-year construction that Dennis and Frances decided that he might make a good guest house for what they believed would be occasional visiting travelers. "If a few people would come by, that would be great," she recalled thinking at the time. Cottonwood, she added, "on the paved road but getting close to the end of it." It's over 150 miles from the nearest interstate exit.

Dog Bark Park.
Cutaway of the beagle reveals its inner layout. Bathroom is in the rear.

Sweet Willy opened for his first guest on August 1, 2003. To the amazement of Dennis and Frances, he's been booked steadily ever since. "Toby got some attention, but Sweet Willy put us into the stratosphere," said Frances. "People just are fascinated when you build a big dog and invite the world to stay in it."

Sweet Willy sleeps four -- pets are welcome, too -- with a bedroom in his belly, a loft in his head, and a bathroom in his rear. He has no telephone or TV, but there's a small library of eclectic travel literature (Including both Roadside America books). Dennis and Frances added WiFi to Sweet Willy in 2016, but their goal, Frances said, is to give lodgers a chance to disconnect from the outside world, bond with each other, and perhaps enjoy the view from Sweet Willy's ribcage deck. "At night you can see the stars, and on a clear day you can see forever, or at least almost to Montana."

Dog Bark Park.
Giant percolator is designed to hold Dennis's coffee pot collection, eventually.

While impulsive tourists will never see Sweet Willy's interior -- he's available only from April through October, and booked months in advance -- the beagle remains an impressive outdoor sight to anyone who stops by, and Dog Park Park offers other attractions. There are picnic tables, shade trees, a big red fireplug where visitors can relieve themselves (it houses a porta-potty inside), a large toaster with slabs of wooden bread, an oversized percolator that will some day shelter Dennis's coffee pot collection, and "Roamer," a big wooden beagle that rests his chin on the roof of Dennis and Frances' pickup truck.

Dennis and Frances are attractions themselves, welcoming visitors to their studio and gallery year-round, which, of course, was always the purpose of Sweet Willy. Travelers can tour Sweet Willy virtually by studying a cutaway model, detailed down to tiny versions of the furniture designed by Dennis and Frances.

Dog Bark Park.
Beagle ribcage deck offers views of the stars and prairie. To the left: fireplug outhouse for quick-stop visitors.

"We have to turn down hundreds of people who want to stay in Sweet Willy every year," said Frances. "The usual response we hear is, 'You have to build more dogs.'" But Dennis and Frances aren't interested in expanding the kennel. Their big dog limit is one, and having only one, they feel, makes Sweet Willy more special.

"Not everyone can come and stay here, and we regret that it has to be that way," Frances said. "But even if they can't stay, they seem to love the idea that they could."

World's Largest Beagle: Dog Bark Park

Dog Bark Park Inn

Address:
2421 Business Loop Hwy 95, Cottonwood, ID
Directions:
Dog Bark Park Inn. Just northeast of town, on the west side of US Hwy 95.
Hours:
Studio daily 11-4; Dog lodging April-Oct., booked in advance. (Call to verify)
Phone:
208-962-3647
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Towering Wooden Railroad BridgesTowering Wooden Railroad Bridges, Craigmont, ID - 9 mi.
White Elk SculptureWhite Elk Sculpture, Kooskia, ID - 18 mi.
Grave of Thirsty Mary the ElephantGrave of Thirsty Mary the Elephant, Lewiston, ID - 41 mi.
In the region:
Large Rocking Chair, Moscow, ID - 57 mi.

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