Recently, while traveling, I looked up tourist attractions to visit in Red Bay, Alabama. On the Internet I read about a cemetery for dogs, that was somewhat of a tourist attraction around these parts. Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Cemetery in Northwest Alabama is worth the trip if you are passing through. I have never been to a dog cemetery before, nor have I ever owned this breed of dog. However, I have owned dogs that were extremely dear to me. What they say about a dog being man’s best friend is so true. For many, losing a dog is like losing a family member. It is touching to see this cemetery and the tribute to such loved and dedicated hunting dogs. The first dog to have been laid to rest in this cemetery established by Key Underwood is his special friend and coon dog, Troop, on September 4, 1937, after more than fifteen years of hunting together. The coon dog cemetery is the only one of its kind in the world, and only coon dogs (a coon dog is any dog trained to hunt raccoons) can be buried there.
The spot that this faithful dog was buried was once a hunting camp that coon hunters from all over the area gathered. Underwood marked the grave with a rock that he hand chiseled out Troop’s name, and the date, using only a hammer and a screwdriver.
Other hunters began burying their coon dogs in the same cemetery where Troop was laid to rest. There are in excess of 185 dogs now, from all across the United States buried in the cemetery. That I could tell, the last coon dog laid to rest in the cemetery, was in 2015.
As I began walking around the cemetery, initially, my first impression was reminiscent of a “traditional cemetery” with engraved headstones. But the further I surveyed this special cemetery, I found nontraditional grave markers such as wooden slats with the name gouged or burned into the wood, some of the grave markers were rocks that had names etched in the stone with a hand chisel, others were homemade concrete blocks where fingers in the once wet concrete wrote the inscription of their beloved dog.
Some of the graves in the cemetery have dog memorabilia on the burial sites, for example, one has a stainless steel dog dish, another has a dog collar, and more than one has a dog leash draped across the gravestone. I looked at all the graves as I walked around and noted the names of a few that were inscribed on the stones, including Easy Going Sam, Bean Blossom Bommer, Old Roy, Buck Shot, Squeak and OL Lou. The headstones are etched with heartfelt messages such as “Ashes of 3, Good Coon Hounds, Friend, and If he Treed in a mailbox you’d better open it and look because he’s got em.”
In addition to grave markers and memorabilia, flowers adorning the graves were everywhere as far as the eye could see. Knowing how much these coon dogs meant to their owners was truly touching, and was evident in the sentiments etched in the gravestones. If you are in this area, stop by and visit such a special cemetery, and don’t forget to sign the guestbook. I did!