My husband and I are not dog people. This is kind of an accident of genetics and environment, because Southerners in general, and my family more specifically, are generally dog lovers. As I have been writing my Southern-fried Romances, I’ve had to include dogs – what kind of fish bait store doesn’t have a redbone or bluetick lying on the porch? So I’ve been researching and getting to know a little bit about the breeds (and mutts) popular down here.
In poking around the Internet, I ran across a weird yet cool site that is now on my list of places I just have to visit – The Coon Hound Cemetery in Colbert County, Alabama.
Coon hunting is a big tradition in the South, although not one that I’ve ever personally felt the need to participate in personally. But down here, you will find a number of gentlemen — and some ladies, too — who think of their coon dog as a member of the family. Back in 1937, Mr. Key Underwood certainly felt that way about his dog, Troop. They’d been hunting partners and best friends for over 15 years, and when Troop died, Key just couldn’t let him be forgotten.
He took Troop back up to a hunting camp near Tuscumbia, Alabama, where they had shared some of their happiest times. Key buried his coon dog right there in the wilderness, and marked his grave with Troop’s name and dates. Key had no plans to establish any kind of cemetery; he just wanted to pay his respects to a special friend. But over time, more hunters honored their canine companions by laying them to rest near Troop, and the Key Underwood Memorial Coon Dog Cemetery began.
Nowadays, over 185 markers memorialize coon dogs such as Preacher, Smoky, and Famous Amos, and the cemetery has become something of a tourist attraction. But you Yankees and city folk needn’t think about asking to lay your poodles or bichon frises in the sacred ground of the Coon Dog Cemetery. As a former caretaker put it, “We have stipulations on this thing. A dog can’t run no deer, possum — nothing like that. He’s got to be a straight coon dog, and he’s got to be full hound. Couldn’t be a mixed up breed dog, a house dog.”
If you think your pet has the right coon dog stuff, you can apply for a plot via information found on the official website: http://www.coondogcemetery.com. And if you don’t have any plans this Labor Day, you might want to attend the annual Coon Dog Cemetery Celebration, which includes music, story-telling, and booths selling Official Coon Dog Cemetery Merchandise.