Coon Dog Cemetery
When my dad and I were in Tupelo, Mississippi, I casually mentioned that I had found a coon dog cemetery about 45 minutes away, just across the state line into Alabama. My dad adopted Leo, a Blue Tick Coon Hound, a few years ago and I love pet cemeteries so it wasn't too much of a stretch. Luckily, he was as enthusiastic as I was, and the next morning we headed to Alabama (this trip was my first time in both MS and AL).
The Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial graveyard is located, appropriately, on Coon Dog Cemetery Road in the northwest corner of Alabama. It was established in 1937 and claims to be the only cemetery of its kind in the world (probably true). You can still pay your respects to the cemeteries first resident, Troop, Key Underwood's faithful hunting companion for more than 15 years.
Today more than 300 dogs are buried in the cemetery, and there are strict qualifications for potential candidates: "The owner must claim their pet is an authentic coon dog, a witness must declare the deceased is a coon dog and a member of the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard must be allowed to view the coonhound and declare it as such."
When asked why the cemetery is so strict and exclusive, Underwood responded, "You must not know much about coon hunters and their dogs, if you think we would contaminate this burial place with poodles and lap dogs."
The coon dog cemetery is in a very rural, wooded area but it is very well-maintained. Janice M. Williams, aka the Coon Dog Lady, has been taking care of the grounds since 2009, making sure there are (fake) flowers on every grave. We paid our respects to Troop, Lead, Rock, Track, Doctor Doom, Ranger, Blue, Smokey, Bozo, Screamin Hanna, Coats, George, Squeak, Duke, Old Tip, Queen, Sue Walker, Hank, Black Ranger, Gypsy, Ruff Redbone, Red, Skid, Easy Going Sam and others.
Like other pet cemeteries I've visited, the epitaphs are both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Most of the markers feel handmade and there are traditional stones as well as markers made from concrete, wood and metal. A lot of dog show champions are buried here and their markers bear a long list of initials indicating their prestigious titles.
The coon dog cemetery ended up being the perfect father-daughter trip destination and judging by the guest book, we aren't alone in our offbeat interests. The dogs themselves come from all over the country, and when we arrived on a Monday afternoon there had already been ten other visitors from Texas, Florida, Montana, Washington and California.
Coon Dog Cemetery
4945 Coon Dog Cemetery Road
Cherokee, AL 35616