It should be more somber than this. Most cemeteries are.
But, the Coon Dog Cemetery (officially, the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Cemetery)? It is a place of joyful repose, an introspective stroll in the woods acknowledging the special bond we share with dogs. It is far more these things than it is a place of memoriam. It is a beautiful place, a special place — and above all, a place filled with love. And you can feel it from the moment you enter the grounds.
The truth is, our cemeteries are melancholy places. There’s so much sadness when we think of the lives that ended in loneliness, or anger, sick or in pain. But here in the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Cemetery, every one of these dogs spent twelve years more or less with a man or a woman who loved them, and whom they loved, every single day. Twelve years is a long time to be loved like that, and it’s a good life for a dog. It’s a good life for anybody. This is the only graveyard I’ve been to that was less an acknowledgment of death than it is a celebration of what almost certainly was, grave for coon dog grave, a damn good life.
Key Underwood is an exclusive resting ground though; hunting hounds only need apply — specifically those hounds that have tracked and treed raccoons: coon hounds. To have your best friend interred here, you must have a witness attest to your dog’s hunting prowess, allow an inspection by the caretakers, and have a 100% hound. If you have one of the many non-AKC breeds of Southern hunting hounds (such as our native frontier hounds, the Black Mouth Curs, Plott hounds, Catahoulas, and Mountain Curs), then you must meet all of the above and have no fewer than three witnesses.
Located down a ten-mile winding road just off Highway 72, in the picturesque countryside right near Tuscumbia, over three hundred dogs have made the cut: “And not just any dogs: They are, each and every one of them, coonhounds. Redbone, black and tan, English bluetick, English redtick, Plott, Treeing Walker, and various combinations of the above.”
But, in the beginning, there was just one: Key Underwood and his faithful companion of 15 years, Troop.
This is the only place of its kind in the world. But, if you’ve owned a coon hound, or know anyone that has forged a special bond with one, then you know they’re also one of a kind. This isn’t to cast aspersions on other dogs, but the idiom “faithful as a hound” exists for a reason.
From the Coon Dog Eulogy:
Let not your hearts be troubled, for in his master’s swamp are many den trees.
If it were not so, I would have told you. He has gone to prepare a place for you
and where he has gone Ole Red will go also. Dogs, they say, do not have souls.
They only have hide and bones. But I believe there is a coon dog heaven
and Red is gone were the good coon dogs go.
When my best friend Freyja passes, I’ve thought about laying her to rest here. It may not be as special a place to us as the woods outside of Memphis, where she loves to tree and chase and hunt, but it seems fitting to be with others who love the chase as much as she does and who have forged such a strong working bond with their people.
The Key Underwood Cemetery is a fine place for good dogs.
But, they’re all good dogs, aren’t they?
68 Days until Football Season
P.S. Feel free to turn this into an appreciation thread for your dogs. That is some offseason #content we can all get behind.
If you’d like to visit, or have questions about making arrangements, the contact information is:
4945 Coondog Cemetery Rd
Cherokee, AL 35616