A recent funeral service held at a remote cemetery located in the heavily wooded, red clay hills of northwestern Alabama attracted some 400 mourners, many dressed in hunting camouflage, and more than a few sporting four legs and a tail. As the funeral procession headed out from Tuscumbia to the departed’s final resting place, it was observed that vehicles were lined up for a full half-mile.
The late Shawnee Hills Beaujolais, or Bo, was an 11-year-old, award-winning black and tan coonhound from Southern Illinois. And due to Bo’s pedigree and affinity for hunting raccoons, the remains of the hound were permitted to be interred at the famous Key Underwood Memorial Coon Dog Cemetery, located southwest of Tuscumbia.
Michael Seets was visibly emotional as he told a reporter from the “Tuscumbia Times Daily” on October 20 about the special hound that was the 2008 Purina Outstanding Show Dog of the Year, a world show dog champion and winner of numerous raccoon-hunting competitions.
“Bo was a good dog. This is the place you bury a good dog,” Seets said. “We’ve had other good dogs, and when they died, we buried them behind the barn or beside a tree. But Bo was special because Little Red [Seets’ 6-year-old granddaughter, Ericka Seets] loved him so much.”
Young Erika, who said Bo’s favorite food was doughnuts, agreed.
“He was the goodest dog ever,” she said.
After Bo died earlier this year of an infection, Michael and Ericka decided to make arrangements to bury their special dog at the unique cemetery where champion coonhounds have been laid to rest by their owners since 1937. The two attended last week’s service, along with All-Night Roxie, another black and tan coonhound.
The cemetery is named for Key Underwood, who buried his dog, Troop, in the woods where they hunted together in 1937. In a 1985 interview, Underwood said he never intended the site to become a cemetery. But as other hunters needed a place to honor their loyal hunting dogs, the secluded site became a popular burial ground.
The cemetery, which now has nearly 200 graves, is very strict about allowing only certified raccoon-hunting canines.
“We have stipulations on this thing,” says Larry Sanderson, vice president of the cemetery. “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.”
The Key Underwood Memorial Coon Dog Cemetery is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Colbert County, where each Labor Day a celebration includes music, dancing, food and a “liar’s contest.”