Trixie’s grave lay undisturbed and unnoticed in midtown Mobile for about two centuries.
In dog years, that is.
The burial site of the beloved black lab that often feasted on ice cream and fried chicken was discovered in the backyard of a house on Dauphin Street, as crews were preparing it to host a wedding and a historic homes tour.
Brandon Fox, owner of Fox Historical Preservation, said landscapers found the final resting place for the four-legged friend of Helen Constantine Graf on Saturday, Feb. 24.
“The landscapers came across a concrete slab,” he said. “It was 2-feet by 6-feet.”
Under the concrete, Fox said the crew found an ornate child’s casket with remains inside.
“It was a really beautiful casket, about 5 feet long,” he said.
At first, investigators thought the remains might belong to a child because of the size of the pelvic bone, Fox said, but a neighbor suggested that maybe the remains belonged to Trixie.
Then the stories about “Mama Graf” started to be uncovered, Fox said.
“It’s turned into a great story,” he said.
Clark Glenn fondly remembers many stories involving his grandmother and Trixie, especially how the large dog was treated like family, especially at meals. Trixie was not excluded, even from expensive restaurants, such as Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
“We ate out a lot,” Glenn said of his family. “Every time we went out to eat she’d order a steak for the dog. We were like, ‘oh my God, please stop.’”
While Trixie is remembered for eating filet mignon, she was fed other foods much more often, Glenn said.
“She ate way more fried chicken and fried fish,” Glenn said.
Graf and the dog often shared ice cream as dessert, he said. It was this diet that turned the “complete thoroughbred hunting” black lab into a “120-pound” companion.
Trixie was such a special part of Graf’s life that Glenn and other members of the family assumed she might get a family plot.
“I never doubted Trixie would get a special burial,” he said. “It was a big deal for Mama Graf.
Trixie passed in 1991 or 1992, Glenn said. During the dog’s last days, Glenn said he heard Trixie was going to get a casket and would be buried in the yard.
It was Glenn’s uncle who traveled to Radney Funeral Home for the casket. Glenn said it was the “most ornate, expensive casket” ever. While he wasn’t there when the dog was buried, Glenn recalled the event from family stories. He said Graf wanted Trixie buried under some camellia bushes in the yard. Glenn’s cousins dug a grave at the very edge of those bushes and buried the casket.
At that point, Glenn said, Mama Graf wanted to have a small ceremony for the dog, but was dismayed by the grave’s placement.
“She told them it was in the wrong spot,” he said. “It needed to be about 2 feet farther back.”
As Glenn tells it, the cousins had to dig up the casket and bury it basically underneath the bushes.
“They put only about an inch of dirt on top of it,” he said.
“Mama Graf,” as family called her, was a “larger-than-life” figure, Glenn said, who dominates the subject of conversation even now at large family get-togethers.
“I didn’t realize how special it was until I was older,” Glenn said. “It has been great to have these memories bubbling up.”
Trixie will continue to be memorialized at the home she shared with Graf. The current owners, John Edward McGee and Demetrius James, had the dog placed back in the ground once the confusion about the remains subsided.
At first, McGee said, the couple thought the cement block was part of a water catchment system. They and others soon realized there was a coffin buried in the backyard.
“It appeared that a lot of the stuff inside was plastic,” he said. “We were pulling out the plastic to see what could be inside.”
The discovery of the 5-foot coffin shocked the couple, as one might expect.
“We were almost paralyzed,” James said.
Investigators with the Mobile Police Department were called and once it was determined it was the remains of a dog, they offered to call animal control officers. James and McGee declined, opting instead to give Trixie a permanent grave in the yard.
“We felt like this was Trixie’s home,” McGee said. “We felt she needed to remain in the exact same place.”
They dug a much deeper hole and buried Trixie again the same day. This time, though, the police put Trixie’s remains in a body bag and labeled it, so that folks in the future would know it’s a dog.
James and McGee own two standard poodles, named Eva and Miles. James said the day after Trixie’s third burial, Miles laid right on the spot where her grave sat.
“It was almost as if he was protecting her,” McGee said.
The couple is still trying to determine what exactly they’ll do to further memorialize the special black lab. James said they may put a plant there.
Photo | Courtesy Fox Historical Restoration