On 5th March, Jonathan and Corinna Downes, the Director and Administrator of the Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] the world's largest mystery animal research organisation, fly to Texas. Together with their friends and colleagues Richie and Naomi West who very generously financed the expedition, they will spend two weeks continuing the research into the Texas blue dogs, first carried out by Jonathan Downes in November 2004..

Friday, 26 March 2010

LON STRICKLER: More Blue Dog Sightings

Hi Jon...I posted an article on your expedition to Texas and have received some interesting emails on other sightings. I have attached. If you want any further information...let me know. Lon Strickler, Phantoms and Monsters

http://naturalplane.blogspot.com/

  • Lon…Regarding the article about blue dogs. I live in Alabama and on numerous occasions I would ride with my husband who is an OTR driver. One day we were in northern Alabama when suddenly I saw walking on the side of the field was a BLUE dog. This dog walked naturally on the edge of the road as we passed. My husband did not see him as he was driving and the dog was on my side the passenger side. This was broad open daylight around 1 to 2 in the after noon during the summer months about 3 years ago. Is there such a dog species that is actually blue?
  • Hello Lon. Add us in. About 4 years ago my wife and I were taking a rare child-free trip to a judicial conference in Colorado. We were driving across a pretty flat and desolate part of Kansas (there’s a shock) and it was around sunset. We had recently finished laughing hysterically at some Kansas Department of Transportation guys who were striping the highway by having one of them lean backwards off the back of the truck with the striping paint in his hand while another worker held his legs (this made the trip fairly memorable by itself) and my wife had drifted off to nap while I drove.
  • I noticed an animal coming from a field across the highway from left to right and I slowed to let it cross in front of us. In Oklahoma one has to make way for deer, free-roaming ranch dogs and coyotes this way in the rural areas so it was no big deal. In our neighborhood one can come home at twilight and find a coyote in the front yard or walking casually down the street toward the nearby golf course—a coyote is not a particularly exotic sight.
  • As we got closer, I noticed this was neither any breed of dog I recognized nor any type of coyote I recognized. For one thing it was pretty big. It had extremely short hair (or none, I couldn’t tell), a really long and odd looking snout and a distinctive dark blue color which I assumed was being exaggerated because of the sunset light. It didn’t dart across the highway, but looked over at our car and trotted across. Very odd looking critter. Given the reports about blue canines in Texas, thought I’d pass this report on to you. Whatever they are, we saw something basically fitting that description in western Kansas.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

OK, BUT WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?

Thanks to everyone who commented on the photographs of the skull that we posted up the other day. I am certain that it is indeed a raccoon skull. Chris Kraska wrote:


'The other options were ringtail or coatimundi as they have similar dentition but the paroccipital process and auditory bulla are wrong for both. Also the skull shape is distinct. It's a very young animal as the sagittal crest is not developed as it is in older animals. The dead giveaway is the length of the hard palate and how far it continues posteriorly of the teeth.'


It was found on the land of Devin Macanally, close by the location of several blue dog sightings. Ironically a trail camera placed there two nights before picked up images of a ringtail (Bassariscus astutus), which, though also a type of raccoon, is known locally as `the ringtailed cat`, and I had vaguely wondered whether the skull was of this species.


But what the hell is this?

It was found in several locations nearby, draped on branches, and also fallen on the ground. It is organic and smells disgusting....


Newspaper Article

'Mystery and science fiction novels are a weekend hobby for some, but one local couple is turning their free time to attempting to solve strange mysteries in nature.

Richard and Naomi West just returned from a weeklong trip around Texas collecting pictures and video based on reports of strange blue-skinned, dog-like animals around the state that some have called the answer to the "chupacabre."

The Wests, along with the founder of a British nonprofit supporting cryptozoology, hope their reports from the expedition will help them gain support for a more in-depth mission to study and hopefully capture what they believe is not a being of folklore, but a new species of canine similar to a coyote.'


Here is the complete article in the local newspaper concerning Jon and Corinna's visit.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Goodbyes


It was with heavy hearts that we said goodbye to Jon and Corinna yesterday. We miss them terribly.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

CORINNA DOWNES: Some pictures from Texas

CORINNA'S DIARY: Saturday, 20th March

OK, photos on a blog posting can be classed as a cop-out, but it has gone midnight and I still have some packing to do.

Both Jon and I have lots of stories to tell and we shall write about them anon. In the meantime, I shall sign off from our Texas Expedition blog and will see you again soon when back in Blighty.
















CORINNA DOWNES: Last night in Texas

CORINNA’S DIARY: Saturday, 20th March

Returning from Austin, where Jon gave a talk, it has been an evening of packing and re-squeezing things into suitcases. At least this time it doesn’t matter whether clothing gets crumpled into a mass of creases as it will all go into the faithful old washing machine upon our return to Woolsery. It has been a wonderful two weeks and I can only thank Naomi and Richie for their tremendous generosity and hospitality. It is one of those occasions where the two words ‘thank you’ do not seem adequate but I cannot think of any other way of expressing my gratitude.

Jon has thanked people on his posting so I won’t repeat all the names, but I would like to extend my personal thanks to all those mentioned.

I have enjoyed my first proper expedition abroad with Jon and have had great fun meeting Jon’s friends and making some new ones. I hope we can come back soon to continue with the investigations into this rather enigmatic creature that has caught our imaginations during the last fortnight.

Tomorrow we shall begin our long haul back to our own little homestead in Devon and although sad to be leaving Texas and Naomi, Richie, Salem and Tiberious, I am looking forward to seeing Biggles again and hope that he will not be too disgruntled with me for leaving him for so long.






Salem




Tiberius

RETURN OF THE NATIVES

By the time that you read this we will probably be just about back in England. From where I am sitting Graham, Lizwiz and the rest of the gang have done a pretty good job in our absence.

They do not know it yet, but as we are both likely to be horridly jetlagged for a few days, I would not be THAT surprised if I end up asking them to carry on for a few more days. But thank you guys - you done well!

WHAT A LONG STRANGE TRIP IT'S BEEN

I have always hated transitions. As I type these words I realised that I said exactly the same thing in the first posting to this blog all those weeks ago. But it is true. I like being in America. I like being in England. I just don't like the transition. But you read all about that in my first post weeks ago, and although I feel that I am rapidly approaching my dotage, I try not to repeat myself too much.

It has been a wonderful trip. I am writing this late on Friday night as Corinna packs the cases. Just in case anyone accuses me of arrant sexism here, Corinna apparently believes that case-packing is one of the Eleusinian Mysteries that are only to be carried out by those not in posssession of a Y chromosome, and I have been banished from the bedroom.

As always, we have far more stuff with us now than we had when we arrived, and there were even more things that I would have bought if I hadn't been skint. I am feeling particularly melancholy at the prospect of leaving Texas. We have seen so many old friends and met so many new ones that it really seems as if (with only a very few exceptions) that the state of Texas and everyone in it has taken us to its heart.

I would like to thank Naomi and Richie for financing the trip and being so kind and generous to us over the past few weeks; Doug and Ronnie and family; Denise and family; Harvey and Deric and all at the Hyatt Ranch; Devin Macanally; Chad and Jonathan; Dr Phyllis Canion; Morgan and Jo from Minnow Films. There are dozens of other people who deserve our thanks, like Karina and Jamie for their kind presents; Nick and Dana Redfern; Ken Gerhard; Smiles Lewis; all at Dallas and Houston MUFONs; and many more (including, of course, Salem and Tiberius who I will miss tremendously) but I am feeling all emotional and can't really type any more....

slainte

Jon

JON AT THE ANOMALY ARCHIVES

with SMiles Lewis

with Craig Woolheater


Friday, 19 March 2010

EXPRESSWAY TO YOUR SKULL



This skull was found in southern Texas last week. Can anyone identify it?


We are making no claims whatsoever about it - we would just like to know what it is, so we can (in the words of the Old Bill) eliminate it from our enquiries...



HABEUS CORPUS? Sadly not...

As we were leaving Cuero the day before yesterday we had a telephone call. It was Harvey, all the way over in Fayetteville. Apparently one of his neighbours had shot a blue dog. We were making plans yesterday, as we left San Antonio, to do a fevered last-minute rush down to Fayetteville to grab what was left of the carcass (the un-named neighbour had apparently thrown it out "for the buzzards" (turkey vultures).

But at the last minute we received the disappointing news. It was merely a coyote. I was not sure what I was gonna do with the suppurating remains of a dead canid, but somehow I would have managed to get it back to England: after all, Richard had brought human bones and dried scat back through Moscow airport. Surely the honour of the CFZ was at stake if I could do no better.

But it wasn't to be.

I hope that we shall have better luck next time. In the meantime, here is the best song ever written about my favourite city - San Antonio.







JON AND CORINNA HAVE BEEN IN TEXAS TOO LONG

OMG They've gone native





CORINNA DOWNES: The Director of the CFZ is speechless - is this a first?

CORINNA’S DIARY

Friday 19th March


After visiting Devin the four of us intrepid travellers continued on our road down to Cuero where we were to meet Dr Phyllis Canion – the lady who had appeared on a recent National Geographic TV documentary about the chupacabra that had aired on American TV the week before we had left home. Our good friends Nick Redfern and Ken Gerhard had both appeared in the show, but for copyright reasons it had not been aired in the UK. Dr Canion had the body of a ‘chupacabra’ in her freezer and we were to meet and talk about her findings and hopefully see the body.

We left Morgan and Jo back at Devin’s place – they would meet up with us later. Dr Canion met us in the foyer of our hotel and just as we were leaving to go to the Country Club, the two film crew arrived at the hotel. It was arranged that they would join us later after they had freshened up after their journey from Elmendorf.

Dr Canion is a remarkable woman. She is a qualified nutritional practitioner and is also a rancher who has a great knowledge of the land around her. I will not go into details of the dinner and its conversations as this has been covered elsewhere on the blog but when we got back to her ranch we were all totally gob-smacked of what presented itself to us as we walked through her door. Jon was, for I think the first time in his life, speechless, as were all of us. There, on the fireplace, was a preserved specimen of the creature we had been hot on the heels of ever since our feet touched American soil almost two weeks before and which we had been distance-investigating for longer.

It almost snarled at us in defiance as we stared open-mouthed at its form, this beast that had been killed by our modern-day mode of transport like so many other creatures these days. I was charged with taking measurements of its body and although my creaking bones complained bitterly at sitting on the hard wooden floor of Dr Canion’s sitting room, it was an awe-inspiring task to do so. I silently thanked the goddess of fate that the stitching on my bag had started to unravel itself upon our arrival in the States, which prompted my need to purchase a travelling sewing kit complete with tape measure. It is strange how one annoyance can lead to something so utterly magnificent.

I became paranoid that upon trying to move my sluggish body up from the floor to change position would cause me to trip and come crashing down upon the creature and that those other preserved animals that looked down upon this newcomer would laugh silently to themselves at my misfortune.

The form was thin – not quite as thin as a whippet – but almost. And it was smaller than I had imagined. It did look undernourished to a certain extent and upon its legs there seemed to be faint darker patches on the skin that looked a bit like stripes. There is excess skin upon its neck and behind the large ears, but it is the weird scone-like discs upon its buttocks that are so strange. They are around 2” in diameter and are equidistant of the long thin tail. They remind me of old-fashioned flying goggles in their protruding roundness. What on earth are they? Is this creature so emaciated that its bones are sticking out at the back? Not that I can see and from recorded biopsies these discs are primarily meat. They are not the anal glands according to Dr Canion either. But they are present on several other photos of dead creatures of this kind that have popped up in recent years.

As Goethe stated – and as the CFZ motto quotes: In her abnormalities, nature reveals her secrets. Well in this case, it appears that this is most definitely true.

MIKE HALLOWELL: Canids in Native American lore

Perhaps as much as any other indigenous peoples, the original inhabitants of North America possess an affinity with the flora and fauna of their continent. Bereft of written languages, Amerindians of all types and persuasions – or, if you like, tribes – relied on iconic imagery to teach and communicate in an other-than-verbal form.

It's common to hear people use the phrase, "American Indians believe…" but a degree of caution has to be exercised here. There are literally hundreds of tribes, each possessing their own culture and belief system. There are commonalities, of course, and some of them – such as their affinity with the natural world – are almost universally present.

However, when it comes to animal totems things can differ from place to place and people to people.

Canines have a special place in the heart of most Amerindians, and in some societies have been seen almost as a template upon which other creatures were based. There is an amusing story attached to some Indian names for the horse, for example. It is generally accepted that horses
were only introduced into North America with the arrival of European settlers. There is some evidence that horses were in the New World much earlier than that, I reckon, but died out long before their re-introduction. Hence, when Indians saw horses for the first time they didn't know what to call them. Out of homage to their dearly loved canines, they named the horse, 'Big Mystery Dog.' It was, from their perspective, a genuine compliment.

Some canines are held in universal esteem by Amerindian peoples, such as the wolf. In Europe, the wolf is often seen as a symbol of power and authority. This isn't at all inaccurate, but the Indian perception is often more subtle. Whilst recognising the power of the wolf, many Indians also see it as a symbol of wisdom. Some tribes refer to the wolf as "the teacher." The colour of the wolf in question can be important regarding its iconic usage, but interpretations differ from Indian nation to Indian nation. White, often a sign of purity and/or insight, may give the white wolf a special status. However, when tribal members are named the colour (and indeed the animal) may simply be the result of providence. For example, if an elder 'dreams' someone's name for them, then they'll be given the name Grey Wolf if it was indeed a grey wolf that appeared in the dream.

Foxes are also important in some Amerindian cultures, the fox often being seen as symbolic of shrewdness, industriousness and creativity. White foxes may (although not always) possess somewhat negative associations and in at least one tribal perception signify violence, anger and/or aggression.

Perhaps the coyote is the most controversial canine in Native American lore. The perception of the coyote is often negative, signifying deceit, cunning, lying and slyness. I once carried the coyote name, and it caused a degree of consternation with some members of certain tribes who
saw it as "bad medicine". I didn't see it that way, however, and drew from the coyote much in the way of positive imagery and lessons. Animal totems are, in the final analysis, just what you make of them.

One thing that many people don't realise is that, in many Indian cultures, 'medicine names' are not fixed for life. In Europe, if you're called John, Sally or Fred at birth, then the likelihood is that you'll die with those names. In some Indian cultures a person's name may change with the advent of a life-changing event. In 2006, when I had a near-death experience due to an undiagnosed heart condition, I was very lucky to be revived. It was then suggested to me that my 'coyote name' might no longer be appropriate. I had graduated, if you like, and was
given a wolf name instead to mark the change that had been wrought both in my circumstances and perceptions.

Although canines in Amerindian cultures – collectively speaking – are generally imbued with positive attributes such as loyalty, courage, strength, etc; it is the bearer of their name that must make of it what they will. However, the adoption or bestowal of a 'medicine name' is not something that should be entered into lightly.

When living on a reservation for a short while some years ago, I was told a story about a man who got above himself and fancied himself as a shaman, teacher, elder and just about anything else that, in his mind, carried any kudos. He carried the wolf name, but decided that it wasn't
enough. He renamed himself 'Ten Wolves', or something like that, to boost his authority. Now in some tribal cultures a name like Ten Wolves may be perfectly acceptable, but in the culture of the tribe that he belonged to it was seen as incredibly arrogant. To call yourself Ten Wolves indicated that you actually believed yourself to have the insight and power of not one wolf, but ten.

A chief told him, "You shouldn't do that. You can't handle the medicine of ten wolves. Abandon the name, or it will consume you. The name Ten Wolves is too much for you; it will destroy you."

The man ignored this timely advice, and almost overnight a sudden change was wrought in his character. He degenerated into drug addiction, alcohol abuse and a whole world of negativity. Within six months he died of a drug overdose in a trailer park.

Prefixes to medicine names involving canines (and other animals) can often be misunderstood. The prefix 'Crazy' for instance, as in Crazy Wolf or Crazy Dog, does not mean what it implies in European cultures. To the Amerindian, the term crazy means something like 'heterodox',
'strange', 'unconventional' or 'unusual.' It doesn't mean weird, loony or psychopathic as we would probably interpret it, and is actually a sign of rugged individuality. 'Crazy' then, is a compliment in a medicine name when suffixed by Wolf, Dog or Fox, but may indeed carry
negative connotations if tied to the much-maligned and much-mistrusted Coyote.

Because 'dog medicine' is very powerful, it should never be mixed. I once knew an English woman who gave herself the grandiose medicine name of Eagle Wolf. This is a risky business, for two powerful forms of medicine are being mixed together and will almost certainly conflict.

Almost all Indians have a special place in their culture for canines.

Even now, the relationship between an Indian and their dog is something to behold. A chief once divulged to me the way in which a wolf can be tamed within several days, thus allowing a bond to be formed with its Indian companion that will never be broken. For a number of reasons I do not wish to recount the details of the technique here, except to say that I believe it works.

When I was in Louisiana, I almost had an encounter of the too-close kind with a nasty, vindictive little spider called the Brown Recluse. (If you want to know exactly what damage this little bastard can do, just Google Image "Brown Recluse Bites" and then get ready to throw up).
Anyway, my canine companion Little Wolf started to bark furiously and dragged me away by the trouser leg from its habitat. It wasn't till later that morning than a friend showed me exactly what Little Wolf had been protecting me from.

I just love "dawgs' now, especially those on reservations…

CORINNA DOWNES: Something in the air

CORINNA'S DIARY:

Friday 19th March

On Tuesday 16th March we had a date with Devin Macanally – a man that Jon had met six years ago and of whom he had often talked about regarding the blue dogs. It was to be my first time meeting him and I was looking forward to doing so. Naomi and Richie have been in contact with him for some time researching the blue dogs.

We were to meet up with Morgan and Jo from Minnow Films, which we did in a slightly clandestine fashion in the rain, on the corner of a road in Elmendorf. Then came the predicament that one person would need to move from our vehicle so that filming could take place of Jon in the front seat. It was me who was sitting in the desired position and although I offered to move over, it was clear that I was required to vacate and finish the journey in their hired car with Jo. I was not amused – I was comfortable and I was surrounded within my cocoon of bags, camera, jumpers, and empty coffee cups.

At the request of Jon, I was to photograph some of the surroundings on the approach to Devin’s home. This was no easy feat as the road soon disappeared and turned into a track. So as we bumped along, rocking from side to side as if on a train traversing a particularly unkempt section of rail track, it became impossible to do anything remotely useful in the photography department other than take pictures of blurred landscapes.





Devin greeted us with a warm smile and as it was still raining we all piled into his home to sit amongst a wonderfully eclectic mix of paintings, ornaments, documents, books and objets d’art . We were introduced to two young men – Jonathon and Chad – who help Devin out and all sat around chatting for a while, catching up and discussing recent findings about the blue dogs. Then the two lads set off with Morgan and Jo into the wilds of Devin’s property to check out the trigger cameras. They had not been gone long when the sound of a single shot punctured the relative quiet outside. Hmmm, had Morgan met his match? Could this signal a different meaning of the term ‘quiet on set, cameraman shooting’?

Oddly enough no-one seemed to take too much notice of the sound – and no-one returned to the house either; it was just another ordinary sound in the daily life of a Texan homestead. It was a weird feeling to carry on sitting on the sofa as one does when the sound of a car horn breaks the silence back home – but upon reflection, at the same time it seemed the natural thing to do. We are a world apart from the quiet village life of Woolsery, North Devon. Out here in the untamed land of Texas there is still a tussle between man and nature. There are wild boar that will rip your body open if given the chance and coyote that, apart from attacking your chickens or calves, could quite easily be carrying mange, or even be rabid.

After what seemed like ages later but was only about half an hour or so, the two lads returned with Morgan and Jo, and Chad told us that they had come across a group of boar not far from the house and had shot one, scattering the remainder in all directions away from the property.






They also came back carrying a bag of some weird deposit found on some vines hanging from a tree some distance away from the house. Jon had a whiff of it – unfortunately a bit too much of an inhalation as it almost made him feel ill. Ancient proverb: ‘Never stick nose into a recently opened bag when you are not sure what is contained within.’ No-one seems to know what this deposit is but it is apparently to be found hanging abundantly under the vines around some of the trees. Most peculiar indeed.

The images captured on the trigger camera were downloaded onto Naomi’s laptop and a couple of results were truly intriguing.

The two young lads are two of the sweetest guys you could possibly meet. The fact that they never go out on the land without a rifle is not really to be unexpected in Texas and although it is difficult for me to comprehend hunting I appreciate that it is a natural thing for those who live and work on the wild land.




Chad




Jonathon


The time flew by and our schedule meant we had to get on the road again, so we arranged to meet up with Devin, Jonathon and Chad again the next day. It was lovely to meet them all – and Devin is certainly a lovely and honest man full of interesting tales to tell and an obvious love of the land upon which he lives.

Goodness gracious

This is just a quickie to answer comments and criticisms following on from yesterday's blog post, which presented the first pictures of the Cuero beast.

  • The DNA evidence from five different laboratories (I have seen the reports from two of them) categorically states that the mother was a coyote and the father was a wolf. I have not commissioned any of these tests myself, but I am prepared to accept what Dr Canion says without question, and to accept the endorsements of the National Geographic TV channel.

  • The strange lumps on the rear of the animal are what previously aired interviews included in the National Geographic show refer to as `pouches`. The fact that this term has been used in conjunction with discussions of thylacines led several researchers including myself to assume that it was being alleged that these animals are marsupials. This is NOT the case. Someone or other once wrote that we (UK and US) are 'two great nations divided by a common language.' Well duh!

  • The colour of the eyes was indeed that vivid blue. Dr Canion showed us a photograph of the beast when newly killed, which confirmed this.

  • I have a long and detailed interview with Dr Canion on video. I will be issuing it over the next few weeks. Dr Canion is a medical doctor as well as a field naturalist. She confirms that the lumps of flesh on the 'buttocks' are categorically not the anal glands. She carried out the dissection of the animal, and examined the actual anal glands, which were healthy and not impacted. I have been asked for a written report of this biopsy by one person with a history of onloine attacks upon the CFZ. Forgive my paranoia, but the inference here is that I and my team have either made this up or are somehow interpreting the facts for our own ends. This is most certainly not the case and he, like me and everybody else, will just have to accept the words of Dr Canion, who is - in my opinion - a lady beyond reproach.

  • Incidentally, the creature appeared to only have one testicle putting him in such hallowed company as Adolf Hitler and our own dog, Biggles, both of whom are/were monorchid.

We are not claiming to have discovered this creature, and are merely reporting on what we have been told by Dr Canion and others. However, once again the CFZ were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. We have a hell of a lot more news to release over the next few days, so watch this space.

On an administrative note, when I set up this blog I forgot to put comment moderation on. This has now been rectified. Only one person's comments have been removed, but I would remind them that when I ban someone, especially for repeated attacks upon me, my professional and financial ethics, and those of my friends and colleagues, the ban is forever.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

WHAT YOU HAVE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR








This is the first time that these three pictures have been posted anywhere. They show the preserved Texas blue dog in the collection of Dr Phyllis Canion. Note the peculiar pads of flesh on the hindquarters of the animal; what would be buttocks if doggies had such things.


There will be more photographs and more comment in the next few days, but for now these will have to do because I am so exhausted that I think I shall sleep for a week...

NAOMI WEST: Strange Days Indeed

In the past few days I have learned just how much of a hunting-happy place Texas really is. I have lived around hunters all my life but this week I got more of an “up close and personal” glimpse of the hunter mentality. It boils down to this: if it moves, shoot it. The strange thing is (strange to an animal-lover like myself) the hunters we have met this week have been very likeable people. They just have a mindset completely different from mine.

One young man proudly came onto the scene and told us how he had just shot a hog (which explained the gunfire Corinna and I had heard minutes before). I looked at him in momentary shock that he would burst in with this 'good' news. While I considered how to respond he broke into a proud and excited grin, clearly anticipating my delight at this kill, and immediately my judgment melted and I returned the smile. It hadn’t even dawned on him that I would do anything else. After I had recovered from that episode we had the privilege of following said young man to our next location. During the drive Corinna and I noticed that he suddenly began shifting wildly around in the car and then pushed his rifle through the open window. I sucked in my breath sharply. “Oh, Dear God, what’s he going to kill?” Corinna suspected he was still attempting to shoot a coyote he had been after. I waited in dread, praying while he shifted again and stuck the rifle out another window. In the end he shot nothing, to my relief.

Later a lady who had won us over in many ways took us to her very lavish hunting-lodge-style house. The décor turned out to be a dizzying collection of animal heads from around the world: there was a moose, a zebra, an antelope, many deer and probably other things I didn’t take the effort to notice. I almost expected General Zaroff - from Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game - to appear in a fancy dressing gown and offer me some fine wine.

However, the animal heads lining her walls captured our attention only for a few seconds. For as we ventured into the living room, our eyes were drawn to the display ingeniously placed in front of her fireplace: the 'chupacabra'. This carcass was one we knew she had, as it had been featured on the National Geographic documentary with Ken Gerhard several weeks ago, but we had expected it to be frozen. Instead, it was magnificently mounted on a platform of sand, its head turned toward us with mouth open in frozen ferocity.

Despite the fact that I would much rather see this creature alive, the display allowed us to examine it in detail. The most noticeably striking features were its arched back and hairless skin. It truly was something different from the average canid. But there was something else: two pads on the buttocks, features that don’t exist on any known canid.

On the National Geographic documentary these pads were referred to as 'pouches,' a term that threw Jon off as they brought to mind a marsupial pouch designed for carrying young. But the pads on this creature were not designed to carry anything. My initial and amateur diagnosis was that they were tumours, as a hamster I had as a kid developed on her stomach two tumours that looked similar to these pads. Jon asked if they were possibly anal glands but the lady assured him that she had located and suppressed the anal glands. Furthermore, a biopsy revealed the pads were made of meat, a revelation that did nothing to solve the mystery other than to prove they were neither anal glands nor tumours.

I suspect one thing: these pads are possibly unique to the male species of the Texas Blue Dog. Both the Elmendorf Beast (Devin Mcanally’s creature) and the Blanco creature were female and did not have the pads.

As for the commonality of these pads among other Texas Blue Dogs, I did discover these same pads on the Pollock creature in a picture we happened upon while flipping through an album of newspaper clipping and photos. I believe these pads are among the best evidence that we have struck upon a canine species that is either new or as Jon speculates, a recurrence of an extinct species.

One thing is for certain: these aren’t mangy dogs….

CORINNA DOWNES: An Englishman Abroad

CORINNA’S DIARY:

Thursday, 18th March.
It had been intended to pay a visit to The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum in San Antonio today. Richie dropped Naomi, Jon and me off while he went to park the truck, much to the annoyance of some bad-tempered harridan who rolled down her window and shouted something at us about holding up the traffic. Well, sorry ma’am for delaying your trip by a few seconds whilst a disabled man eased himself out of the front seat of a vehicle that was stationary at a stop sign. You obviously missed the fact that the light turned green before he had managed to complete the movement. Those few seconds must have really held up your journey so much. The fact that I shouted ‘oh shurrup’ probably didn’t reach your ears as you had quickly wound up your window to secure yourself behind its protective barrier. May your electrics fail whilst in the car wash and may your abusive mouth be filled with soap suds.

After such unnecessary verbal abuse we then discovered that the museum was charging an exorbitant amount of money to enter – although if we bought a ticket we would get a discount in the café area. The trouble is they seemed to think that paying such a price and securing a ticket that would allow entry for two days was a marvellous and enticing reason to part with our dollars and they seemed uninterested when Naomi asked whether there were any tickets for just one day’s visit. What a stupid arrangement.






Jon refused to succumb to such a tantalising opportunity and proceeded to redden in the face with anger and disgust at such a capitalistic establishment. We left disgruntled and waited for poor Richie who was completely unaware of the situation and was still trying to find a parking space.

RICHIE WEST: Simply Incredible!

The past few days have been a whirlwind. We have traveled to and fro across the hills of Texas: Lufkin, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Fayetteville, and then to Cuero. It seemed that Cuero would be a normal stop on our quest for data on the Texas Blue Dog. We have gathered photos, eyewitness accounts and samples of this wolf-dog creature. Our trip to Cuero was to be magnificently different.

Naomi made arrangements to meet with Dr Phylis Canion, a much publicised Texas Blue Dog researcher. Our plans were to eat dinner and then go over to her house. I found Phylis to be the quintessential professional. She is a nutrition consultant who has a clinic in Victoria and in Cuero, TX. She and her husband own a large ranch south of Cuero. We exchanged greetings and stories during dinner and I found her to be charming. She told us her story of how in 2007 three creatures had been killed in her area within a few hours. She told us that she would let us see the carcass. We were excited. At the end of our dinner she called over some young boys who seemed to treat her like Santa Claus. She talked about having them over to see the creature. It seemed all too cryptic to us and we did not quite understand what she was referring too. Little did we know.

After dinner we drove out to her spread. She welcomed us into her home, which looked more like a museum for the various animals she and her husband had hunted throughout their 30-year marriage. She had bobcats, zebras, antelope, deer, and …… a Texas Blue Dog? What?!

There it was: a canine mount with blue eyes! Lest you think that the taxidermist was being creative, Phylis showed us pictures of the animal, and it indeed had blue eyes. This creature was incredible. Its skin was very smooth with sparse hair that looked more like a bald man’s head than a canine’s coat. I looked closely at its skintone. It was coloured mostly charcoal grey with some reddish marbling. There were curious lighter random marks on its skin that appeared to be scars from possibly mesquite thorns or scraps with other animals. Its torso looked more like a deer’s in that it was very narrow. The shoulder blades and the pelvis were slight, unlike a dog’s. The most unusual feature of this animal was two circular buttocks pads approximately 2 inches in diameter and protruding approximately one inch from the leg muscle. The pad skin looked tough like elephant hide. At first I thought they were tumours but their symmetry with respect to the tail told me otherwise.

What is this animal? Are there anymore? What are these buttocks pads? What are they used for? These questions, and I am sure others, hopefully will be answered as we continue our study of this cryptid.

By the way, Naomi noticed in the Pollock Blue Dog photo that the creature in that photo appeared to have the same buttocks pads!

CORINNA DOWNES: Thirteen Fateful Days in 1836

CORINNA’S DIARY: Wednesday, 17th March

Last night we partook in an evening of celebration to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day, US-style. We were in San Antonio to take part in the annual merriment and perambulated down the Riverside Walk – a kind of towpath that runs alongside the river that weaves its way through part of the city. There was an abundance of green of various different shades everywhere – it was like the early summer countryside of England before the sun has dealt whatever torment it wishes on the earth below; at least during those summers where the sun does shine in the UK for more than two days in a row, that is.

Everywhere you looked you were confronted with leprechauns of all shapes and sizes, and all nationalities too. In fact, we did wonder on more than one occasion how many of those sporting habillement vert did actually have Irish heritage, but that is by the by considering everyone concerned appeared to be enjoying themselves thoroughly, especially those who owned the riverside eateries that were packed to the gills with revellers. But I suppose that is a trifle cynical – but as you have probably realised by now, I AM a trifle cynical.

But back to St Paddy’s Day. We ate in a Mexican restaurant where we were joined by Ken Gerhard and Jon enjoyed a couple of double margaritas in a ridiculously oversized glass (only in Texas, eh?), the size of which I had never seen before. But then when on holiday, it is no bad thing to relax in the company of friends over a nice meal and a drink or two.

Earlier in the day we had visited Devin again and taken him, Jonathan, and Chad (more of whom tomorrow) out for a drink at a nearby bar, along with Nancy who runs the local store in Elmendorf and whom Jon knew by reputation but had always wanted to meet.















From left: Richie, Devin, Naomi, Me, Jon, Chad, Nancy and Jonathan






We then set off for San Antonio to spend a day or two as holidaymakers and to celebrate the saint day mentioned above. But first we visited The Alamo – somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time. It was a poignant visit – as soon as I walked through the doors into the mission the desperation and bravery of those who fought to the death in “thirteen fateful days in 1836” firmly hit me between the eyes. As I always do in such places I laid a hand on the stones. It is the only way to get the vibe of a place such as that – feel the stones and feel the history absorbed by them. It was a moving time as we made our way through the building and grounds outside.








After our evening out Jon and I took a carriage ride back to the hotel. It was a lovely evening and our driver, who was a jolly nice chap, steered his horse Hardy around some of San Antonio pointing out landmarks as we went along. It was a lovely treat and the first time I had taken such a trip by that method of transport.

After a shower it was crawl into bed where I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

LAST MAN STANDING

As most readers of this blog will be aware, I am in relatively poor physical health. It is amusing, therefore, to report that I am presently the most healthy member of the expedition. The other three are riddled with allergies, head colds and sheer tiredness whereas yours truly (who feels like crap most of the time) is just toddling along.

I was really worried about Naomi last night as the poor dear looked dreadful, but hopefully she will be recovered this morning. Corinna looks much better today, but has lost her voice as her throat has puffed up due to some allergy or other. She is outside having a fag (in the English sense of the word) whilst I am typing my blog entries and doing my emails.

Today we go back to Elmendorf to see Devin Macanally for the second day running. He looks older than he did the last time I saw him, and more frail (it HAS been six years) but he still is a remarkable man with a remarkable tale to tell....

AT LAST

Last night we were priviliged to meet Dr Phyllis Canion at her home in Cuero, Texas, where we were the first people to actually examine the mounted body of her Texas blue dog specimen. The taxidermist delivered it at 3:30, just fifteen minutes before she met us for dinner at the local country club.


It really is a remarkable-looking animal and we have many photographs. However, as a matter of ettiquette (as well as the fact that I am currently in a motel room with no connecting leads) we shall not be releasing those photographs until after Dr Canion posts her pictures on her website today or tomorrow. We shall be posting them tomorrow evening or Friday, but sufficient to say that they are remarkable.


This really has been a bizarre trip

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

AN ALLEGED BLUE DOG FOOTPRINT NORTH OF HOUSTON

I do not want you guys out in bloggoland to get the impression that the whole of this expedition has been a social trip visiting old friends and having fun. Although the expedition has been immense fun we have also done some valuable reesearch.

Here, for example, with a quarter as a size reference, is an alleged blue dog print from an undisclosed location north of Houston near Denise's property. We have taken plaster casts....

ELMENDORF REVISITED

Five years ago I was catapaulted into the world of Texas Blue Dog research when I visited a ranch in Elmendorf just south of San Antonio with my then girlfriend and a TV crew from the Discovery Channel who were shooting the pilot of a series that they later decided not to make.

At least, I assume that they never decided to make it although they never actually had the courtesy to write to me telling me so.


However, I digress. The ranch is owned by rancher Devin Macanally who shot the first known specimen of a Texas blue dog there in July 2004. Today we are going to return.

It is just gone 6:30 a.m. Richard and I are up whilst the two girls are in the arms of Morpheus. Richie (poor fellow) is suffering from a battery of unpleasant allergies, while I (touch wood) am feeling as fit as the proverbial fiddle and am just going to go and make myself a cuppa.

In the meantime, be amused by this photograph of Nick Redfern enjoying a balmy spring evening in his garden. As I have said before, you can take the boy out of the West Midlands, but you can't take the West Midlands out of the boy....

Monday, 15 March 2010

Dodgy music and sunken rooms

We (Jon, Richie, Naomi and I) have just returned from a two-day visit to Dallas, and it is time to do some catching up with emails and blogs.

Jon had a gig booked for the Dallas branch of MUFON where we met Richard Freeman's doppleganger and Naomi took secret photos of The X-Files' 'The Smoking Man's' doppleganger, after which we visited Nick and Dana Redfern and spent the night at their lovely house. Jon and Nick spent a few hours reminiscing on the good ol’ days whilst Nick entertained us with some rather dodgy music from his collection of The Ramones, Sham 69, Sex Pistols and Motley Crue. Now, I must add here that Richie was quite impressed with Sid Vicious’s rendition of My Way, but Jon and I cringed when Motley Crue blasted from the speakers in the sitting room. In the end it was down to Dana and me to demand that our other halves put a stop to the offending musical interlude and I must admit, we both shouted STOP THAT ROW with excellent finesse and - what's more - with great success.

When we first arrived at their house Nick and Dana warned us to watch for the small step that led to the sitting room. No problem – it was but a small descent. However… it did ensnare one of us in its lurking grip. Me to be precise. Yes the good ol’ gal here ended up on the floor after niftily performing some kind of peculiar triple salco to avoid a shelf of ornaments that seemed to loom towards her as she fell into the chasm that was the sitting room. However, it has been reported that she performed her magnificent entry with a certain aplomb and ended up lying on the carpet whilst laughing uncontrollably at her extreme cleverness.

This morning Nick and Dana took us to White Rock Lake (which soon became White Lock Cake and White Lock Rake when I tried to record a piece for On the Track) and then it was off to Dallas to visit the site of the famous event of November 1963 – the assassination of President J.F. Kennedy. It is one of those events in history where people tell you that they can remember where they were when the news reached them. I was only 7 at the time so I am afraid I am not one of those people but have seen clips of it many times in TV programmes and of course re-enactments of it in films. There were quite a few people visiting, and a continual stream of people running across the road when the lights were red to have their picture taken on the ‘x’ that marks the spot. I declined to run the gauntlet of traffic, as did Jon.

It was great to see Dana and Nick again - they are lovely people.

Photo credit: CFZ top photographer of the year: Mr Richard West, Texas

Tomorrow it is off on the road again on our continued blue dog investigations.

SEPARATED AT BIRTH? Three more men seeking monsters...

Meet Donnie, our new Arkansas rep.


But is it just us, or does he look ridiculously like Richard Freeman? We did a collective double take when he walked into the Dallas MUFON lecture on Sunday.

The lecture went really well, by the way, and at some point we shall be posting a video of it....

ONLY IN TEXAS

I have always made it my business not to go to foreign parts and criticise their ways of life, but Johnny Foreigner is a rum cove and these two signs - one from a gas station (below) and the other from the front door of a Mexican restaurant - are so unlike anything we would see in the UK that I could not resist posting them....

BOSTIN' - JON IN AUSTIN

The Anomaly Archives Presents:
Fortean Cryptozoologist Jonathan Downes

Saturday, March 20th 1:30-3:30pm CST
12593 Research Blvd., Suite 302, Austin, Texas 78759

"Cryptozoology's answer to Hunter Thompson" – Nick
Redfern

The Anomaly Archives welcomes British Fortean researcher Jon Downes to Austin, Texas for a lecture on all things anomalous, Fortean, cryptozoological and UFOlogical. Please join us at the Anomaly Archives lending library (located at 12593 Research Blvd., Suite 302) from 1 to 5pm, Saturday, March 20th for an enlightening lecture from one of the world's leading cryptozoological field investigators.

This lecture event is FREE, however, a $5 donation is respectfully requested for those wishing to help support the Anomaly Archives in its non-profit community education, outreach and research efforts.

"Jonathan Downes is the Director of the British-based Center for Fortean Zoology, the world's only full-time group dedicated to the investigation of unknown animals, including Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Ogopogo, and the Abominable Snowman.

In both 1998 and 2004, Jon traveled to the island of Puerto Rico in search of the deadly, blood-sucking creature known as the Chupacabras a beast that has been linked with a large amount of UFO activity, including UFO crashes, on the island.

Jon will be speaking about his two expeditions, findings, theories and conclusions as to what the creature may be. Jon will also reveal the very latest news on his quest to find out the truth concerning the so-called Texas Chupacabras.

Are the beasts of Puerto Rico and Texas one and the same? Or, is something even stranger going on? Don't miss this rare chance to see Jon Downes expose the truth of this strange and sensational mystery."

Jonathan Downes is the author and co-author of numerous books on the subjects of Fortean phenomena, especially cryptozoological critters such as Owlman, the Monster of the Mere and others. Besides his research, writing and activism, Jon Downes is also an accomplished film maker having worked on over 7 films. He also produces a regular online video series for the Centre for Fortean Zoology called On The Track (Of unknown Animals).

www.AnomalyArchives.org
12593 Research Blvd., Suite 302
Austin, Texas 78759

The Anomaly Archives is the lending library of the Scientific Anomalies
Institute, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that seeks:

- Preservation and dissemination of scientific research into anomalous
phenomena Research and analysis of accumulated collections

- Education of the public regarding scientific investigations into
these phenomena

Purposes of the Institute:

- Managing and developing an archive and libary for documents and
literature with regards to a multi-disciplinary approach to anomalous
phenomena,

- Supporting, promoting and pursuing research to obtain increased
knowledge about anomalous phenomena, and

- Pursuing and stimulating a critical, scientific discussion of
anomalous phenomena, and providing a forum for information, support, and
sharing among researchers while,

- Functioning as the archives and library for like-minded
organizations, and other groups in the community that have similar
interests.

Our collection houses over 2500 books as well as research materials such
as, videos, documents, magazines, and personal correspondence. Along
with the S.A.I. collection, we also house the collections of Austin
MUFON (Mutual UFO Network), and Austin IONS (Institute Of Noetic
Sciences) and INACS (Institute for Neuroscience And Consciousness
Studies). We house many great books that discuss a wide range of
scientific subjects including:

-UFOs and Ufology
-Consciousness
-Parapsychology
-Fortean Phenomena
-ParaPolitical Science
-Human Potential
-Jungian Theory

Sunday, 14 March 2010

FOR GRAHAM

When Graham and I were in Mexico in 1998 he developed an unhealthy interest in a certain brand of cheap soft drink.


This will bring back fond memories for the dear boy....




Graham's note: and Jon's not referring to the one on the left, either. Well spotted!

DALLAS HERE WE COME

Yesterday was fun: a completely non-work day with a delicious Texas barbecue and a jam session with Westbound, Richie and Naomi's band.



Today we drive to Dallas where we hook up with the Redferns and I do my own inimitable thing in front of an audience of Dallas MUFONeers. I never know what people expect when they (especially in America) are awaiting an audience with me and Redders. Are they expecting two sober middle-aged writers of fortean stuff? Or are they expecting the gonzo hooligans of Three Men seeking Monsters? The respectable married men, or the weird bald brummie, and his fat hippie mate.



A little of both, probably.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Of Cryptids, Company, and Colds

Yesterday was the most adventurous day we have had. The Hayek place was beautiful and vast -- green fields with steep, sloping riverbanks full of mysterious holes they claim are dens of the blue dogs. I looked into one as far as I could but I couldn’t see past the first turn of the twisted tunnel. Ken Gerhard, who was over last night, says that during his NatGeo documentary he pushed a fibre-optic camera far into the den and the narrow entrance went on for a long time; they never were able to see past the entrance to the main part. Mr Hayek has indeed seen the blue dogs entering and exiting one of the dens (face first in and face first out) so at least we weren’t wasting time probing some other animal’s dwelling. Speculation about these blue dogs sometimes leads to evidence that really isn’t evidence. It’s easy to interpret certain clues as signs of their presence that are really signs of another animal and would normally have gone unnoticed.

At the end of the day we tried unsuccessfully to beat Ken Gerhard to our house. It was bad enough that he had to wait for us but then he was nowhere to be found when we got there, although his vehicle sat in the driveway. I assumed correctly that he had taken off into the surrounding woods for a night-time stroll and he eventually showed back up. He is one of the nicest people I’ve met and I’m happy he’ll be joining us next week on the River Walk on St Patrick’s Day.

Ken and Jon and Corinna gathered on the patio to reunite over drinks while Richie and I scrounged for something to feed everyone. The party eventually grew to include Jo and Morgan from Minnow Films and Richie’s sister Janice. We had a great time, but as the evening wore on I got an increasingly sore throat and aching head, and when I woke up this morning my throat was so sore I could barely swallow. So I’m nursing a cold I hope will be gone by the time we travel to Nick Redfern’s on Sunday.

Jon on Texas radio


My mate Marmite

CORINNA’S DIARY: Friday, 12th March

It is a rest day today after all our travelling since Monday. We are all taking it easy and are all reflecting upon our findings concerning the mysterious blue dogs. The plot has definitely thickened and we have found ourselves in one of those head-scratching situations where we have found ourselves traversing quite a few interesting tangents. More will transpire in the coming week it is hoped and although it is clear the whole phenomenon will be not be solved by the time we board our plane to return home, perhaps we will have some more information to stir into what is fast becoming a very big cauldron of possibilities.

After Morgan and Jo from Minnow Films had left to travel back to Houston, Richie cooked up some delicious American pancakes before Jon and I went out with him to do some errands. One of our stops was a visit to the local supermarket to obtain some provisions. OK, walking around a supermarket may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but after so many trips to Asda or Morrisons back in good old Blighty, a trip to an American supermarket is somewhat of a treat and certainly one that makes you drool with envy at the variety of provender available.

However, I was still surprised to be confronted with a small display of English food this morning. Last time I visited the States such things as Marmite was not easily available (or advocaat, but that is a different matter) – in California at least – but there it was; that distinctively shaped bottle of dark and delicious goodness, sat amongst jars of Hartley’s jam (first made incidentally by the wonderfully named William Pickles Hartley of Lancashire, a grocer who decided to make his own jam when a consignment didn’t show up) and boxes of Tetley and PG Tips. However, I do feel that the price tag of $7.99 (or £5.27 back home) for the smallest bottle of dark magic is a bit exorbitant for those who wish to indulge in its tongue-tingling delight over here in the US.

Mind you, there is a certain American cereal that is no longer freely available in the UK and costs around £7 a box in Selfridges Food Hall, which is - I believe - one of the few places that sells it. And I am charged with purchasing 4 boxes of it at its more reasonable US price to take back to my daughters and their respective other halves!

The suitcases on our return trip are going to be filled with a pretty eclectic assortment of groceries, methinks - once Jon has also raided the steak-seasoning section in the local supermarket.

Move 'em out!

CORINNA'S DIARY: Friday, 12th March.

When you think of Texas you think of John Wayne, prairie schooners, the Chisholm Trail, longhorn steers, arid dusty trails that kicked up the choking red earth as the horses, wheels and cattle cut their way through southern Texas while the sun beat down mercilessly upon the dry earth. Well, I do anyhow, but then I am a hopeless romantic, was obsessed with J. T. Edson as a youngster and watched nearly every western I could catch on the TV on those lazy Sunday afternoons that used to dominate my youth.

Yesterday – Thursday - I saw something by a low creek bed that conjured up the idea of the typical western scenario – a sun-bleached skeleton with its bones scattered across the dry earth. Presumably, the demised creature had made its way to the water and had been left where it had fallen, feeding the creatures of the sky and ground until its meat-picked bones lay naked on the soil.

The cattle drives may have disappeared along with a lot of the open land but if you close your eyes and listen you can still hear the sound of cattle calling to each other, horses nickering, cowmen yelling and the creaking of the wooden prairie schooners as they trundle along the skyline. If you listen very carefully you can also pick out the sound of stampeding cattle thundering down to the creek beds in search of the water, the scent of which had reached their nostrils – those Texas Longhorns sure had a penchant for sudden stampedes.

Head ‘em up, move ‘em out!







DALE DRINNON: Bald dog links

From Wikipedia:

The Texas Blue Lacy dog is the official dog breed of Texas and the only dog breed developed in that state. It originated in 1850

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Lacy


The Blue Lacy is a breed of working dog that originated in Texas in the mid-1800s, the only dog breed to have originated in that state. [1] The Lacy was first recognised in 2001 by the Texas Senate. In Senate Resolution No. 436, the 77th Legislature honored the Lacy as "a true Texas breed"; in June 2005, Governor Rick Perry signed the legislation adopting the Blue Lacy as "the official State Dog Breed of Texas." [1]

Appearance

Lacy dogs are strong and fast, and lightly built but proportional within the height-to-weight ratio. Height at the withers is between 18 and 21 inches. Dependent on height and working condition, weight should be approximately 30 to 45 pounds for females and 35 to 50 pounds for males. [2] The standards listed in the Texas House Concurrent Resolution No. 108 are slightly different: height between 18 and 25 inches; weight between 30 and 50 pounds.

[--The blue lacies are a development out of greyhounds and have a typical short, tight coat. Too long a coat disqualifies a dog from the breed and some are nearly hairless.--DD]

History

Red Lacy puppy
The Lacy dog was named after the Lacy brothers—Frank, George, Ewin, and Harry Lacy—who in 1858 moved from Kentucky to Texas and settled in Burnet County, Texas. [1] The dog, according to the Lacys, was a mixture of English Shepherd (or perhaps coyote), Greyhound, and wolf. [9] House Concurrent Resolution No. 108 also mentions scenthound. [1] The brothers originally developed their natural herding instincts to work their free-roaming hogs. [10]


[--It is to be noted that some inter-breeding with wolves and coyotes is automatically assumed in the breed. Furthermore, the hairless trait is probably introduced from admixture with the Mexican Hairless breed:]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_Hairless_Dog



The Mexican Hairless Dog is a rare, hairless breed of dog whose size varies greatly. It is also known as Xoloitzcuintli or Xoloitzcuintle (English pronunciation: /ʃoʊloʊ.iːtsˈkwiːntliː/ SHOH-loh-eets-KWEENT-lee); pronounced by some Spanish speakers as sho-lo-skwin



The Xolo is native to Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Archaeological evidence shows that the breed existed in the New World for more than 3,500 years. Most likely, early forerunners of the Xolo originated as spontaneous hairless mutations of indigenous New World dogs. Hairlessness may have offered a survival advantage in tropical regions. Indigenous peoples of Central and South America had Xolo dogs as home and hunting companions, and today they are still very popular companion dogs; even as the national dog of Mexico. Their value in ancient native cultures is evidenced by their frequent appearance in art and artefacts, e.g., those produced by the Colima, Aztec and Toltec civilisations in Mexico.

Xolos were considered sacred dogs by the Aztecs (and also Toltecs, Mayans and some other groups) because they believed the dogs were needed by their masters’ souls to help them safely through the underworld, and also they were useful companion animals. According to Aztec mythology, the god Xolotl made the Xoloitzcuintle from a sliver of the Bone of Life from which all mankind was made. Xolotl gave this gift to Man with the instruction to guard it with his life and in exchange it would guide Man through the dangers of Mictlan, the world of Death, toward the Evening Star in the Heavens. The Aztecs also raised the breed for their meat. Sixteenth-century Spanish accounts tell of large numbers of dogs being served at banquets.[1]

When Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492 his journal entries noted the presence of strange hairless dogs. Subsequently, Xolos were transported back to Europe.

Even today, many people in Mexico believe this breed to have healing qualities. Some cultures ate the meat of the Xoloitzcuintli, and the meat may still be found for sale in some parts of rural Mexico. Laws concerning animal rights in the country control this situation harshly. [citation needed].

The Xolo is moderate in all aspects of its appearance, conveying strength, agility and elegance. Xolo body proportions are rectangular, slightly longer in total body length than the height measured at the highest point of the withers. The breed occurs naturally in two varieties, hairless and coated. Hairless Xolos are the dominant expression of the heterozygous Hh hairless trait. [4] Coated Xolos (hh) are the recessive expression. Breeding hairless to coated or hairless to hairless may produce pups of either or both varieties. Breeding coated to coated will only produce coated pups because they are recessive to the hairless trait and do not carry the dominant H gene.

Both varieties occur in all colours, solid, marked, splashed or spotted. The most common colours are various shades of black, blue and red.

The breed occurs in a range of sizes, which breeders have standardised into Toy (ten to 13 inches in height, weighing approximately 12 pounds) Miniature (13 to 18 inches in height, weighing approximately 25 pounds) and Standard (18 to 24 inches in height, weighing approximately 45 pounds). The Xolo has been mistaken for the mythical Chupacabra of Mexico [emphasis added]. [5]

[It also goes without saying that there are numbers of Xolo strays in Texas and throughout the US Southwest, and that they also interbreed with coyotes. --Best Wishes, Dale D.]

Weird 'nests' and odd collections


CORINNA'S DIARY: Wednesday, 10th March. It is now 2 am Wednesday morning and whilst Jon snores his way merrily and noisily towards breakfast I am trying to catch up on some blogs and my emails. I am also suffering from a really irritating and sore eyelid, which has been driving me mad all day! However, we have now purchased some eye drops so hopefully they will help to soothe it and take away the redness – it is all very well having bloodshot eyes after a night partying, or by blowing your nose too hard, but I have done neither. I suppose I could say that Jon poked me in the eye with his walking stick but although true last Friday, it would be a bit mean to drag that up again today.

However, it has been a gloriously hot and sunny day and we have spent it investigating the blue dogs that Jon mentioned in his blog. We have been watching security camera footage where Jon excitedly queried the shape in a corner of one of the cameras’ footage. He was not quite so excited when we all pointed out that the mystery shape was, in fact, the wheel of a wheelbarrow – poor Jon; he forgot to pack his reading glasses, you see.

But we have seen some very interesting things, including some weird collections of twigs, branches and vines as shown in the picures. We are returning tomorrow to carry on our investigations.


Thursday, 11 March 2010

The demise of an orchard

CORINNA’S DIARY: Thursday, 11th March

Trees are the watchers of the woods; they see all, feel all, take from the earth and give back to the earth each autumn. They give us shelter, they give us beauty and they give us fruit. I have always looked upon trees as the old men who look down on all that occurs below them – the events that have gone on around them are forever in their memories and some live for so long that one can only wonder what they have witnessed.

So when I see a dying or dead tree, its demise is deeply saddening. Today we went to see Harvey Hayek and his family near Fayetteville – a beautiful little habitation that looked as if it had leapt from the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird - to chat about their own experiences of the mysterious blue dog phenomena. He took us out on to his land to see some of the evidence of the blue dogs, the tour culminating in a visit to his orchard. This was planted, I believe, by his wife’s parents way back in the 1900s and was a main source of income in that this orchard produced a large crop of pecan nuts. Over the last few years his trees have been dying and the crop has dropped so dramatically that he can no longer rely on them as a living. He does have a theory as to why the orchard is dying, but until this is proved or not it has to remain undisclosed.



One for the ladies

On our way down south on Monday we stopped off at a rendevous where Jon did a spot of filming using the new Sony PD150. Unfortunately, although it had eased off during our journey, the rain that had greeted us on awakening returned towards the end of the exercise. Due to there being nothing suitable, Jon decided that there was only one thing to do to protect his new 'toy'; so bold as brass he stripped off his t-shirt in broad daylight in the middle of a busy parking lot in order to dry off the new CFZ camera.

So for all you ladies out there, here is one of those rare photographs of Adonis in the flesh:



MINNOWS AND SAUSAGE

Today looks set to be another fun-packed round of eventfulness. We liaised with Morgan and Jo from Minnow Films in a Applebee's bar/restaurant last night, and a convivial time was had by all. People who were privy to excursions of ten years ago would, however, probably be surprised at how sober and restrained we all were - but I, for one, have grown up a bit.

Today we are off to a town called Fayetteville to meet a pair of ranchers who have seen the elusive blue dogs on several occasions, and who were heavily featured on the Nat Geo documentary on the subject with Ken Gerhard a few weeks back. Talking of our Ken, we shall be meeting him back chez West in Kempner this evening (with or without the Minnow posse, remains to be seen) and a frank exchange of views shall take place. Who am I trying to kid? It will be beer and a barbecue....

SAD NEWS IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE

When I was a young boy, a lot was talked about the concept of the `Global Village`. But even ten years ago when I was travelling, I always felt like a stranger in a strange land. However, the world does indeed seem to be getting smaller, and more like a village. I am sitting here in a Holiday Inn in Texas reading and writing the same emails that I do in Woolsery, and using the same little oblong of plastic to pay for things as I do in Bideford.

However, when I was doing my emails at about midnight last night, I received some sad news. Oll's girlfriend Anne's father has just died, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and Anne today...

DISPATCHES FROM THE FRONT

Another day, another motel room, this time in a place called Brenham. Once again, I am squatting squinting in front of a laptop screen cursing the fact that my reading glasses are back in Woolsery.

Yesterday was not quite as momentous as the day before but we got some good stuff done. We interviewed two more witnesses and took plaster casts of some interesting-looking footprints. Because we are so squeezed for time, we won't be able to upload many pictures until tonight or tomorrow....


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Pit stops and exploding salads

CORINNA'S DIARY:

It was drizzling on Monday morning when we set off on our journey to the south of Texas, where Jon had a last minute gig arranged for members of MUFON, Houston. We had a couple of scheduled stops to make on the way, as well as a necessary pit stop for body fuel and liquid, followed a bit later on with an equally necessary one to get rid of the fluid!

However, both stop-offs produced something unexpected; firstly, after a display of schoolboy toilet humour, in which Jon guffawed loudly at some purile joke while poor Richie was trying to order the food, our sustenance was delivered to our vehicle by a young lady on roller skates who even performed a somersault for us (after unloading the food, I hasten to add, just in case you were shuddering at the thought of items of food and drink being thrown across the car park due to an over-zealous display of acrobatics).

Secondly, there was the stop to answer the excess fluid problem at a petrol station, where we all piled out of the vehicle and trouped in expectantly and urgently, only to discover that the establishment didn’t have the necessary facilities, so we all piled back into the car, extremely disappointed and somewhat distressed, to go and find another suitable facility.

This one had the unwelcoming OUT OF ORDER sign to greet us, only to be told by the chap at the checkout that it was really working (go figure). There was also the priceless statement written on a piece of paper Sellotaped to the wall : IF YOU MAKE A MESS IN THE BATHROOM, CLEAN IT UP, which left me pondering quite what that meant. A mess can mean anything after all, from spilling a tub of cotton buds over the floor to festooning the whole room in unrolled toilet paper. I bet you were all expecting me to write something slightly more gross and detailed there. I did, but changed it!

Anyway, we reached our hotel only around 10 minutes later than expected and those attending the gig were very understanding and did not slap Jon too much for being late. I was on hand for the administering of arnica and gauze, so all bases were covered.

We then enjoyed a satisfying meal at a nearby Mexican restaurant where Jon had a dish called a salad explosion (of what exactly I can't remember). Unfortunately they did not have waiters and waitresses on roller skates performing a similar display as that mentioned above, which was a shame as I could have done a Flying Burrito Brothers joke. Jon and I then went for a walk in the drizzle to get some Diet Dr Pepper at a nearby supermarket that was open until 1 am.

I was exhausted by the time my head hit the pillow and it didn't take me long to pass off into sleep.

EXPEDITION REPORT

Today is the first day that I have been able to post something worthy of being entitled an expedition report, rather than a light-hearted romp through southern Texas. Yesterday, however, was an extraordinary one.

After breakfast, blogging and ablutions, we made our way to the location of our first proper site visit. I was surprised, to say the least.


Richie and Naomi had sent us some video taken by a lady called Denise. Some of it was included on the last episode of OTT. However, I had always got the impression that Denise lived on an isolated ranch, but in fact she lived in a modern suburban house built in about 1975, one of a row of large bungalows.


Behind the houses and gardens was a long area of pine woodland and it was in this mini wilderness that the family of blue dogs we had come to see apparently lurked. Some weeks ago Richie and Naomi installed a complicated security camera system in these woods, and they had managed to film a lot of different woodland creatures, including - I can now exclusively reveal - a blue dog.


Last night we staked the woods out, and saw grey foxes, racoons, but no blue dog. We had a tranquiliser gun and had hoped to be able to take a shot at one, but sadly this did not transpire.


However, I can conclusively state that these things are indeed real. We have a lot of footage of them now, which tells more about their identity than we even began to know before. I am sorry to be mysterious, but I am typing without my reading glasses in a hotel room, just minutes before going back to the site.


We will be uploading some pictures and a fuller report in the next few days. However, for the moment, that is something we are just not able to do....

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

NAOMI WEST: Piscine conundra

There was a time when I may have tried to appear I knew more than I really did, or at least hide the fact I didn't know something. But maturity has taught me that humility is freedom -- freedom to be yourself, to admit your limitations and ignorance. And be happy to learn. I certainly don't seek out moments of humility, they just find me. And by the time I realize I am having one, it's too late to back out, like yesterday:

We all went to a massive hunting supply store. It had all kinds of large, stuffed animals posed mid-action on an artifical mountain with a stream of live fish beneath it. Corinna and I walked slowly around the mountain, observing the various animals, frozen in their beauty and majesty and, some of them, cuteness. But what captured my attention most was the enormous aquarium in the fishing supply section. It was full of large fish of kinds I have rarely seen -- at least without having to look down through murkey water outdoors.

Later I excitedly told Richie about the aquarium: "Richie, there was a huge aquarium in there! They had big lake fish! There were catfish and bass or... whatever." I faltered a moment, then added, "Salmon." Jon, who was sitting in the truck seat in front of me turned his head slightly.

"There were catfish and bass," he said, "There were no salmon."

I was quiet a moment, then ventured on. "Trout."

"There were no trout." Jon said calmly.

I fell completely silent while Jon proceeded to give the proper name for each fish in the tank as well as the region of the world it came from. "And," he added, "They are not lake fish. They live in rivers."

You would think I would have remained silent, but I had to go on: "Yes," I said, "I only meant they were...big water fish. That they weren't...pet store fish." I shut up for good then, realizing I had just created two very ridiculous and nonexistent categories of fish.

"Good Lord," was all Jon could say.

TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF YOUR LIFE

As Richie writes, we are undercover for the next few days.

A lady called Denise has a family of the Texas blue dogs living wild on her property and she has managed to film them on a number of occasions. One of the pieces of daytime film is included on the latest episode of On The Track.

At the moment I am sitting in a motel room just north of Houston and when I have finished my emails, and the party have breakfasted, we shall be off to the place where Denise lives. I do not want to appear to be over-dramatic here by referring to secrecy and 'undisclosed locations' but there is a VERY real danger that someone will shoot them if security is not maintained.

Although there is a hell of a lot of Texas culture that I admire greatly and some which indeed puts British culture in the shade, we are now in a place where trophy hunting is a way of life. There are taxidermists everywhere. And what better trophy than an animal that isn't supposed to exist?

NAOMI WRITES: Coffee, Sake bombs and dessicants

Among the other small crises we have encountered in the past couple days, one involved my dog Tiberius eating a desiccant – one of those tiny packages filled with beads that absorb moisture. You find them in things like new purses and shoeboxes. Anyway, Tiberius hadn’t acted well all Sunday evening and we concluded it must be from the desiccant. So I googled 'dog ate desiccant' and found the below information on the FAQs of the Desiccare web site. Starbucks

Q: My cat, dog, child, wife, husband or myself just ate the desiccant, should I be worried?

A: No. The desiccants are non-toxic and you should not have any ill-effects. As always if you are having symptoms seek medical attention .

Q: If it's not harmful why do you print “Do not eat” on the package?

A: Because it's not food.



Enough said. Tiberius, by the way, did turn out to have ill-effects, but he recovered and we were never entirely sure of the cause.

Now for a more trivial crisis that nevertheless nearly sent me into a fit of rage and Jon into an attack of laugher: we decided to stop off at Starbucks on our way to church Sunday morning. This has been our routine almost every Sunday and remains pretty uneventful. But I’m starting to think that wherever Jon goes, weirdness follows, because just the night before, we were jolted from our normally pleasant dinner at our favourite Japanese restaurant by loud shouts coming from one of the servers and a customer: “Sake…sake…sake BOMB!” This occurred once or twice more and we finally learned it was a ritual involving slamming a glass of beer with a shot of Sake in it. That had never happened in all our times at the restaurant.

Nor had anything so bizarre happened at Starbucks, and the only way I can think to relay is in the following form:

Starbucks drive-thr'u'

Me: “I would like three grandes with cream and one without, please.”

Employee: (hesitant, sounding confused) “Coffee??”

Me: “Yes.”

Employee: “We can’t make coffee for you today; our grinder is broken.”

I turn to look at everyone in the car in bewilderment. Jon starts to break down laughing.

Employee: “We can make you some Americanos if you like.”

Me: “That would be fine. So we want three with cream and one without. And can we also have a bag of Sumatra beans?” (Jon goes into a fit of laughter over, we learned later, the word 'Sumatra.')

Employee: (in a testy tone.) “We can’t grind those for you."

Me: “We don’t want them ground – we want Sumatra beans."

Employee: “OK.”

We sit in silence, then the employee’s voice is replaced with a new voice, even more girly and youthful: “So you want two with cream and one without?”

Me: “No, we want three with cream and one without.”

Employee: “She has here that you only ordered three coffees.”

Me: “No, we wanted four -- three with cream and one without.”

Employee: “Then how come it says two with cream and one without?”

Me: “I told her three with cream and one without. That’s what we want.”

Employee: “But that makes four coffees. You only ordered three.”

Me: (Trying desperately to keep the rage and sarcasm out of my voice while Jon’s laughter has crossed into hysterics) “She apparently thought we wanted three instead of four. Would it be OK to add that fourth one now?”

Employee: “Sure!”

And that concluded the moment of incredible incompetence. We collected our drinks and beans, Jon got his laugh for the day, and I resolved never to visit that Starbucks again.

I suppose if I am going to focus on this Blue Dog expedition I need to set aside these trivial things but you really can't get around them -- they either make or break your day. The rest is just interval.