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….