2004, October 8: Zombie Dog

Stacey Womack got the call sometime after noon on October 8, 2004... her brother had shot an animal at their mother's house, but had no idea what it was. Womack had 20 years experience working at a zoo and for a veterinarian, so she seemed like the right person to call.

        On her way to her mother's home in Pollok, Texas, USA, a strange animal darted across the road in front of Womack. Its head was down, and its tail was between its legs; it looked hairless, and wasn't tall enough to be a coyote or a wolf... but it didn't seem to be a dog either. Womack only saw it for a moment as it crossed, and then it was gone. While this puzzled her at the time, it made a little more sense shortly after she reached her mothers house. The dead animal she had come to look at closely resembled what had just run across the road while she on the way there.

        According to Womack's brother, the animal had crawled under their mother's house; the large dogs in the yard "went nuts" which alerted the family. The dogs wouldn't go under the house, whining at the possibility... but it seems likely their presence is what prevented the animal from just running away. A little before noon Womack's brother managed to shoot the animal, then used a rope to drag the creature out from under the house; which is when they called Womack to take a picture and to -- hopefully -- identify the thing.

        But in 20 years worth of experience, Womack had never seen anything like it before that day.

The 'Zombie Dog'
Stacey Womack's first photo of the strange animal. [Picture sources here]

The animal was almost hairless with blue-gray skin, and appeared to be covered with mange. Its jaw had a serious overbite and four huge canine teeth, which Womack noted were in "excellent condition."

[Picture sources here]

The front legs were much smaller than its hind legs. Womack also noted that the animal's claws were long... "entirely too long for a dog."

[Picture sources here]

Despite being shot, there appeared to be extremely little blood from the corpse. Womack observed the animal was "so necrotic, its tissue was just rotted"... when the animal's head was held up to take a picture, the right ear "broke like a cookie."


Holding it up.

Broken ear.
[Picture sources here]

"It's body looked like something that has been dead for a month or so," Womack noted of the strange animal. It was male, and weighed between 15 and 20 pounds; and Womack guessed that the animal she saw run across the road earlier was the dead animal's mate.

        Womack shared her photos with a number of experts. A Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist felt the animal was a coyote with mange, but was unable to find a match for the animal's skull shape and overbite in reference books. C.R. Shilling with the West Loop Animal Clinic in Lufkin, after looking at the pictures, also speculated the animal was either a coyote or a dog/coyote hybrid... but he couldn't be sure without seeing the corpse itself. If so, it was suffering from a demodex mange -- which can cause hair loss, crusting of the skin, pustules, and lots of pain -- with possibly a secondary or congenital skin defect as well. He felt the animal's overbite was also just a congenital defect.

        Gorden Henley, Director of the Ellen Trout Zoo guessed that the animal was a domestic dog that was undernourished and neglected. He also felt the overbite was likely a congenital defect, and that it was possibly an abused domestic dog.

        Womack wasn't convinced by any of these speculations, and felt that the odd animal could not have been a dog... and she hoped that the other animal could be trapped to help answer some of the questions. Though it was said at the time that a biologist was going to collect samples for DNA testing, I've seen no reports since to indicate that ever happened.

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