By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
That’s the question that was posed inside the San Benito News office Thursday afternoon when two residents came in to report an animal of some sort that they dubbed “the devil” roaming a family member’s neighborhood.
Juan Manuel Vega, 57, and his wife Irma Guajardo, 45, showed cell phone pictures to the News displaying what appeared to be a sort of canine they claimed terrorized a family member who lives in the vicinity of Gamble and Hudson Roads.
A visibly frightened couple, Vega and Guajardo said their loved one, who did not wish to be identified for this story, detailed a harrowing encounter with the animal, claiming that at one point it stood up on its hind legs. Also, they say the animal has been spotted by other people in the area for some time now and blame it for the disappearance of a number of neighborhood pets.
It all started Wednesday night, when the two were informed by the family member in question of an incident that occurred at approximately 5:30 p.m. that day. According to the family member’s account, two children were outside playing on a trampoline when they suddenly began screaming about “the devil” attacking their pet dog, a pit bull.
“It ripped it apart,” Vega said in Spanish before commenting on what he believed the animal was. “I guess it looks like some kind of alien… looks like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Maybe it’s the chupacabra, I don’t know.”
Guajardo said, “To me, it looks like it is half human and half animal, like the devil, because it stood up and they (family member) said it was over six feet tall.”
The News took a skeptical approach to identifying the supposed beast and sought the advice of a local veterinarian, Dr. Allison Tewell-Merritt of San Benito Animal Hospital.
In Dr. Tewell-Merritt’s opinion, the pictures that Vega and Guajardo said showed a devil-like creature of possible alien origin was actually a dog, possibly a pit bull, with a bad case of mange.
When first viewing cell photos of the animal, Dr. Tewell-Merritt stepped back from shock and promptly informed the News that the animal needs to be euthanized as soon as possible.
“The skin issues are really bad, and it looks like it’s been a year since anyone’s taken care of it,” Dr. Tewell-Merritt said. “It clearly has mange, bacterial and skin infections.”
There was only one other case that the veterinarian said matched the severity of the dog’s condition, and given its reportedly aggressive nature, she stressed for residents of the neighborhood where the animal’s been seen to take their pets in for rabies vaccinations.
Calling it a public health concern, Dr. Tewell-Merritt further urged that people not come in contact with the stray.
“Three bats have tested positive for rabies in one week,” Dr. Tewell-Merritt said. “They could bite that dog or any stray dogs, and if a child is infected, it could be fatal if not treated.”
In the meantime, the News informed Gus Olivares of Cameron County’s Animal Control Department of the situation, who said an animal control officer would be sent to the area where the stray was last seen once contact was made with Vega.
Still, though pleased that the matter is being addressed, Vega and Guajardo disagreed with Dr. Tewell-Merritt’s identification of what they believed was a malevolent creature.
“It’s not a dog,” Vega said adamantly. “How can it stand up and walk around then?”
But Dr. Tewell-Merritt, a veterinarian for two years at San Benito Animal Hospital, said she’s familiar with the anatomy of a canine and is confident in her initial identification of the animal.
“You just have to know what a dog looks like without its hair,” Dr. Tewell-Merritt said, motioning to the cell phone photos. “And that’s a dog with really bad mange.”
Those who think they may have seen the animal are asked to report its whereabouts by calling Cameron County Animal Control at (956) 247-3599.