OZARK, Ala. (TheBlaze/AP) — Animal control officer Wanda Snell knows what she saw: A veterinarian inserted a needle into the black-and-brown mutt and injected a deadly chemical meant to euthanize the dog no one had adopted. The animal moved a bit and was already still and quiet when she left the shelter for home.
What Snell can't explain is how or why a mixed-breed dog that nobody wanted recovered overnight and has since bounced back fully from what should have been a lethal injection.
Lazarus, a mixed-breed dog who survived a euthanasia attempt and a car accident, sits in the sun at its new home in Helena, Ala., on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (Image source: AP/Jay Reeves)
Less than a month later, the dog lives with a family in a suburb of the Alabama city of Birmingham, where the animal romps in the grass and plays with another rescue dog. His survival seemed all the more surprising since the same dog already had been struck by a car before arriving at the Ozark City Animal Shelter.
A rescue worker who retrieved the approximately 4-year-old male dog after the failed procedure named him "Lazarus" after the biblical account of a man brought back to life by Jesus. Snell has another name for that escape artist of a dog. "I call him Houdini," she said.
No one connected with the shelter is exactly sure what happened to prevent Lazarus' death, and officials declined to release the name of the contract veterinarian who performed the injection.
But shelter volunteer Cortney Blankenship has an idea: "His body overcame and he had a will to live and somehow, someway he made it through."
Records show the dog arrived at the shelter on Aug. 19 after being dropped off by its owner, who Blankenship said was moving and could no longer care for it. The animal was cut and bloody after being struck by a car and a pad on its left rear foot was missing.
Blankenship tried to find a rescue home through social media, but no one stepped up to adopt. So the dog's scheduled date with death arrived on Sept. 10.
Snell said the vet arrived late that afternoon to euthanize animals due to be put to sleep. Snell said she accompanied the veterinarian and witnessed the entire procedure. The dog moved a bit when injected, almost as if fighting the drug before it quieted and was still, Snell said. The animal was left for dead inside a pen, its body to be removed later.
This Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 photo shows a record from the Ozark City Animal Shelter in Ozark, Ala., indicating a dog was believed to have been euthanized on Sept. 10, 2014. Officials say the animal survived and is now called "Lazarus" at his new home in suburban Birmingham. (Image: AP/Jay Reeves)
But when Snell arrived for work the next morning, she saw the dog standing in an outdoor pen linked to the interior kennel. The dog had walked out and helped himself to some water.
"He was back up and breathing and going right about business like it's nothing," said Ozark police Capt. Bobby Blankenship, who supervises the city shelter and is Cortney Blankenship's father.
Lazarus, left, plays with a housemate in Helena, Ala., on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. The mixed-breed dog survived a euthanasia attempt and a car accident before being found by a volunteer and given to a rescue organization. The dog is named for a man the Bible says Jesus raised from the dead. (Image source: AP/Jay Reeves)
Capt. Blankenship doesn't have any doubt the veterinarian tried to euthanize the dog. In fact, the dog was "wobbly" and unsteady for some days afterward, he said. Those problems have since passed.
Dr. Robert Lofton of the veterinary school at Auburn University said such cases are rare. While he hasn't examined the dog and wasn't involved in its handling, Lofton said the dog's survival could have resulted from an improper dose of the drug used or possibly a vein that dodged the needle tip.
And once Cortney Blankenship posted the story on Facebook, the dog's fortunes changed. The animal was claimed by another rescue group leader who turned it over to a family living about 160 miles away.
Jane Holston of Helena is now serving as Lazarus' foster mother. The dog has been diagnosed with a dangerous case of heart worms but is on medication. And the leg damaged from the car accident is in a cast and on the mend.
Lazarus, a mixed-breed dog who survived a euthanasia attempt and a car accident, sits by his new owner, Jane Holston, in Helena, Ala., on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014.(Image source: APo/Jay Reeves)
Left for dead weeks ago, Lazarus now romps in the grass and plays tug-of-war with housemate Tucker, another rescue dog living with Holston and her family.
"He's not skittish, he's not afraid of anything, anybody, any sounds," Holston said. "I mean, it's just amazing what all he has been through."