Shaken Shih Tzu Saved From Horrendous Home Fire

Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Selects Most Unusual July Claim

Brea, Calif. (Aug. 19, 2014) – Courtney Cecil and her furry sidekick Nikko, a five pound Shih Tzu, have enjoyed a Southern California lifestyle as best friends and roommates in their West Hollywood home, but that all changed when the two were separated… almost forever. After running a quick errand, Courtney returned to find her home engulfed in flames and Nikko trapped inside. Nikko’s miraculous survival and heartwarming recovery has earned him the title of July’s "Most Unusual Claim of the Month" by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.

Upon approaching the smoldering apartment, all Courtney could think about was getting Nikko to safety. She entered the burning building through a side door and searched through the thick black smoke for Nikko. After being knocked back by the heat and struggling to breathe, Courtney was losing hope for her tiny best friend. Suddenly, Courtney tripped over Nikko’s puppy gate and there Nikko was, cowered behind it. She quickly picked up the pup and ran out as fast as she could.

“When I got out of the building, the moment hit me where I didn’t want to look down at Nikko. I feared the worst, but somehow he opened his little eyes,” said Courtney. “It was a miracle he was still alive, but he was shaking and obviously needed medical attention. Fortunately we have VPI, so I wasn’t worried about medical costs and could focus on getting him the treatment he needed.”

After narrowly escaping certain death, Nikko was suffering from severe smoke inhalation and was rushed by Courtney’s neighbor to the nearest pet hospital. Nikko was treated in an oxygen tank, given intravenous fluid and was kept overnight. Courtney also needed medical attention and was attended to for similar smoke related injuries. Thankfully neither member of the duo was burned.

“Pets are always susceptible to unforeseeable dangers, which makes it important for pet owners to have an emergency plan,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “Smoke inhalation can have serious negative effects on a dog. Nikko is lucky that Courtney took the precautions to get him treated immediately. While it’s best to wait for emergency responders in situations like these, I am relieved and delighted both Courtney and Nikko survived.”

With the help of VPI, Courtney and Nikko have been able to move on from the disaster and start a new life. Nikko has fully recovered from the ordeal and is back to strutting the Sunset Strip with Courtney.

“I’m honestly blessed that Nikko is still here. I’m so thankful that we had VPI because I was able to use my reimbursement towards rebuilding our life,” said Courtney. “I encourage everyone with a pet to be aware that pet insurance exists. You always have to be prepared for the unexpected in life and with VPI, Nikko and I are ready for anything!”

As the most unusual claim submitted submitted in July, Nikko will be in the running for the 2015 VPI Hambone Award. Nikko’s incident was one of more than 108,000 claims received in the month of July by VPI, and was selected by VPI employees as the most unusual of them all. Honorable mentions in July include a miniature poodle who drank a bottle of hot buttered rum and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who injured his eye after getting his head stuck in an ant hill. All pets considered for the Hambone nomination have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

Note to editors: Digital images of Nikko are available upon request. Please send requests to

About VPI Hambone Award

The VPI Hambone Award is named in honor of a VPI-insured dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while waiting for someone to rescue him. The dog was eventually found, with a licked-clean ham bone and a mild case of hypothermia. This quirky title was first awarded in 2009 to Lulu, a hungry English bulldog who swallowed 15 baby pacifiers, a bottle cap and a piece of a basketball. The VPI Hambone Award and these unusual pet insurance claims have since helped educate the public about the unexpected mishaps that can affect household pets. Stories and pictures of the VPI Hambone Award nominees are available at

About Veterinary Pet Insurance

With more than 500,000 pets insured nationwide, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co./DVM Insurance Agency (VPI) is a member of the Nationwide Insurance family of companies and is the first and largest pet health insurance company in the United States. Since 1982, VPI has helped provide pet owners with peace of mind and is committed to being the trusted choice of America’s pet lovers. VPI Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. Wellness coverage and routine care is available for an additional premium. Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, one in three Fortune 500 companies offers VPI Pet Insurance as an employee benefit. Policies are offered and administered by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company in California and DVM Insurance Agency in all other states. Underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (CA), Brea, CA, an A.M. Best A rated company (2012); National Casualty Company (all other states), Madison, WI, an A.M. Best A+ rated company (2012). Pet owners can find VPI Pet Insurance on Facebook or follow @VPI on Twitter. For more information about VPI Pet Insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit

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