Skewed by a Skewer and Saved a Year Later Curtis Wins 7th Annual Hambone Award Presented by Nationwide

America Selects Most Unusual Pet Insurance Claim of the Year

Brea, Calif. (Oct. 7, 2015) Curtis, a Boxer from Princeton, W. Va., has won the 2015 Hambone Award honoring the most unusual pet insurance claim of the year. Curtis earned the nomination after he swallowed a wooden barbeque skewer, which disappeared in his body and nearly ended his life more than a year later. The 7th annual Hambone Award is presented by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance. After selecting 12 nominees for the most unusual claim of the year, Nationwide opened voting to the public at to decide the winner, where Curtis received the most votes.

Curtis was treated by the veterinary team at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine where they performed a lifesaving surgery to remove the skewer and the large mass it had caused. For their outstanding work, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine will receive a $10,000 Nationwide-funded award through the Veterinary Care Foundation (VCF) to treat pets whose owners could otherwise not afford treatment. One hundred percent of all donations to the VCF are used to treat pets, with no contributions used for administration, fundraising or overhead.

Skewed by a Skewer: Curtis’ Story

Valerie Mould of Princeton, W. Va., has grown accustomed to her 5-year-old boxer Curtis’ knack for snacking on things he’s not supposed to. Curtis has ingested various items in the past but has remained unscathed. However, his luck came to an end after he swallowed a wooden barbeque skewer, which disappeared in his body and nearly ended his life more than a year later.

The saga of the skewer started during a family barbeque at the Mould’s house. The family had prepared chicken and beef shish kabobs, and placed them on the kitchen counter. Curtis caught a whiff of the delicacies and seized his opportunity with one big leap.

“I saw him grab it and chased him outside,” said Valerie. “When I caught up to him, I yelled for him to drop it and grabbed the end sticking out of his mouth, but the skewer snapped right as I got my hands on it and Curtis swallowed it in one bite. I knew to call the veterinarian right away.”

The veterinary team told Valerie to watch Curtis closely to see if the skewer would break down and pass. The next morning Curtis seemed fine and ate breakfast, but that night he started to vomit and collapsed. Valerie called the local emergency veterinary hospital, which recommended she take him to Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech for treatment. Curtis underwent an ultrasound and endoscopy, but the staff couldn’t see the skewer and believed it had broken down.

The Moulds monitored Curtis’ stool for weeks, but saw no signs of the skewer. Several months later he started acting like a different dog. He stopped playing and didn’t eat as much as he used to. Valerie took him to the local veterinary hospital multiple times, but his illness was non-specific and remained a mystery. Slowly Curtis’ demeanor became worse, and he began to shake and yelp when his side was touched. Another trip to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine revealed a large mass near his liver. The veterinarians feared that it may be cancer, which would explain his deteriorating health.

“We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him,” said Valerie. “He’s like our child and we would do anything for him. Hearing that he could have cancer was heartbreaking, but we were going to get him the care he needed, no matter what.”

When the veterinarians performed surgery to remove the mass, they were shocked at their discovery. The mass was a large ball of scar tissue surrounding the skewer that Curtis had eaten over a year ago. The skewer had pierced through his intestines and traveled through his body until becoming lodged next to his liver. Since the surgery, Curtis has made a full recovery and Valerie is relieved that the mystery has finally been solved.

“Curtis is such a sweet and loving dog, it was hard to watch him struggle for so long,” said Valerie. “I’m just happy it’s all over, and grateful that we had pet insurance from Nationwide. Not having to worry about the veterinary expenses took a huge burden off our decision making. We were able to commit to getting him the medical help he needed, without thinking twice.”

As the 2015 Hambone Award winner, Curtis will receive the coveted bronze Hambone Award Trophy, as well as a Nationwide gift bag filled with toys, treats and various pet supplies. Nationwide gift bags will also be given to the following noteworthy competitors:

Second Place - Charm the silver-shaded Persian cat (Woodbridge, Va.). Charm’s mouser mischief took a near tragic turn after he swallowed more than three feet of packaging tape. After medication and laxatives, Charm eventually passed 19 inches of tape and regurgitated the rest (Charm was treated at Hartwood Animal Hospital in Fredericksburg, Va.).

Third Place - Rocky the miniature Dachshund (San Diego, Calif.). Rocky lived up to his name after he successfully fended off a rattlesnake from making a snack out of his smaller siblings. Rocky’s fight left him with multiple deadly rattlesnake bites, but he was able to pull through and make a full recovery (Rocky was treated at the Veterinary Specialty Hospital in San Diego, Calif.).

“The Hambone Award serves as an annual reminder of the unexpected accidents that can occur with our pets at any time,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA and Chief Veterinary Officer at Nationwide. “It’s truly remarkable that Curtis was able to survive with the skewer inside him for so long, and pays tribute to his owners’ persistence to seek treatment along with the exceptional work of the veterinarian team at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. We’re delighted to see the outstanding recovery Curtis has made and honored to present him with the 2015 Hambone Award.”

The 12 nominees were chosen out of more than 1.3 million claims received by Nationwide over the past year. All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses. Nearly 10,000 votes were cast from Sept. 16 – 30 to determine the winner. To read the stories and see pictures of all 12 Hambone nominees, visit

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

As the most unusual claim submitted in August, Stark will be in the running for the 2016 Hambone Award. Stark’s incident was one of more than 111,000 pet insurance claims received in the month of August by Nationwide, and was selected by Nationwide employees as the most unusual of them all. Honorable mentions in August include an Australian Cattle Dog who got grass seeds stuck in her tonsils, a Belgian Malinois who ingested 28 boxes of Girls Scout cookies and a Fox terrier who got a safety pin lodged in her mouth! All pets considered for the Hambone Award have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

About Hambone Award

The Hambone Award is named in honor of a Nationwide-insured dog who 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 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 Hambone Award nominees are available at

About Nationwide pet insurance

With more than 550,000 insured pets, pet insurance from Nationwide, formerly known as Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), is the first and largest pet health insurance provider in the United States. Since 1982, Nationwide has helped provide pet owners with peace of mind and is committed to being the trusted choice of America’s pet lovers. 

Nationwide plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. Wellness coverage for 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 pet insurance from Nationwide as an employee benefit.

Insurance plans 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 (2013); National Casualty Company (all other states), Madison, WI, an A.M. Best A+ rated company (2014). Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle, and Nationwide Is On Your Side are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. ©2015 Nationwide. Pet owners can find Nationwide pet insurance on Facebook or follow on  Twitter. For more information about Nationwide pet insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit

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