Vicious Vacumm Battle Leaves Border Collie with Hockey Style Smile

Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Selects Most Unusual May Claim

Brea, Calif. (June 28, 2016) - When Louise Vai, of Saint Paul, Minn. adopted a 5-year-old Border collie named Lily, she knew there would be a significant adjustment period. Lily’s previous life had been filled with neglect, but after lots of love from the Vai family, Lily overcame nearly all her obstacles… except for one. Lily hated the vacuum cleaner with a passion, and despite consistent training, one day Lily’s animosity boiled over into an ambush on the appliance that landed her in the emergency room with severe injuries to her mouth. Lily’s cleaning tool tirade and heartwarming recovery have earned her the title of May’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.

Before Lily joined the Vai family, she’d spent the first five years of her life malnourished and deathly afraid of men due to abuse. The Vai family was determined to give Lily the life all dogs deserve, and spent every day helping her rehab with a well balanced diet, lot of affection and proper training.  Within months, Lily transformed into an affectionate, happy-go-lucky pup that enjoyed playing with other dogs and chasing the ball. However, the only obstacle the Vai’s couldn’t break was Lily’s hatred for the vacuum cleaner.

“We noticed Lily’s dislike for the vacuum immediately after bringing her home,” said Louise. “As soon as I would turn it on she would snarl and try to attack it. Even though she had made so much progress with everything else, she never got over her vacuum issues.”

To combat her constant attempted vacuum attacks, Louise trained Lily to stay in the landing of the stairs while she vacuumed. The process worked perfectly for months, until one day when Louise turned her back to rearrange some chairs, and Lily saw her chance to attack.

“I took my eyes off the vacuum for one minute and felt a tug on the cord,” said Louise. “Lily let out a loud yelp and sprinted to hide behind the couch. Everything happened so fast that I couldn’t really tell what took place.”

When Louise approached Lily, she could see the Border collie’s mouth bleeding profusely. She immediately called for her husband to come help. When the couple inspected Lily’s mouth, they discovered that one of her canine teeth was badly damaged and some of the smaller ones were missing. They looked at the vacuum cleaner for clues and found pieces of Lily’s broken teeth lodged inside the appliance Lily had bitten directly onto the central suction area of the vacuum and gotten her teeth stuck in the bumper area along its brim.

The duo wasted no time and rushed Lily to the emergency veterinary hospital for treatment. The veterinary staff treated Lily for initial trauma and provided pain medication, but recommended that she see her regular veterinarian at Companion Animal Hospital for oral surgery.

“Her teeth were already a little fragile as a result of her life before us,” said Louise. “Getting them stuck in that vacuum was too much for them to handle. The veterinarians let us know that her front teeth were in bad shape and would need to be removed. She has quite the unique smile now.”

Within a week after the surgery, Lily made a full recovery and returned to her playful ways.

“Our pets are often fearful of household tools and don’t understand the harm they can cause themselves by acting on their fears,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer for Nationwide. “It’s an unfortunate situation because Lily’s owners took the correct steps by training her to stay away. Lily is lucky she has pet parents who wasted no time in getting her the treatment she needed.”

In the weeks following the incident, Lily hid upstairs when the vacuum came out. She eventually overcame that fear and has returned to her designated spot, which now includes a tall dog gate to prevent a second battle. Louise is relieved the incident is in the past and thankful for the pet insurance support she received from Nationwide.

“I’m just glad she escaped without any serious harm,” said Louise. “I can’t thank the veterinarians enough for the work they did, and having Lily insured through Nationwide helped out tremendously. We don’t hesitate to seek treatment for our pets because we know they’re covered. I don’t know what we’d do without it.”

As the most unusual claim submitted in May, Lily will be in the running for the 2016 Hambone Award. Lily incident was one of more than 100,000 pet insurance claims received in the month of May by Nationwide, and was selected by Nationwide employees as the most unusual of them all. Honorable mentions in May include a Jack Russell terrier who ate an entire jar of chocolate spread, a German shepherd who was impaled by a stick, and a Poodle who got stuck in a sliding glass door. All pets considered for the Hambone Award have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses. 

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

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. ©2016 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

About  Nationwide

Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. and is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. The company provides a full range of insurance and financial services, including auto, commercial, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; banking and mortgages; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit

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