Golf Cart Gaffe Nearly Crushes California Collie Mix

Last year, David Ritchey of Fairfield, Calif. was devastated after the passing of his longtime Labrador retriever companion, but his sorrows were quickly relieved after his friends surprised him with a small Border collie-Labrador mix puppy. David named the puppy Ruger and has since created an unbreakable bond. However, that bond was nearly lost due to a freak accident, after Ruger was run over and dangerously pinned under a large golf cart. Ruger’s terrifying trampling and heartwarming recovery have earned him the title of October’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.

When David’s previous dog passed away, he swore that he’d never own a dog again. However, his dog loving friends thought otherwise, and when presented with the opportunity to obtain a puppy, they knew just who to give it to.

“My friends live on the same ranch as I do and saw how hurt I was when my last dog passed,” said David. “They have a pack of Weimaraners and love dogs as much as I do. They met someone during a hunt who was looking for a home for a litter of puppies. I had no idea he was coming. They just showed up at my doorstep with this cute puppy, and of course I said I’d take him.”

David lives on a large ranch that allows Ruger the freedom to roam. Ruger spends much of his days herding the donkeys and horses on the property, and playing with his Wiemaraner ranch mates. When he’s not out enjoying the outdoors, Ruger loves to watch TV with David and even has a favorite commercial. 

Leading up to Ruger’s cart calamity, the owners of the ranch had asked David for his assistance in purchasing a golf cart for the property while they were out of town. David agreed and helped bring a large 800-pound golf cart onto the property. Ruger, who is accustomed to chasing large cattle around the 12-acre ranch, was intrigued by the cart, but understood to keep his distance.

“When the cart arrived, I test drove it and Ruger started to chase it as if were an animal,” said David. “I knew that would be a problem so I worked with him to keep his distance and tried to teach him that it wasn’t a toy. He seemed to get the hang of it after a while. I never thought it would lead to anything serious, but boy was I wrong.”

One day, a friend of the ranch brought her dog over to play with Ruger. As the dogs mingled, David and his friend sparked up a conversation about the new golf cart. As the two talked, the acquaintance noticed that her dog wasn’t running around with Ruger and asked to use the golf cart to see if her dog would follow along.

“She wanted to putt around in the cart to see if her dog would come out of his shell and run around,” said David. “I told her of course she could, but asked her to be careful because Ruger was still learning how to maintain a safe distance. It seemed harmless, but it went south really fast.”

Within an instant of pressing the gas, tragedy struck. The cart accelerated fast than the driver anticipated and struck Ruger who had been standing around 30 feet away. The cart trampled over the terrified puppy and came to a halt on top of him, leaving his leg and body pinned underneath the wheel.

“Everything happened so fast,” said David. “It was total chaos. We scrambled to try and lift the cart, but it was too heavy. I know my friend felt horrible, and I was a complete wreck.”

With the cart too heavy to lift, David rushed to get a jack to try and prop the cart up high enough to free the ailing pup, but his efforts failed. The faithful owner then retrieved his tool box and attempted to remove the tire, but the process was slow and time was ticking away. As David’s options ran thin, he knew he was going to need more help. David, who had previously served as a volunteer firefighter, decided to call the local firehouse for help.

“I had no idea if they would help, but I knew it was worth a shot,” said David. “The operator assured me that help was on the way and within a few minutes I could see the fire truck coming down the road.”

Immediately after pulling up to the scene, a crew of volunteer firefighters jumped into action. Working together, the firefighters lifted the golf cart high enough for Ruger to wiggle free. After getting free, Ruger hobbled straight to the firemen and thanked them with love and puppy kisses. Knowing that Ruger could be seriously injured and in need of medical attention, David rushed to get his truck. Meanwhile Ruger calmly walked to his puppy pool and cooled off in the water. David pulled the truck right up to the pool, loaded the injured dog into his crate, and hastily drove to the emergency veterinary hospital.

When the duo arrived at the emergency clinic, David was unsure if he would have to carry Ruger or if a gurney was necessary. But the athletic pup quickly answered that question by jumping out of his crate and off the truck as if nothing was wrong. The veterinary staff proceeded to run numerous tests and X-rays, but miraculously Ruger showed no signs of damage other than deep bruising in the area that was pinned.

 “It’s astonishing that Ruger was able to walk away from that accident with no major injuries,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer for Nationwide. “Ruger is lucky to have a quick thinking owner like David who was able to use his resources to assure his rescue.”

Since the accident, Ruger has undergone routine acupuncture to help treat stiffness and soreness associated with the bruising he acquired from the weight of the cart. David is just happy that his companion pulled through without any lasting damage, and is grateful for all the support he received from every party.

 “I’m just relieved he made it out alive, and that we can put it in the past,” said David. “I’m so grateful for everyone who helped us. The firefighters were nothing short of heroic and the veterinary team was so thorough and thoughtful. Having Ruger insured with Nationwide also helped out tremendously. Having pet insurance for Ruger allows me to get the best possible care without worrying about the costs.”

As the most unusual claim submitted in October, Ruger will be in the running for the 2017 Hambone Award. Ruger’s incident was one of more than 110,000 pet insurance claims received in the month of October by Nationwide, and was selected by Nationwide employees as the most unusual of them all. Honorable mentions in October include a Labrador who swallowed a tooth brush, a French bulldog who fell out of two story window, and a cat who swallowed a Nerf dart. All pets considered for the Hambone Award have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

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


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


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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.


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