Rhode Island Dog Narrowly Escapes Chainsaw Massacre

Four years ago, Lisa Martinelli and Derek Mabray of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, adopted a surrendered mix-breed dog from their local animal shelter named Tessa. Since that day, the blue-eyed beauty has been the perfect companion. However, the family nearly lost the caring canine when Tessa came in contact with a chainsaw and suffered major lacerations. Tessa’s saw slashing and heartwarming recovery have earned her the title of June’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.

When Lisa first brought Tessa home, she was nervous having the large dog around her young children, but that fear was quickly alleviated after seeing how loving and calm  she was. Tessa immediately fit in and became a fixture in the household.

“She’s the sweetest dog I’ve ever met,” said Lisa. “She wants to do whatever the family is doing. She’ll swim, play and hike with us, but she also doesn’t mind just hanging out on the couch.”

On the day of the tree-cutting calamity, the Lisa & Derek were outside preparing to do major yard work. They had just relocated, and the recent weather had been too rough to tackle some major landscaping projects, including the removal of a large dead plum tree. With the weather improving the family decided to make a day out of the project.

“We had our gloves on and were ready to clean up the whole yard,” said Lisa. “I was focused on tearing some weeds out while Derek worked on removing the tree. Tessa was on the other side of the yard chewing on her bone and relaxing. She’s out in the yard with us all the time so we didn’t really think twice about it.”

Ready to take out the tree, Derek retrieved his chainsaw. As he pulled on the cord to start the gas powered saw, it bellowed with a growl. The noise startled Tessa from across the yard and grabbed her attention. The first attempt to start the saw failed and Derek gave the cord another pull. This time the noise prompted Tessa to jump up. Lisa turned and realized that Tessa was affected by the noise, but had no time to warn Derek who gave the cord a third and successful pull. The chainsaw turned on, and Tessa started into a dead sprint towards it.

“As soon as the chainsaw started, Tessa ran toward it. She must have thought it was hurting Derek and she was going to rescue him,” said Lisa. “I reached out to stop her, but she bolted past me. Derek had his back turned and couldn’t hear me through the noise and hearing protection he was wearing. It was terrifying.”

As Tessa reached the saw, she lunged at it with her mouth wide open. Miraculously, Derek noticed her out of the corner of his eye, and with just enough time, extended his arm stiffly to prevent her bite from reaching the blades. However, as he stopped her face from being gashed, Tessa’s momentum threw her two front legs into the blades, causing deep lacerations. Tessa instantly fell to the ground, and the family rushed to her side.

“Her legs were cut really bad, but if Derek had not stopped her, it could have gashed her neck and been much worse,” said Lisa. “I grabbed some clothes and tried to contain the bleeding with pressure wraps. I knew she needed emergency help right away.”

While the duo applied pressure to the wounds, Lisa searched for a local emergency hospital on her phone. Being new to the area, she called the closest veterinarian she could find. The office directed her to the Ocean State Veterinary Specialists, and within seconds, Lisa & Derek loaded Tessa into the car and sped towards help.

Upon arrival, the veterinary staff met the family outside with a gurney ready for Tessa. The team wheeled Tessa into the back and worked to stabilize her wounds as the family waited in the lobby. After a few tense moments, the veterinarian appeared and told Lisa that Tessa would require surgery on both her legs. By the next morning the surgeries were complete, and Tessa’s wounds were closed.

“Tessa is incredibly lucky to have survived an injury this severe without having life-long affects,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer for Nationwide. “This could have resulted in permanent ligament damage or loss of a limb. Tessa is fortunate she has pet parents who wasted no time in getting her the proper treatment she needed.”

After her surgery, Tessa had a long recovery process, but handled all her pain with love and ease. She allowed Lisa to change her bandages routinely without a fuss, and within a couple weeks, she was able to walk again. Tessa has now made a full recovery. Lisa and Derek are relieved to have their lovable family member back to normal, and are thankful for all the support they received.

“Tessa is more than just our dog; she’s a part of our family,” said Lisa. “The veterinary staff was so amazing and compassionate towards Tessa. We are also thankful for the pet insurance support we received from Nationwide. Veterinary care is expensive, and having insurance for Tessa helped out immensely.”

As the most unusual claim submitted in June, Tessa will be in the running for the 2017 Hambone Award. Tessa’s incident was one of more than 110,000 pet insurance claims received in the month of June by Nationwide, and was selected by Nationwide employees as the most unusual of them all. Honorable mentions in June include a Labrador retriever who bit a poisonous frog, a cocker spaniel who fell down a flight of stairs, and a Dachshund who ate a full rack of ribs. All pets considered for the Hambone Award have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

Note to editors: Digital images of Tessa are available upon request. Please send requests to rwhittington@petinsurance.com.

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 HamboneAward.com.

About Nationwide pet insurance

With more than 600,000 insured pets, pet insurance from Nationwide 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. Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


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 (2016); National Casualty Company (all other states), Columbus, OH, an A.M. Best A+ rated company (2016). 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 petinsurance.com.

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 www.nationwide.com.

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