Elevator Emergency Leaves Golden Retriever with Smashed Snout

Tom and Elayne Falk of Lakewood, Wash. have been passionate pet owners for more than 25 years, but after losing their two Golden retrievers just months apart, the duo swore off pets. But after two years of feeling the void of a dog’s love, the couple brought home a pair of Golden retriever puppies, naming them Olivia and Ruby. However, their new-found companionship was nearly lost when Ruby’s snout became trapped in the door of a moving elevator car and was crushed. Ruby’s implausible injury and miraculous recovery have earned her the title of January’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.

After agreeing to forgo pet ownership, Tom came home to find Elayne sitting on the front steps of the house with a sad demeanor. Elayne had spent much of her time in the family garden accompanied by their dogs. Tom could see her loneliness, and knew they needed to fill the void.

“My husband came up to me and said ‘I picked my name.’ I had no idea what he was talking about,” said Elayne. “He said ‘I’m naming my puppy Ruby. What are you naming yours?’ I told him I liked the name Olivia, and before I knew it, we were looking at puppies.”

The couple began a two year search through kennels and consulting friends, before they found a pair of Golden retriever puppies, and fell in love. The Falk’s stuck with their original plan, naming the sisters Ruby and Olivia. The couple brought the puppies home as soon as they were old enough to leave their mother and immediately signed them up for pet insurance with Nationwide.

On the morning of the elevator catastrophe, Elayne was home alone with the two young puppies as Tom had just left for a meeting. The Falk’s home has a unique design that includes a third story and small elevator that travels between the top floor and the basement floor. With the puppies being so young, the Falks set up a sleeping area in their bedroom on the top floor. Part of the family’s new puppy routine included taking the puppies down to their potty area every morning.

“Ruby and Olivia are usually full of energy when they wake up so the first thing I do is take them to the basement level to go to the bathroom and run around for a bit,” said Elayne. “That morning they were extra hyper and it was a challenge to keep them both under control, but I figured they would calm down eventually.”

After arriving at the bottom floor, Elayne took the puppies outside to relieve themselves and get some energy out. When play time was over, Elayne rounded up the retriever sisters and loaded them back into the elevator. However, despite her continued efforts she couldn’t get them to settle down.

“They were still so hyper I tried to separate them by picking up Olivia, but she jumped into my legs, which caused me to slip and fall down,” said Elayne. “Just after I fell, I heard a horrible noise! When I turned around, I could see that Ruby was in a serious trouble.”

During the commotion, Ruby’s snout had crashed through the elevator gate. As the elevator rose to the second level, her snout was smashed between the ceiling of the first level and the floor of the elevator car. The impact caused the elevator to halt, leaving Ruby trapped.

“Everything happened so fast,” said Elayne. “I had to get her out, so I tried hitting the button to lower the elevator, but it wouldn’t move. It finally released after hitting it multiple times and lowered enough for Ruby to pull her snout out. There was blood everywhere at that point so I took my robe and wrapped her in it to contain the bleeding and comfort her.”

Elayne knew she needed to get Ruby to the emergency hospital and tried frantically to get the elevator working, but the car wouldn’t move. Trapped, she called Tom for help. As Tom rushed home, Elayne was able to fix the elevator issue and get it to the second level. Just as the elevator reached the second floor, Tom opened the outer elevator door. The duo immediately wrapped Ruby up in towels and raced to Summit Veterinary Referral Center in Tacoma for treatment.

Upon entering the veterinary hospital, the staff hurried the ailing puppy back to stop the bleeding and run multiple tests. After multiple X-rays and a CT scan, the staff informed the Falks that Ruby’s nose was severely broken and that her snout and hard palate were completely crushed. The staff explained that normally an injury like this would require major surgery, but because Ruby was only three months old, surgery could impair her growth and cause abnormalities. They believed that her snout would mold and heal itself with a little help from a long term brace. The staff fitted Ruby with a soft cast that kept her nose stable, but prohibited her from eating solid food.  

 “It’s astonishing that Ruby was able to walk away from this horrific accident without lasting damage,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer for Nationwide. “Ruby is extremely fortunate, because had she been older, she would have needed extensive surgery, to repair her damage nose. Pet mishaps as unusual as this, exemplify why we started the Hambone campaign and why it is important to insure your pet as soon as they join your family.”

Ruby’s progress since the incident has been remarkable. Her snout has nearly healed completely and she is now able to eat kibble again. The Falk’s are hopeful that she will soon be cleared to play with toys and chew bones again, but are overall thankful that she has recovered as well as she has.

“We’re so grateful that she survived,” said Elayne. “I can’t thank the veterinarians enough for finding the best way to treat her injury. Besides having a slightly crooked smile, she’s almost fully healed, and is still as cute as can be. We’re also very impressed with Nationwide. It was our first time having pet insurance, and Ruby had only been signed up for a month when her accident happened. They took care of us through the whole process. We’ll never go without pet insurance again.”

As the most unusual claim submitted in January, Ruby will be in the running for the 2017 Hambone Award. Ruby’s incident was one of more than 110,000 pet insurance claims received in the month of January by Nationwide, and was selected by Nationwide employees as the most unusual of them all. Honorable mentions in January include a Chihuahua who battled a snake, a Labrador retriever that ate an entire pie, and a Scottish terrier who got a piece of paper super glued to her head. All pets considered for the Hambone Award have made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

Note to editors: Digital images of Ruby 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 585,000 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), Columbus, OH, 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 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.

Nationwide, Nationwide is on your side, Join the Nation and the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.