Chihuahua Wins Tug of War With Great Horned Owl

Nation’s Largest Pet Insurer Selects Most Unusual January Claim

Brea, Calif. (Feb. 8, 2011) – The Chihuahua is many things: pet, actor, mascot, and even fashion accessory. If it hadn’t been for the quick actions last month of a pet owner in Crystal Lake, Ill., however, “snack” very well could have been added to the list.

“It was around 1:30 in the morning,” Dana Kalomiris said, “and my husband George had taken our 3 year-old Chihuahua, Chico, outside for a bathroom break. They hadn’t gone very far outside before George heard whimpering and then Chico made a sharp cry. When George turned around, he couldn’t believe his eyes. A Great Horned Owl had silently swooped down and snatched Chico in its talons!”

With Chico secured to his dog leash, it was a game of tug of war between George and a determined bird with a five-foot wingspan. The owl tried to fly off with Chico but, having become tangled in the leash, it instead dragged Chico through the snow. “George was eye to eye with this owl,” Dana said, “and he’s screaming and lunging and just trying to do everything to get Chico free.” George frightened the large owl enough so that it let go of Chico and flew away. George inspected the startled and battered Chico and discovered that one of the owl’s talons had caused a small puncture wound just behind the right foreleg.

Dana and George rushed the Chihuahua to an emergency veterinary hospital near their home. Chico had been very lucky. Although one of the owl’s talons managed to puncture Chico’s side, the winter jacket the dog had been wearing during his walk acted as a sort of bulletproof vest and blocked a second talon from causing a far more serious wound. “The veterinarian said that if that talon had made it through the vest and into Chico, it would have killed him,” Dana said. X-rays revealed a shallow puncture wound on Chico’s side, and the dog was sent home with antibiotics and pain medication.

Dana said that Chico’s injury has healed remarkably well, and that the unexpected nature of the owl attack left everyone in the family feeling protective of Chico. “The first time we took him outside again,” Dana said, “four of us stood around him in a circle so that nothing could get to him.”

The Kalomiris’ claim for Chico’s owl attack was one of more than 80,000 claims received in the month of January by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance. The Kalomiris’claim was considered along with other uncommon medical claims submitted in January and selected by VPI as the most unusual of the bunch.

As the most unusual claim submitted in January, the Kalomiris’ claim will be placed in the running for the 2011 VPI Hambone AwardSM. Each month, VPI employees nominate the most interesting claim submitted, and in September 2011, the company will ask the public to vote for the most unusual claim of the year. The VPI Hambone Award is named in honor of a VPI-insured dog that got stuck in a refrigerator and ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while waiting for someone to find him. The dog was eventually found with a licked-clean ham bone and a mild case of hypothermia.

Honorable mentions in January included a beagle that turned a couch into a snack, a mixed-breed dog that got stuck between banister bars, a Labrador retriever that ate a marijuana cookie, a Golden retriever that swallowed a 5-inch barbecue skewer, and a Boston terrier that collided with a skier. All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses. Stories and pictures of the Hambone Award nominees are at

Note to editors: Digital images of Chico are available upon request. Send requests to

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