Skewer-Gobbling Boxer Wins Hambone Award

An annual contest sponsored by Nationwide recognizes the most unusual pet insurance claims.

Curtis, the winner of Nationwide’s 2015 Hambone Award, relaxes outside the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine with his owners and medical staff. Virginia-Maryland received $10,000 to help pet owners pay for veterinary care.


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Curtis made a wooden barbecue skewer disappear, but he couldn’t keep it hidden forever.

The Princeton, W.Va., boxer on Wednesday was named the 2015 Hambone Award winner, an honor bestowed by Nationwide pet insurance on the animal with the most unusual insurance claim.

Curtis’ story began when he snatched a chicken and beef shish kabob off a kitchen counter.

“I saw him grab it and chased him outside,” owner Valerie Mould said. “When I caught up to him, I yelled for him to drop it and grabbed the end sticking out of his mouth, but the skewer snapped right as I got my hands on it and Curtis swallowed it in one bite.”

Thinking the skewer would break down naturally, a veterinarian advised Moulds to monitor Curtis. When he started vomiting the next day, Curtis was rushed to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Va., where ultrasound and endoscopic examinations revealed nothing, leaving the experts to assume the wooden skewer had dissolved.

Curtis resumed acting like Curtis, but months later he stopped playing and his appetite declined. Visits to his local veterinarian didn’t solve the mystery, and when the boxer’s behavior worsened and touching his side produced yelps, another trip to Blacksburg was in order.

What the college’s veterinarians discovered was a large mass near his liver and the possibility of cancer.

“We couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him,” Mould said. “He’s like our child and we would do anything for him. Hearing that he could have cancer was heartbreaking, but we were going to get him the care he needed, no matter what.”

An operation was planned to remove the mass, but the surgeons who opened up Curtis didn’t find cancer. What they saw was the missing skewer surrounded by a large ball of scar tissue.

The skewer had pierced his intestines and lodged next to the liver.

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The 5-year-old carnivorous canine recovered fully, and Mould said having pet health insurance made a big difference.

“Not having to worry about the veterinary expenses took a huge burden off our decision making,” she said. “We were able to commit to getting him the medical help he needed, without thinking twice.”

Curtis’ first-place finish, the result of public voting on 12 nominees at, brought him a bronze trophy and a gift bag filled with toys, treats and pet supplies.

The runners-up were:

  • Second place: Charm, a silver-shaded Persian cat from Woodbridge, Va., who swallowed more than three feet of packaging tape.
  • Third place: Rocky, a miniature Dachshund from San Diego, who survived multiple rattlesnake bites.

Nationwide pet insurance is based in Brea, Calif.

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