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'Hambone Award' Goes To Pet With Strangest Insurance Claim (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 09/20/11 01:47 PM ET   Updated: 11/19/11 05:12 AM ET

Move over, Westminster Kennel Club dog show, with all your fancy, near-perfect canines -- here's a contest for ordinary pets and the extraordinary problems they get into.

It's none other than the Hambone Awards, given by Veterinary Pet Insurance to the domesticated animal and owner responsible for "the most unusual claim of the year."

One contender for the crown is Harley, a pug that developed an eating disorder of sorts while boarding at his veterinarian when his owner was out of town.

"I got home and we went for a walk and he started popping out rocks," said Lori Laverdiere of Manville, R.I. "It kind of sounded like quarters falling in a casino machine."

Harley got worse before he got better, spending the night convulsing in Laverdiere's arms before they made an emergency trip to the vet.

"I could still feel rocks inside him. He felt like a Beanie Baby," Laverdiere told The Huffington Post.

X-rays showed that his stomach and intestines were lined with at least 100 pebbles and rocks that he evidently ate in the dog run at the boarder's while his owner traveled to see several New Kids On The Block concerts. With the help of some medical oils and enemas, Harley was stone-free again in two or three days.

Voting for the Hambone -- named for a dog that ate a Thanksgiving ham when he got trapped in a refrigerator -- wraps up online today.

The insurers sifted through 80,000 claims to nominate one from each month. The award, now in its third year, tends to go to animals with unusual appetites. In previous years, a labrador name Ellie got the award for eating a beehive, and a bulldog named Lulu took top honors after swallowing 15 baby pacifiers, part of a basketball and a bottle cap.

It doesn't matter if the pooch brought it on himself, like the waterlogged labrador who drank way too much from the sprinkler, or if the pup was in the wrong place at the wrong time, like Chico the chihuahua, who was nearly swooped up by an owl while out on a walk.

Luckily, Chico's owner had a tight grip on his leash. The owl flew off, but not before the bird's talon pierced the petite pup's body.

"You forget that nature exists around us," said Dana Kalomiris of Crystal Lake, Ill., whose husband walked five-pound Chico the night of the unfortunate rendezvous with the owl. "We wanted to let owners of other small dogs be aware. It took him about a week before he was comfortable going out at night."

Some of the nominees sound like they endured potentially serious catastrophes, like Moose the English mastiff whose head swelled after getting kicked by a mule. But fear not, only pets that made compete recoveries were considered for the odd injury award.

"The VPI Hambone helps educate pet owners about the importance of preparing for the unexpected," said VPI's vice president and chief vet Dr. Carol McConnell. "It's rare that a dog's overzealous digging results in a tin can stuck on her face, or that a dog becomes ill from drinking too much water, but these things happen. Sometimes the best we can do as responsible pet parents is be ready for anything."

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