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Deceased dog in running for 'unusual' pet insurance claim award

A Pasco County Labrador retriever that tangled with a poisonous sea urchin is one of 12 pets across the country in the running for an award for the most unusual pet health insurance claim received by Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. Unfortunately, Marley, who belonged to Judi Dunn, of Holiday, died in April after being run over by a car in Dunn's driveway. Marley survived the sea urchin ordeal back in January and was picked as one of Veterinary Pet's bizarre claims of the month. Now she is in the running for most unusual claim of the year.
There is stiff competition from a dog that ate 15 pacifiers, a dog that swallowed a bra, a dog that ate the same sock twice and a squirrel-chasing dog that crashed headlong into a wheelbarrow. "This would be a great tribute to Marley and her memory," says Dunn, a 50-year-old realtor who notes that she collected more than $1,200 in pet medical claims during Marley's short life. The Lab was 12 months old in April. Dunn says Marley's encounter with a sea urchin happened on Anclote Island one afternoon. "We were on the beach where shrimpers had dumped their nets near the shore and there was a lot of sea grass and live sea urchins on the sand," Dunn recalls. "I started throwing them back into the water because the urchin spines looked sharp and I didn't want Marley to step on one. But she thought we were playing fetch and went after them." Dunn had her camera and snapped a shot of Marley carrying an urchin. Later that day, Marley's gums turned bright red and her feet were swollen, Dune says, "she became seriously ill and could have died." Dunn has a lot of praise for Veterinary Pet Insurance which covered Marley's medical bills. "I have the premium policy and with a dog like Marley, it was worth every penny," she says. PVI sponsors a monthly Hambone Award and a Hambone of the Year. The company says it receives more than a million pet health insurance claims each year. "While most of these claims are for common pet conditions or routine care, every now and then a claim comes in that reminds us all just how unexpected pet accidents can be," says an official company statement. After collecting the most unusual pet insurance claim from each month in the past year, the company is inviting the public to cast a vote for the most bizarre claim of the year at VPIHamboneAward.com. If Marley's claim wins, then Dunn will be featured on a national TV show. Voting is under way through Monday. "I think we have a good chance at winning because who ever heard of a sea urchin poisoning?" Dunn says. She has since replaced the late Marley with a new Labrador pup named Shayna. Here are the other nominees. • Sugar the Jack Russell terrier (Ocean Springs, Miss.). In Sugar's haste to eat a wild turtle a fragment of shell became wedged in her nasal cavity and eventually required surgical removal. • Crawford the Brittany spaniel (Camp Hill, Pa.). The gel inserts of an ingested bra were mildly toxic.. Fortunately, the bra passed, as did his indigestion. • Rider the Belgian sheepdog (Ridgefield, Wash.). Rider went on a wild squirrel chase but when the squirrel dashed up a nearby tree, Rider ran headfirst into a wheelbarrow. • Becca the Labrador retriever (Greenwood Village, Colo.). Dogs frequently ingest socks, but Becca has the distinction of ingesting the same sock twice. • Jean Pierre the French bulldog (Ontario, Calif.). Veterinarians were puzzled by a lump on Jean Pierre's side. An exploratory surgery showed a corndog stick. • Lulu the English bulldog (Warson Woods, Mo.). After being caught eating a pacifier, Lulu was brought in r an X-ray that revealed 15 pacifiers - and various other objects - ingested over the course of six months. • Rincon the German shorthaired pointer (Tucson, Ariz.). Rincon was enjoying a hike with his owner when he encountered a family of javelinas. An attack from the fearless pig-like animals resulted in an emergency room visit and several stitches. • Quincy the Labrador retriever (Montpelier, Vt.). A bucket of minnows - bait for an ice-fishing trip - and when Quincy stuck his nose in for a sniff, he inhaled a three-pronged fishhook. • Ranger the Border collie (Flagstaff, Ariz.). Ranger's zeal to practice cattle herding led him crashing full-speed into a cow's back legs. Ranger was kind enough to break the cow's fall and, fortunately, didn't break anything else. • Toby the spaniel mix (Omaha, Neb.). Toby's chew toy of choice, a round bone left over from a roast, somehow managed to slip over his lower jaw. Though many attempts were made to remove the bone intact, treatment eventually included anesthesia and a hacksaw. • Scooter the Siamese (San Clemente, Calif.). While Scooter was being prepped for an MRI, a veterinary technician discovered the unlikely cause of her seizures: a needle, with thread still attached, which had been stuck in the back of Scooter's tongue for several weeks and pierced an area of her brain. Once the needle was removed, Scooter was back to normal in no time.

Reporter Walt Belcher can be reached at (813) 259-7654.

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