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Denver dog wins national honor -- for nearly being eaten by a huge lizard

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Last September, we told you about local dog Becca the Labrador, whose claim to fame was eating a sock, puking it up, and then eating it again.

Thanks to this excellent achievement, Becca was named a finalist for the first annual Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. Hambone Award, given to the pet who prompted the year's most unusual claim. Unfortunately, she didn't win: That honor went to Lulu, an English bulldog that ate fifteen pacifiers.

But Denver's got another dog in the race -- Jack, a cleverly named Jack Russell Terrier who got more or less ripped to shreds by a carnivorous Australian lizard called a goanna. Jacquelin Throneberry, Jack's owner, told VPI, "He tries to go after the geckos and water dragons here, so I think that was the context he had for attacking the goanna. Obviously, he bit off more than he could chew."

Sounds like some hot dog-on-lizard action. Read more about it in the release below:

Jack Russell Terrier Tangles With Carnivorous Australian Lizard

Nation's Largest Pet Insurer Selects Most Unusual December Claim

Brea, Calif. -- When Jacquelin and Lance Throneberry moved to Australia last year on a two-year business assignment, the couple feared their Jack Russell terriers might have violent encounters with some of the region's poisonous snakes and cane toads. Until recently, carnivorous lizards did not top their list of pet health concerns.

"I took the dogs for a hike one morning and they ran ahead of me to investigate something," said Jacquelin Throneberry of Denver, Colo. "Before I know it, I see Jack in the distance running down the hill violently shaking what looked like a big lizard. I first thought, 'Oh no, he's probably killed that poor lizard,' but it soon sounded like he was fighting with it. As I got closer, I saw the lizard running up a tree alive and well. Jack was sitting further down the hill panting from exhaustion with his legs covered in blood. He was just a bunch of cuts all over -- bites and claw marks."

The lacerations on Jack's front and hind legs required multiple stitches, several staples and treatment with a series of antibiotics. While her 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier recovered at the clinic, Throneberry, still unfamiliar with some of the local fauna, went online to identify the animal that had injured Jack. The reptile matched pictures and descriptions of goannas, large predatory lizards native to Australia.

"He's healed up completely," said Throneberry. "He's a lucky dog. It could have been much worse. He gets himself in trouble because of his strong prey drive and lack of fear. When he was a puppy, he broke a leg jumping off a balcony to get a squirrel. He's hunted snakes and has chased a variety of wildlife in Colorado including deer and a coyote. He tries to go after the geckos and water dragons here, so I think that was the context he had for attacking the goanna. Obviously, he bit off more than he could chew."

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

As the most unusual claim submitted in December, Throneberry's claim will be placed in the running for the 2010 VPI Hambone Award. Each month, VPI employees nominate the most interesting claim submitted and in August 2010 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 December included a mixed-breed dog that ingested 14 chocolate brownies, a cat that ate a toy mouse, a mixed-breed dog that swallowed a whole snake, a boxer that gobbled up a rubber tire, a mixed-breed dog that was bit by a squirrel, and a Labrador that snacked on a slipper. 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 http://www.VPIHamboneAward.com.

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