BREA, Calif., Oct. 12, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Rooster, a hound mix from Scranton, Pennsylvania, is the 2017 winner of the 9th annual Hambone Award®, honoring the most unusual pet insurance claim of the year. Rooster was nominated after he was impaled by a large tree branch during a routine hiking trip. The Hambone Award is presented by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance. After selecting 12 nominees, Nationwide opened a public vote at to decide the winner, where Rooster proved victorious.

Rooster with Hambone Award honoring Nationwide's most unusual pet insurance claim of the year.

Rooster was treated by the veterinary team at Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, where they performed a life-saving surgery to remove the tree branch. For their outstanding work, Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center will receive a $10,000 Nationwide-funded award through the Veterinary Care Foundation (VCF) to help treat pets in their community whose owners could otherwise not afford veterinary care. One hundred percent of all donations to the VCF are used to treat pets, with no contributions used for administration, fundraising or overhead.

Rooster’s Story: Pennsylvania Dog’s Hike Halted by Inconceivable Impalement

Eight years ago, Jen Hawker of Scranton, Pennsylvania, visited a local litter of puppies in need of a home and felt an instant connection with a tiny male mutt. Jen took the hound mix home and named him Rooster. Since that fateful day, the duo has created an inseparable companionship that has helped serve as guidance through difficult times. But that relationship nearly came to an abrupt end when Rooster was brutally impaled by a large branch during a routine hike.

Jen and Rooster’s bond was groomed out of misfortune. After a terrible accident at work, Jen was forced to take time off of work and eventually retire from her profession as a firefighter. During those troubling times, Rooster became Jen’s main therapy tool, helping her deal with stress and the everyday struggles of life moving forward.

“Rooster and I have a special relationship,” said Jen. “I’ve had other dogs, but none have been as comforting as him. There are some injuries that never heal, but Rooster has helped tremendously, and I just love him to death. He’s my personal therapy dog.”

On the day of the foliage fiasco, Jen had taken her small pack of dogs on a day hike in lieu of her daily gym routine. The group included Rooster, Jen’s other dog Goose and a foster dog named Lulu. The group was enjoying the mid-week seclusion on the access road trail. The lack of foot traffic allowed the dogs some off-leash freedom and gave Jen a chance to listen to her favorite podcast. The quartet was nearly done with their journey when then dogs noticed a vermin and sprinted down a small hill. Suddenly, Jen heard a loud cry.

“I thought I heard a yelp over my headphones,” said Jen. “When I called for the dogs to come back, Lulu and Goose ran out of the bushes and back up the hill, but Rooster was just standing there. When I approached him, I noticed an elongated bulge on his side and knew something was wrong.”

Thinking that Rooster may have fallen and severely broken his ribs, Jen tried to carry the ailing pup back to the car, but each attempt was met with severe cries of pain from Rooster. It became apparent that Rooster was suffering from a serious injury and needed immediate medical attention. With Rooster unable to walk and Jen unable to carry him the remaining distance, the group was out of options.

“We were stuck and I had no other choice than to dial 9-1-1,” said Jen. “I wasn’t sure if they would use their resources for a dog, but the operator assured me she would call back when help was on the way.”

Within minutes an officer arrived to the trail in a large SUV. Jen flagged down the vehicle and out of the driver’s seat appeared the City of Jessup’s Chief of Police, Joseph Walsh, to provide assistance. Wasting no time, Chief Walsh moved the SUV within 30 yards of the injured canine and attempted to help carry the dog using his vest as a makeshift stretcher, but Rooster was in too much pain. With just a short distance to safety and options limited, Jen encouraged Rooster with a confident tone, and the brave dog walked the short distance to the car.

Once in the car, Jen rode in the back with Rooster while Lulu and Goose rode in the front seat with the police chief. Jen arranged for a friend to pick up the other dogs in the parking lot so that she could rush Rooster to the emergency veterinary hospital. As she passed off the other two members of the pack, Chief Walsh could sense the immense stress Jen was in and offered to escort them to the hospital. Chief Walsh drove the ailing hound to Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center of South Abington for treatment. Upon arrival, emergency veterinary staff quickly examined the injury and prepared to take Rooster for X-rays and testing. One of the technicians pointed out an open wound on Rooster’s side and hinted that the large mass might be an impaled stick.

“I was in total shock when they told me that Rooster could have been impaled,” said Jen. “I was worried that he could be hurt much worse than I thought. When they wheeled him back, he howled in pain one last time and it tore me up, but Chief Walsh was still there by my side and provided comfort. He even went and brought back lunch while we waited for Rooster’s diagnosis.”

After an arduous wait, the staff returned with shocking news. Rooster had indeed been impaled by a large branch that stemmed over a foot long and had narrowly missed his lungs by less than an inch. The branch required a unique surgery that forced the staff to create an opening on the opposite side of the entrance wound for removal.

After the surgery, Rooster needed a couple of weeks for the wounds to heal and the soreness to wear off. Jen is relieved that Rooster survived the ordeal and is grateful for all parties involved that helped save her companion’s life.

“I’m so happy that Rooster came out of this ordeal without any lasting damage,” said Jen. “I’m so grateful for the amazing care the veterinary staff provided for Rooster, and I’ll never forget Chief Walsh’s kindness. Having Rooster insured through Nationwide also helped out immensely. I know I’ll never have to think twice about getting him veterinary care because of the excellent coverage we’ve received.”

As the 2017 Hambone Award winner, Rooster will receive the coveted bronze Hambone Award Trophy, as well as a Nationwide gift bag filled with toys, treats and various pet supplies.

Second Place – Butterscotch the Great Pyrenees/Irish setter mix (Minneapolis, Minnesota). A walk in the city left Butterscotch with shocking injuries after he stepped in a puddle that was exposed to a live wire and was electrocuted. (Butterscotch was treated at MedVet Chicago.)

Third Place – Star the Cattle Dog mix (South Bend, Ind.). Star’s daily walks are often interrupted by her clumsiness, but a recent trailside blunder nearly ended in tragedy after she fell into a hidden manhole. (Star was treated at the Parrett Veterinary Clinic in Indiana.)

“The Hambone Award sheds light on the unforeseeable accidents that can occur to our pets at any time,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA and Chief Veterinary Officer at Nationwide. “Rooster’s improbable injury during such a routine activity exemplifies the purpose of the Hambone Award and highlights the incredible work veterinary staff members do to save our four-legged family members. We are delighted with Rooster’s recovery and honored to present him with the 2017 Hambone Award.”

The 12 nominees were chosen from more than 1.5 million claims received by Nationwide during the past year. All pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses. Thousands of votes were cast at from Sept. 21Oct. 4 to determine the winner.  To read the stories and see pictures of all 12 Hambone Award nominees, visit

About Hambone Award

The Hambone Award is named in honor of a Nationwide-insured dog who got stuck in a refrigerator and ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while waiting for someone to rescue him. The dog was eventually found, with a licked-clean hambone and a mild case of hypothermia. This quirky title was first awarded in 2009 to Lulu, a hungry English bulldog who swallowed 15 baby pacifiers, a bottle cap and a piece of a basketball. The Hambone Award and these unusual pet insurance claims have since helped educate the public about the unexpected mishaps that can affect household pets. Stories and pictures of the Hambone Award nominees are available at

About Nationwide pet insurance

With more than 600,000 insured pets, pet insurance from Nationwide is the first and largest pet health insurance provider in the United States. Since 1982, Nationwide has helped provide pet owners with peace of mind and is committed to being the trusted choice of America’s pet lovers.

Nationwide plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Insurance plans are offered and administered by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company in California and DVM Insurance Agency in all other states. Underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company (CA), Brea, CA, an A.M. Best A+ rated company (2016); National Casualty Company (all other states), Columbus, OH, an A.M. Best A+ rated company (2016). Pet owners can find Nationwide pet insurance on Facebook or follow on Twitter. For more information about Nationwide pet insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit

About Nationwide

Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. and is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. The company provides a full range of insurance and financial services, including auto, commercial, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; banking and mortgages; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit

Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle and Hambone Award are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. ©2017 Nationwide.

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