A leading US pet insurance firm has recognised the extraordinary ‘achievement’ of a Labrador retriever from California who, despite having a penchant for eating train tracks and laptop computer parts, outdid herself by consuming an entire beehive PLUS its angry inhabitants.

Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, asked the public to go to the polls and decide which pet with the most unusual health insurance claim.

Ellie may be a young dog, but she’s already managed to eat everything from wooden toy train tracks to laptop computer keys. So the beehive in the backyard was just another culinary adventure for this insatiable pooch. Unfortunately for Ellie, the recently sprayed beehive was full of pesticides and thousands of dead bees, and that combination sent her to the veterinary hospital later that night. Ellie was treated and sent home with an upset stomach but made a full recovery.

As the winner, Ellie’s owners, Robert and Sandra Coe, will receive a bronze trophy in the shape of a ham as well as a gift basket full of doggie toys and treats.

Created to recognize the year’s most unusual pet health insurance claim, 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 before being found with a licked-clean hambone and a mild case of hypothermia.

Second Place – Aubie the Border collie (Birmingham, Ala.). A lot of dogs just bark at the mailman, but not Aubie. To get to his letter-carrying "foe," Aubie leaped through a closed living room window, shattering a pane of glass and cutting his left front leg in the process. Fortunately, Aubie’s owner, Sharman Martin, was home at the time and was able to wrap Aubie’s leg in a towel before rushing him to his veterinarian’s office. Two and a half hours and forty stitches later, Aubie was good as new again. "Aubie’s never been enamored with the mailman," Sharman summed up.

Third Place – Darci the West Highland white terrier (Belleville, Ill.). Darci always lunged at noisy appliances, but owner Barbara Abell never thought she had to worry about her Westie biting one. That all changed the day Darci took a nip at a buzzing chainsaw Barbara’s husband was using. The chainsaw cut two small holes into Darci’s muzzle and required five hours of surgery. The experience taught Barbara not to take anything for granted with a determined pet. "If your puppy is as inquisitive as mine, it just might cost it its nose!" Barbara said.

Additional nominees for the 2010 VPI Hambone Award included a boxer that chased and caught a moving delivery van by biting into one of its tires, a standard poodle with a taste for dirty diapers, a Jack Russell terrier that wrestled with a predatory lizard while in Australia, a Labrador retriever that ran tongue first into the pointy-end of a stick during a game of fetch, and a California desert tortoise that scalped himself on a branch and his own shell. Like Ellie, all pets considered for the award made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible expenses.

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