BREA, Calif. – Harley, the rock-eating pug who consumed -- and subsequently passed -- more than 100 rocks took home top honors Wednesday in a contest for the year's most unusual pet medical claims sponsored by a veterinary insurance company.
To win the Hambone Award, named after a dog that ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while stuck in a refrigerator, Harley managed to defeat such worthy competitors as Gus, a Labrador retriever who gobbled down five pounds of cookies in one sitting; Eddy, a domestic shorthair cat who leapt into the air and landed on top of a hot wood stove; Havee, the Havenese who had a violent altercation with a vacuum and Chico the Chihuahua, who almost became supper for a hungry owl.
Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., which sponsored the contest, narrowed the field down to 12 finalists and visitors to the company's website could vote for the winner. Harley managed to nail down some 1,800 of the 4,000 votes cast.
The pug, from Manville, R.I., apparently began his strange addiction later in life.
When his owner, Lori Laverdiere, returned from a trip and took him for a walk, she noticed that he was passing rocks at an alarming rate and could even feel them in his stomach.
Laverdiere rushed him to an emergency animal hospital where the problem was diagnosed and Harley given medication to expedite the rocks' removal.
"I've had Harley for six years, since he was a puppy, and he's never done anything like this," Laverdiere said.
Harley has since made a complete recovery, as have all the other contestants.
But even Harley might have trouble keeping up with the two past winners: Ellie, a Labrador retriever who ate an entire beehive (with inhabitants) and Lulu, a bulldog who gobbled down 15 baby pacifiers, a bottle cap and a piece of a basketball.