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Seattle cat in the running for National Hambone Award

Rafa came down with hypothermia when he got trapped in a drain pipe for several hours. Thanks to weeks of intensive care, and pet insurance, he made a full recovery.

SEATTLE — A Seattle cat is in the running for some widespread recognition - a National Hambone Award. 

The competition is entering its 14th year, and brings awareness to the wild things that can happen to our pets, and how pet insurance can help us care for them. 

Nationwide created the award back in 2009 when the first recipient, a Jack Russell terrier, got trapped in a refrigerator with a whole ham. Fortunately, the dog was found alive, but only the hambone was left.

Rafa the cat went through an ordeal earlier this year that put him in the running for the award. 

“Rafa is rambunctious and acts like he’s totally invincible,” said one of his owners, Susan Sue.

Rafa snuck out of the house while his people were bringing in dinner. After searching for him, his people found him trapped in a drain pipe nearly 24 hours later. 

“We were on a walk calling his name and we were almost back home when I heard a faint meow and knew it was Rafa,” Sue said. 

Sue and her partner Jose Montoro discovered their cat was trapped in an enclosed drain pipe that was encased in a sewer grate that was welded shut. 

“We thought Rafa must be just inside the pipe but we still couldn’t reach so we had to make calls,” Sue said.

It took the Seattle Fire Department, animal rescue, Seattle Public Utilities, Roto-Rooter and the help of several neighbors to free Rafa from the pipe. They had to bushwack the hill which was covered in blackberry bramble and dig the pipe out two to three feet from the ground. 

After several hours of digging and planning, they were finally able to cut the pipe and get Rafa out. 

Montoro was assisting the rescue efforts and was on the receiving end when Rafa was finally free from the pipe that had been flowing ice-cold water. “It wasn’t good. Rafa had severe hypothermia, electrolyte imbalance, his blood sugar was really low,” he said.  

The couple said the veterinarians didn't believe Rafa would make it through the night, but after several weeks of intensive care, Rafa made a full recovery and returned home in time to welcome the family's first human baby, Satya. 

The family says they are thankful they had pet insurance and hope the dramatic tale inspires other pet owners to get their animals covered.

The harrowing rescue story was selected by Nationwide for the Hambone Awards which features 13 other finalists. A grand prize winner will be revealed on October 19 and will receive the coveted Hambone trophy, a gift card and a $1,000 donation to a pet charity of their choice.

Hambone Award voting ends Oct. 17. Vote for Rafa and read the other stories on the Hambone Award's website.


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