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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Grayson’s 36-foot leap of faith

Photo by Karis Olson

Grayson looks to go back outside to play during a visit to the Mason household on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. 

Amongst millions of insured pets across the nation, Grayson Haze of College Station lives, breathes and happily swims after taking an unexpected leap of faith off a 36-foot bridge on a seemingly ordinary morning stroll. 

Grayson was a playful pup, but his routine morning walks were seldom the place he would leave his adoring parents in complete and utter shock. Yet one morning not long ago ended in a panicked rush to the emergency room, dozens of x-rays, tests and a pile of medical bills that should have cost thousands. Weeks later, Grayson’s loving family would come to find out his heart-stopping jump resulted in a nomination for none other than Nationwide’s Hambone Award. 

Grayson’s dog mom, Annie Mason, remembers bringing him home in March of 2021. He was so small, and he already had a love for swimming at only about 10 weeks old, Annie said. 

“My sister-in-law is an animal lover and her niece is a surgical nurse up in Dallas, and she had already owned two older, bigger dogs,” Annie said. “When she brought [Grayson] home, the two older dogs would not accept him. So my sister-in-law thought since it’s a [labrador], and [because] we already had a [labrador], we’d be the perfect home.”

Annie said Grayson was the type of dog that curled up in bed with her and her husband, Mark Mason. She said she vividly remembers the aftermath of the day he lunged off a bridge and landed on concrete during a walk with Mark. 

“It was a place where everyone in the neighborhood walks because there’s not very many cars, it’s rural,” Annie said. “He was just taking a walk like normal. He was on a leash, and he just all of a sudden jumped up on the side of the bridge, and then before we knew it, he started to leap. If Mark hadn’t let go he would’ve been dragged along with him.”

Mark and Grayson decided to go on their walk just a few minutes away while she was at home, Annie said.

“I wasn’t even dressed yet,” Annie said. “I was in my nightgown, little footies on. He called crying, and I was like, ‘I’m coming.’ [I] got in the car, no shoes, no purse, no nothing.”

When she arrived at the bridge, Annie said she was met with a panicked scene with help already on the way.

“Two workers from the water-treatment plant heard Mark yelling for help, and they went down in their four-wheeler and helped put Grayson in their vehicle and brought him up the embankment,” Annie said.

They quickly scrambled to get Grayson to the vet shortly after she arrived, Annie said. 

“I was sitting in the back of the car with him, and I was afraid to touch him because I didn’t know whether he had broken bones,” Annie said. “They brought out a gurney, and I was terrified. I just thought there was no way he could have fallen like that.”

They brought Grayson to A&M’s Veterinary Hospital for care, Annie said.

“Everybody there was so nice,” Annie said. “We had a bunch of different doctors because they rotate. We had a number of fourth-year students, and everybody loved Grayson because he was so sweet.”

Annie said they were not allowed to see Grayson until after the medical team was done testing and checking him because they did not want to excite him.

“We were just waiting for them to tell us we had to put him down,” Annie said. “The neighbor came up there and she didn’t even recognize Mark because he was so upset. At first, they said it looked like he was having internal bleeding, but they couldn’t figure out the source. They said his lung was punctured. His spleen was damaged.”

Eventually, after visits from concerned neighbors and family members, Annie said they were able to speak with the veterinarians.

“They did X-rays, testing where the fluid was coming from,” Annie said “Because of the fact that he did have five breaks in his pelvic area, they didn’t want him to be moved much. They said they couldn’t do much to fix those and they would heal on their own.” 
“That’s why he was prescribed a bunch of things to keep him calm and rest[ed],” Annie said. “I totally recommend having insurance for your pet now because who would’ve thought going on a walk in your neighborhood that you would’ve had something like that. You know, it was thousands of dollars, and our out-of-pocket was very minimal.”  

Annie said after weeks of having Grayson on bed rest and keeping him on a strict schedule to avoid overexertion, she started to receive some unusual phone calls.

“I don’t normally answer calls if I don’t know the number,” Annie said. “I would get these messages, and they were never from the same number. I would listen to part of it and go, ‘What? Hambone?’ I thought it was a joke. Who cares about the Hambone Award?” 

Marketing Director at Nationwide Insurance Grant Biniasz has been with the company since the award’s inception, he said. 
“I started with the company in 2007, and it was about that time that we were going through some of the archived press releases and historical documents,” Bianiasz said. “I found a list from 2001, and it was a list of some unusual claims that the company had seen. One of them was of a dog that had been stuck in a refrigerator and ate an entire hambone for Thanksgiving, which was kinda hilarious.”

Biniasz said he wondered whether Nationwide was still receiving similar content, so he decided to reach out to the claims team. 

“The response was pretty overwhelming,” Biniasz said. “I was thinking that we might be able to do another press release sometime in the future of the top ten most unusual claims or something like that. But we were getting so much great content from so many amazing things that were happening to pets.”

Bianiaz said they process around three million claims a year, and most of them are generic, like ear infections and skin allergies, so it stands out when a claims processor sees something different.

“Animal attack claims are always kinda interesting because they’re just so unexpected,” Biniasz said. “I think that first month there was a dog that got attacked by a beaver. The stories were pretty relevant to the concept of pet insurance. Everybody that I talked to was like,  ‘I take care of my pet. It’s not like I’m negligent,’ It’s just crazy [the] things [that] happen.”

Inspired by the stories he was hearing about and the conversations he had with members, Biniasz said he started to think there was potential to get stories out to the public more than once a year.

“We started nominating somebody every month,” Biniasz said. “We were like, ‘What should we call this?’ It made me think of that first press release of the dog who ate the hambone, and I was like, ‘We should just call it the Hambone. We need to tip our hat to that first story.’”
The Hambone Award helps Nationwide reinforce the importance of pet insurance, Biniasz said. Today, Grayson resides in their home and can be caught swimming and playing with his labrador sister named Jenny, Annie said. 

“One of the things that was important to us was highlighting how unexpected pet emergencies can be and also that the pets are able to make full recoveries, and we are able to highlight the great veterinary care they received,” Biniasz said. “We wanted to show this can happen, but pets are resilient and there’s great veterinary care out there and pet insurance connects all those dots for people.”

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