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Seven years ago, Chris Kille of Charlotte, North Carolina, was on a trip when he spotted someone selling Labrador retriever puppies. Having a lonely Labrador already at home, Chris decided to bring home one of the puppies as a companion, naming her Maddy. Since that day, Maddy has matured into a loving member of Chris’s ever-growing family. However, this past summer, the Kille pack feared for their beloved Labrador’s life after she was stung by a stingray during a beach trip. Maddy’s sandy skirmish and harrowing recovery have earned her the title of August’s “Most Unusual Claim of the Month” by Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance.
When Chris first met Maddy, she was only 7 weeks old and weighed just a few pounds. In fact, she was so small that Chris had to put a bell around her collar in order to keep track of her around the house. Maddy didn’t stay small for long and has now grown into a 90-pound goofball who loves to swim.
“Maddy is like my shadow. She follows me everywhere,” said Chris. “We have two other dogs as well as a cat in the house, and she gets along great with all of them. She’s a great dog with a happy personality.”
Maddy’s favorite place to swim is off the Carolina coast at the family’s beach house. The lovable Labrador has a shore-side routine that includes twice-daily walks and games of fetch with her favorite ball.
“I usually throw the ball into the surf, and Maddy will go for a short swim to get it,” said Chris. “It’s good exercise for her, and she loves it. We’ve never worried about anything happening to her, which is what made the incident so alarming.”
On the day of the coastal calamity, Maddy was on her second walk of the day with Chris and his wife, Kristen. It was late afternoon and the beach scene was calm, at a comfortably mild temperature. The family was in the midst of a game of fetch when suddenly Maddy gave an ear-piercing yelp from a few yards into the water.
“I knew something was wrong, so I ran into the water to see what was going on,” said Chris. “Maddy was hobbling, trying to stand, and there was blood everywhere. I couldn’t believe it. I thought she might have been bitten by a shark.”
Unbeknownst to the family, Maddy had been stabbed by the barb of a sting ray while running in the shallow water, causing a deep and painful wound. After helping Maddy back to the beach, Chris and Kristen tore a beach towel and used it as a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding. As Chris applied pressure to the injury, Kristen searched for a first-aid kit at neighboring oceanfront businesses. Luckily, as Kristen returned with first aid, a veterinary technician happened to be visiting the beach and noticed the commotion. The technician was able to stop the bleeding and dress the wound.
“We were fortunate that help was close by,” said Chris. “It was late in the afternoon on Sunday, and all the nearby veterinary hospitals were closed at the time. We still weren’t sure what had happened to her, but the technician was able to stabilize her injury and set her up for the night.”
Although the local veterinary hospitals were closed, Chris was able to contact a veterinarian from Heritage Animal Hospital of Hilton Head Island through an afterhours emergency hotline. The veterinarian provided tips on how to keep Maddy comfortable and what dangerous symptoms to look out for. Chris and the willing veterinarian spoke multiple times that night to ensure that there was no looming threat to the ailing Labrador.
Early the next morning, the family took Maddy to Heritage Animal Hospital for treatment. A round of tests confirmed that Maddy had been stung by a sting ray and would require anti-venom. After cleaning the wound and applying the treatment, the veterinary staff sent Maddy home with pain medication and orders to rest.
Fortunately, the pain subsided after a few days, and Maddy was back to her normal self. The incident hasn’t deterred her water-loving ways, and she still enjoys her trips to the beach. The Kille family is relieved that Maddy escaped the incident without serious injury and is thankful for all the support.
“It was a scary scene, but all help we received from everyone during the situation was amazing,” said Chris. “The veterinary hospital staff was great with Maddy, and the kind stranger who treated Maddy was incredible. The pet insurance support from Nationwide was tremendous as well. We were able to get Maddy the treatment she needed without worrying about the cost.”