People always think they have the weirdest pet story, but Nationwide has validated Andrea Brannen's.
The insurance company announced Tuesday that Brannen's cat, Minnow, had won the agency's annual Hambone Award. The award is named after a dog who ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while stuck in a refrigerator.
The prize went to Brannen's lost, injured cat who believed it found its way home with some help from the Great Beyond.
Minnow was one of five animals competing for the most unusual pet insurance claims of the year.
The people at Midway Animal Hospital in southern Forsyth County who helped save Minnow received $10,000 from Nationwide to fund medical care for pets in need.
"We are thrilled that those less fortunate in our community will be able to get quality vet care at our vet, Midway Animal Hospital. And Minnow is a happy kitty with her bag full of treats and toys from Nationwide," Brannen told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday.
Minnow came back home after being missing for three weeks with a broken rib and having lost one-third of her body weight. That isn't unique, but Minnow's story is.
Brannen and her late husband had made an unplanned visit to an animal shelter, and she was drawn to Minnow, an outdoor, short-hair brown tabby.
But they left the South Carolina shelter that day in 2016 without adopting her.
Regretting it, she called back the next day only to be told that Minnow had been adopted. When she got home, her husband Graham presented her Minnow.
Graham died before she moved to metro Atlanta with Minnow in spring 2018.
When Minnow vanished, Brannen said she put up flyers all around town and even tried to lure the cat by leaving her litter box outside.
After three weeks without Minnow, Brannen was ready to give up. As she drove home from work one day, she started talking to her late husband.
She remembered saying, "All right, Graham. You brought Minnow home the first time. Now I need you to bring her home again."
The next day, Brannen was taking out the trash when Minnow appeared at the back door.
Nationwide spokeswoman Lindsey Zivoder previously said a team combed through the 1.5 million claims from last year to find the Hambone finalists.
As described by Nationwide, the four other finalists were:
• Tippy, an athletic border collie mix from Arroyo Grande, California, barreled into a steel trailer hitch while playing fetch and injured her snout.
• Jasper, a cat from Leander, Texas, was treated for heat exposure after narrowly escaping a dryer disaster when he got stuck in the fluff cycle.
• Frank, a Rottweiler from Keyport, New Jersey, sniffed a porcupine that left quills up his snout.
• Max, a Great Pyrenees from San Marcos, Texas, got his head stuck in a wild hog trap.
If you can't get enough, you can read about all the previous winners at hamboneaward.com.