Take a breath and remain calm

I knew I needed to get Odin around other dogs as soon as possible, despite me feeling very ick after being attacked by the dog just 30 minutes before, but I knew it would be good for us both, so we packed our stuff and I gave the girls their jumbones and Ods and I headed out.
When we got there, he was very over excited and silly. So I made him wait in the car, with the door open, until he calmed down. Then we took it slowly to the arena. Stopping every time he got whining/barky and facing the other way.
He snapped and snarled at all the dogs, even his friend Lotto, so I knew it was going to be a long and trying afternoon.
I didn’t take him in to the socialisation ring – I didn’t trust him at that moment, and he was still way too hyped up. So we walked around and around and I made him sit next to the fence and let the dogs sniff him. He snapped at a couple, but was slowly calming down. As was I. Then a new dog arrived, a boxer named Roxy (her owner is Sarah) and Odin lost his marbles for some reason. So I made a point of following them around and making him sit and face the other way whenever he got snarly. I stayed very calm. My heart rate didn’t even go up. Then she went into the ring to be social, and she avoided the same dogs that he did (the excited dogs) and kept near the side of the ring. So I turned him around and let her sniff his butt through the railing, and then vice versa. Then we walked “together” around the arena along the fence.
He seemed better. He seemed to realise that, for now, the other dogs were not out to get him.
When she came out of the ring, I let him go over to say hello to her and I remained calm, with a loose lead… and guess what…
HE WANTED TO PLAY!!!! There was no aggression, no tension .. .he just wanted to play! So did she, so I let go his lead and they rough and tumbled and played BEAUTIFULLY for a good 5 or 10 minutes!
The instructor and everyone who knows him were SO excited! There was much cheering and encouragement from over at the obedience course!
I was so happy. I recorded a little bit of it to show my husband :)
It restored my faith in Odin, and showed me that it IS possible, we just have to take it slowly and find the right dogs (at first) for him to meet. And remain CALM at all times.
Then after Roxy left, we did the agility course and he did SO WELL! He was bouncing around and happy with his tail wagging, and he did the tunnel 4 or 5 times ON HIS OWN, in both directions, and he did the walkway AND the see-saw!!!! He was TOTALLY keen! Jumped the jumps happily too. His only issue was with the weave poles, but he did those too, with a little guidance from me.
All in all – SO glad we went :) I’m trying to do as Cesar Millan says and take everything as a challenge to be overcome, not something to set us back.

I hope that now we can start getting him to understand that I will ALWAYS protect him as best as my human body can, and I won’t allow other dogs to hurt him and he can trust me to be in charge.

 

I wanted to post a video, but it won’t allow me to upload it for some reason.

You can see it here on Google+ 

 

 

quiet days

Husband left on mission again early this morning – I had to drive him down to where they were being transported from, just before 0100. Took the dogs with, and Azzie (being the sensitive fur child that she is) picked up on my husband’s excitement and nervousness and impatience (the army does things in weird roundabout ways that take ages) and behaved like a complete crazy idiot. She leaped around and barked and whined and bashed into people and pulled me around. Husband lost his temper (not his fault – a lot going on) and couldn’t understand why she was behaving like that – I tried to explain that she was just picking it up from him, but he felt he was being calm and didn’t agree. On the surface he looked very calm, but she’s a sensitive dog, so she saw what was really going on inside him. This was proven when we said goodbye to him and headed back to the car – we were barely 10m away and she was suddenly calm, relaxed, walking easily on the lead with no pulling and no excitement. Hopped in the car just fine and all three dogs were quiet on the way home – heads out the window like usual – and they didn’t even bark at the MP and gate guards like they did on the way out.

So next time we go say goodbye or send him off somewhere and the dogs come with we will ALL be glugging some Rescue Remedy down :)

Dogs are amazing, really. Can’t hide anything from them.

The “silence’ experiment is going quite well: I’ve been walking them in near complete silence, with only positive remarks occasionally. I think that my tone when I speak all the time is perhaps confusing the dogs because my body language says something else, or my energy or something, I really don’t know. Or maybe it’s because by not talking I’m expressing my frustration/annoyance less, so it’s helping me remain calm? Could be a combination of all of that. We’ve encountered a few dogs in the distance and while my dogs have been interested (a bark from Odin, a small whine from Azzie and Gina puts her tail up and huffs) we’ve kept on walking without incident and with very little resistance from the dogs, even while the dog we’re passing by goes nuts on the end of their lead. We haven’t seen the Smug Man and his Husky recently: that will be the ultimate test for this experiment.

 

Now I have to get back into “mission mode” while my husband is away. I have to stop checking my phone for messages, and stop expecting to see him pull into our parking lot in Helga (our BMW) or hear his key in the front door lock. Will take a few days for me to sleep as well. Always does.

 

Some things

The training is coming along. Still trying to find my “calm-assertive” side. I tend to not lose my temper, but I get frustrated/annoyed and I am more forceful than necessary (or so it seems to me) – I don’t mean physically (I don’t hurt my dogs – never would, never have) I just mean… I over do the … tone? Trying to find that balance. Sometimes I get it, and it works, and I get instant results, so I just need to keep at it and keep consistent. I’m trying different “people” to “channel” for the right idea on the attitude… but so far Cleopatra hasn’t worked (I have no idea how a queen would act, much less an Egyptian one) and I don’t see Oprah Winfrey as much of a role model I’m afraid (and before anyone harps on about racism, that’s got nothing to do with it – it’s more like I don’t see her as a role model to copy for the attitude I am trying to convey for my DOGS) and I’ve looked at male attitude role models too but I can’t seem to “hold on” to the tone/energy/attitude if something happens on the walk. If nothing happens, sure – we do fine. But if there’s a cat following us, or a loud child wanting to PAT MY DOGS THEY’RE SO FLUFFY I WANT TO TOUCH THEM NOW NOW NOW, or a dog walking in the reasonably close vicinity, or Odin picks up a scent (rabbit, cat, dog, deer, crow – it doesn’t matter, as he just locks on and that’s that) or Gina wants to go home because she thinks my husband will be there (she’s very focused on his scent and can pick it up even if he DROVE BY over 30 minutes before we pass the area) then it all goes back to square one.  I’m trying to visualise as well… but my scattered brain can’t hold on to a positive image either. Negative, sure! Easy! But positive? It’s like the whole thread cutting thing I spoke about in a previous post. Can’t let it go.

I want to get a martingale collar for Odin as well as he finds it way too easy to slip out of his skull and cross bones cloth/cotton/whatever it is collar. He also pulls so much that it stretches out and slides off even more easily. That’s just dangerous when it comes to him, because if he slips that collar and chases off after a cat/deer/rabbit/dog … there’s no stopping him. He doesn’t have any road sense (except to be scared of noisy cars and big trucks, but that’s about it) and once he’s locked on, his ears turn off.  *sigh*

We’ve had some really good walks together recently, though, the four of us. So I need to just focus on the good ones. And in terms of him listening to me when we’re at home, he’s come a long way as well. He’s allowed to bark, just like the girls are, but when I say “enough” that means stop. And 99% of the time, he now listens. Sometimes he gives me a last word, because that’s him – but mostly, it’s good. And he and the girls are also much better at the front door, if someone knocks or if my husband comes home. They’re learning to give space and wait patiently. Gina is actually the worst culprit when it comes to disobeying the rules. She thinks they don’t apply because she’s daddy’s girl and he lets her get away with everything.

Husband is off again on another mission soon. Thankfully not months this time – because that would be pretty hectic considering we leave Germany soon!

The dogs and I have been training with the dens (we’re calling them dens, not crates or boxes) and all three of the dogs are doing SO beautifully with it. Azzie goes in on her own, without a word from me, and even Gina is getting the idea now. They lie down, wait patiently for me to let them out, no stressing, no worrying. Odin rushes in a bit, but he’s fine once he’s in. He lies down and waits. Lots of treats and praise and it’s all going well. Only thing is that despite measuring Gina many times, I realised that she’s too big for the XL den, and will also need a giant one, like Azzie’s. So I took the XL back and put in an order for another giant, but there’s a waiting list for them and we’re right at the bottom of the list. For now, I’ll just train her in Azzie’s and hopefully we can get her own one asap. I’m still training them with no door on the den, and one at a time, so it’s fine. But when I start putting them in for a few minutes, with the door closed, then it’s going to be more complicated.  I am very proud though, of all three of them. I was positive and up beat and pictured what I wanted and they complied. I was very pleased.

 

We’ve had some pretty hot weather the last week or so – in the 40’s (Celsius) for a few days in a row, dropping into the high and mid 30’s.  A while back my husband and I bought them a pool (made for dogs – nice and tough vinyl and it can be folded up) and I decided to put it on the balcony for them on some of the hot days – they LOVED it! Eventually Odin even lay down in it to cool down! They all love it and they squash together and splash around in it. I put towels and large dog blankets (made of cotton) down so they can dry their feet off when they come back inside, without making a huge slippery mess everywhere.

 

We’ve also been down to the secret pond a LOT and Odin is getting so brave now that he goes right up to his neck and wants to swim, but hasn’t gotten up the nerve JUST yet – which is probably a good thing, as I feel a bit unsafe on my own there with just me if something should go wrong.

Our first real walk

I’ve been watching Cesar Millan’s show for quite a long time, but never fully “got” how it worked until I watched the last few episodes where he explained how to find the _actual_ instigator of trouble – the one with the over excited energy, usually – and correct them first (and usually if you correct them the other members of your pack don’t need to be)
Well, I’ve always thought it was Odin, or even Gina – but I’ve been observing them all for the last few days when I walk them, trying to figure it out… and it’s Azzie (I had an idea, but I never really _saw_)
I finally saw it! I corrected her – basically ignored the other two… and wow. She back talked me, as she does, but I was calm, in charge, corrected her again more firmly… and bamm. Sorted. We saw the two little Daschunds that caused her (and then of course Odin) to go completely berserk before… and we walked by them, even with them (the weiners) prancing around at the end of their leads, trying to get their owners’ attention.
I have also discovered the correct _pace_ to walk at, and that they sniff when i say so, and I am in control now.
Long story short – I FINALLY HAD A PROPER WALK! A REAL pack walk. I feel… amazing… it’s like exercise endorphin… i’m HAPPY, elated… but I feel… powerful. It was so COOL! I walked, they walked next to me (or behind me, as Gina does) and there was NO tangling leads or twisting around me or standing in front of me etc… we just… WALKED!
I did “picture it” first, before I even put their leads on… and it works. It really works.
*beam*
Of course we will still have our bad days, nothing is an instant fix and it’s a mental state I have to keep all the time, but if I can just remember this feeling, and go back to that state of mind… things are going to get so much better for my whole pack. :)

 

This morning’s long walk was a little more trying, but I did see traces of _something_ happening… but we were not quite there yet – Odin fought with me to stay next to me (he wanted to go ahead all the time) and Azzie kept barging over as well. I almost lost my cool, but stopped and took a breath and we carried on.

We had a lovely swim session in the secret pond as well – happy dogs :)

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Progress

Just wanted to update everyone on Odin’s progress with settling in. We just got back from an AWESOME dog training session – he mingled with other dogs, with no issue except with a very dominant over excited young German Shepherd named Delta and when Punchen arrived (the deaf Great Dane puppy – the size of a small horse already) the excitement levels in the ring went a bit over his comfort zone, so we quietly slipped out. He also had a bit of an issue with Buddy (a stray/rescue from Spain) but I think that’s because Buddy is so unbalanced (waivers between terrified/anxious and dominant/over excited) and Odin is actually a very balanced dog, since he had to be a real dog his whole life. He had quite a calming influence over a crazy, dominant German Hunting dog called Nina as we went for a short walk together (he needed to poop, and he doesn’t like doing it in front of all the other dogs, weirdly enough) and by the end of it she was much calmer. Still a feisty little thing, but much more relaxed around him.  Odin did the rally course (obedience course) twice and was near perfect – seriously: his only mistake was when I asked him to “wait” and I walked around him, he lay down instead of standing. That was it. Otherwise – BEAUTIFUL! Stephanie (Punchen’s owner, and the one who supervises the rally course) was so impressed by him and how far he’s come.

We also did a little bit of agility – he walked the raised ramp, even did the see-saw (raised up to a normal height, with a little help from the instructor) and I started him getting used to the weave poles: he’s a little wary of the plastic mounts for the poles. We also did some jumps (the instructor even raised them to give him a little challenge) and he did them really well :)
I was so proud!

On our walk this morning we also encountered a military working dog at the main gate and he was quite calm (calmer than Azzie, who I had to correct: but she also behaved after that) and I had no issues with him.

 

It was a good day. Long may it continue!

 

And there it is

So, people – there it is. Goal weight. Or should I say _initial_ goal weight (I still want to lose a little more, but this was my first goal to reach, to keep me motivated)

I wasn’t expecting it, as I’ve been feeling a bit meh the last few days (headache, etc) but still eating (nothing stops me eating – not even food poisoning – I’m African) and running with Odin (who is doing superbly, by the way) and of course all the walks with the pack. It was a nice surprise, I have to say! I was expecting maybe 1 pound less than yesterday ( I did acknowledge that I’d been pretty good about my portion control since the weekend, when I binged on pizza and beer with my husband) but instead I found 2.5 pounds dropped off. It’s a good feeling. Now I just need to maintain, and/or drop a little more and then I am going to start weights, and get some tone to my jiggly bits.

Yay me! Of course, waking up this morning my knees were incredibly sore :/ Just my body reminding me that I turn 40 in a few months – another reason I wanted to reach this goal weight before that day. Psychological barrier and all that.

40. Quite honestly I never thought I’d make it to forty, much less be married to an American and living in a foreign country. I couldn’t “see” my life passed around 25. That was my “I am a grown up now” age, when I was a young girl. 25 was OLD. 25 was a “real grown up with a job and stuff” but I never wanted kids or to be married – I was never one of “those” girls who planned my wedding and picked my dress out before I’d even turned 14. I played with dolls, but I made them do crazy stuff like bungee jump and ride motorbikes and do karate. I never gave it a thought, really. I was too busy playing “Thundercats” and climbing mountains and riding around on my bicycle (while I had one, anyway – it was called Lightning and I pretended she was a horse) until the street lights came on and I headed home to read books until much later than I was meant to be up, and eat peanut butter toast.

Life has been… interesting and a challenge at times. I’ve been through some hectic sh*t, but I’m stronger each time I come out the other side. A bit more worn and dirty and cynical and jaded, but much stronger for sure. I have many scars – both physical and emotional – and while I do try to be open-minded and easygoing, I DO have certain things that rile me up no matter how hard I try not to let them. But I’m not ashamed of that, or any of my scars. My life is my life. It’s made me who I am and what I am. If I was not who I was at the time, I would never have made the decision to break out of IT and get into photography, quit my job and start riding horses all over the place. I would never have met my husband, because I wouldn’t have been house/dog sitting so much.

So many paths taken that have led me here. Nearly 40 and living in Germany, on an American military post, with my gorgeous husband and 3 beautiful furry children.

Life, huh? It’s cray-cray.

 

 

just some waffle, no cream

Odin and I went for our third run together last night. It was great. A little warm, but not too bad for him (or me) and he kept up nicely even after racing around in circles on the grass while I chased him earlier that evening. He had to stop and piddle a couple of times, and a little girl wanted to pat him as she’d “read all about him” apparently… not sure where, as I am not on Facebook and I don’t really post about my life anywhere but here… *shrug* but he was too “in the zone” by that point and he wasn’t interested in being petted by anyone (except me of course, because I have the treats in my pocket)

But otherwise, a really nice run. I felt good. Knee hurt like a bugger when we stopped though, and walking up the stairs was a killer. But I’ll push on through.

He keeps me going, and keeps me steady in my pace. I feel like I can for longer, and farther when he’s trotting along beside me. It’s a nice feeling. I do feel bad leaving the girls behind, but they just aren’t up for it, and Azzie gets WAY too distracted.

 

Had a bit of a silly incident yesterday morning – Odin lost his marbles for a few minutes (cat, small dogs, cars racing by on the road, barking Azzie, growling Gina… just general chaos) but it’s all good now. Was a bit heartsore afterward, as it showed me that we still have very far to go with Odin’s behaviour – thought we’d come quite a way, but progress is subtle I guess.

Still on my weight plateau. But I’m feeling in control, especially now that I am running again. Tried on some clothes that I got from a friend a while ago – when I was larger – and they all fit me so much better now. It’s great looking in the mirror and seeing the changes I’ve worked so hard to make. Started up my yoga too – I do it in the other room, while the dogs snooze after their long morning walk, usually. Taking it easy on the knee-intensive positions, as my knee really does take strain when I do certain moves, but otherwise, all good. I can do 10 push ups, too, and hold plank for 1 minute. Working on that.

What else did I want to waffle about?

I forget right now.

 

Oh yes! Our dates are set, tickets are booked, kennels are bought… Just have to collect them today – will be a tight squeeze, as it’s a GIANT sized kennel for Azzie! Now we just have some other arrangements to make, some things to cancel closer to the time we leave, and begin deciding what will go with us on the plane and what will be shipped (and be unavailable for 3 months) to our new duty station. I really want to get out of here (many reasons) and I know my husband can’t wait to get away from this awful unit. He’s got some friends, but even they know that it’s better to get out than stay here and wither away. Going to the States is a double edged blade, really. Conveniences, a proper address, I can work, but there’s the whole “it’s filled with Americans and on the verge of either collapse or civil war” thing… *shrug*

Where we’re moving is VERY hot and excessively humid pretty much all year round, so we’ll be shaving the dogs down – not to the skin, because I know that’s bad for double coated dogs, but just shorter, so it’s easier to manage, and easier for them to cool down. Thankfully, there will be air conditioning in the houses.

 

What else? Oh! I got to bust out my dusty sewing machine and skillz, to make a Peter Pan collar to attach to her store bought dress, for a photo shoot she did with her husband. That was cool. I felt useful. It came out very well and I was pretty pleased with myself.

 

 

well pleased

This last weekend was our second attempt at dog obedience/training classes.
We took Odin on his own on Saturday, but unfortunately due to staffing issues, the trainer couldn’t stay and had to return to OR to man the desk/counter, so instead I sent Odin and husband off to walk with the only other people who pitched up: Punchen (not sure how to spell it) the deaf, albino Great Dane pup (only 7 months old and he is over 130lbs) and his owner, Stephanie. Initially Odin was very wary of the big lug, but my husband said that as they walked, he got over it, and eventually they were walking side by side for quite a bit of the walk. That’s awesome news.
And then Sunday, the trainer suggested we take Odin early, on his own, for the “puppy play class” just so he could chill and watch and see how things went without worrying about Azzie. He didn’t have to do anything (but he did go into the agility arena for a walk around with the other pups) and he just chilled, while the puppies ran around and played together. My husband said he was very good – just a few “moments” but much better.
Then I arrived with Az and G, and this time around I let Azzie greet all the dogs (on her own) and she was 99% better. She’s a social dog and likes to meet everyone, which is my main issue: when the dog doesn’t WANT to meet Azzie she still wants to go say hi – so I thought that letting her say hi and interact a bit with the others would put her more at ease… and it WORKED!!
I was so proud of her! The only barking/craziness came when she was playing with husband and Ods in the “time out” area (it’s enclosed, so he took them in there for them to play when we got there – as Odin desperately wanted to play with his big sister, after watching all the other dogs play together) even though they weren’t in time out, while I took Gina into the agility arena and ran her through that. Gina was AWESOME!! Everyone was so impressed. She didn’t do the raised walking thing, or the rigid tunnel (it was set up in a curve, so she couldn’t see the other side, and she’s never done it before so the trainer said don’t worry about it this time) and she did a shortened version of the soft tunnel, but she jumped everything, and even did the see-saw and BOTH sets of weave poles :) I was so pleased with her! She was also very pleased with herself! She LOVES to do that stuff!
Now that Odin knows some of the commands (he does, however lay down for “sit” and for “down” and for “relax” and for “gentle” – but we’re working on getting him to tell the difference) I took him through the rally course (obedience course) and while he was a little wary of the pieces of laminated plastic attached to the cones, he did really well :) He really is a smart dog, and is coming along so nicely. Everyone noted his progress, just as everyone commented on how good Azzie was this time around too.
Next week, I want to take Azzie through the agility course, and maybe even Odin… and then impress everyone with Gina on the rally course 😀

All in all, a really good weekend with them. A huge relief after the hell-hounds of last time.

A morning deer escapade

Well it started out lovely – nice and cold, with a few sprinkles of rain on and off and a brisk cold breeze blowing…. and then it just went CRAZY!
I let Odin off his lead to play with Azzie, and they were having a GREAT time – running around, chasing each other, wrestling, etc… and then we headed down the steep hill toward the trees that were chopped down and there was a loud CRACK, as a deer SHOT from the trees to our right and RACED off across the open grass…
And of course, Little Man thought he could get it. And he came VERY close…
He chased off after it and in half a second they were GONE! Out of sight completely over the hill. I called and while Azzie did initially chase after them, she realised she had no chance of catching either of them and she came back to me – what a good girl. Gina of course knows her limits and just came and ran beside me (she was also too busy eating grass to even notice all the action at first!) So Azzie, G and I half ran half walked around calling for Odin and looking for him. Then I stopped and thought – where would the deer run to? Cover, for sure, so we headed down to the thick tree line back toward the path where we started… called some more and out popped Odin from the thick forest… he watched me – I think he was checking it was me, and then i called him and he came running back to me, all excited and totally RAMPED UP on adrenalin! Holy crap that dog can run. Sweet jeebus. We thought he was fast before, but wow when he has “incentive” he is 10 times as fast. And that’s with the wobbly back end, still. Azzie felt it was her duty to tell him what’s what and let him know that we DON’T DO THAT! And Gina also stepped up to give him whatfor for a few seconds… but I couldn’t reprimand him, as he did come to me when I called. But he definitely went back on his lead for the rest of the walk!!
He was still amped up and wanted to race Azzie – but she was like NUH UH, not a good time, dude! She kept looking at me to make sure everything was ok – but I wasn’t angry, I was just relieved he hadn’t chased the deer down to the road! I would never have seen him again, or he would have gotten hit by a car, and the deer too :(
So we all calmed down a bit, and then carried on on our walk. He STILL had energy and kept checking tree lines for more deer, and bashing himself into Gina or Azzie, hoping for them to play and run with him… little rascal. Daddy is DEFINITELY going to have to go running or cycling with Odin when he is healed up properly. This little dude has MAJOR energy. I am 100% sure he has Galgo or some sort of greyhound mix in him. He is unbelievably fast.
Thankfully, he is totally tuckered out now and fast asleep on his bed, snoring away and growling and huffing in his sleep, with his little paws twitching like crazy. Probably dreaming of chasing deer!
I saw two huge rabbits or hares when we first got onto the forest path, but the dogs didn’t see them, and Odin was still on his lead at the time, thankfully, because he could smell them.
Wow what a walk :)I was too amazed and astounded at Odin’s speed, and proud of Azzie (and Gina of course) for being so good despite all the action, to get upset/angry about it all.

Otherwise – the dogs were great. Azzie on her best behaviour. Gina eating grass, as she had some glurks (hair or something stuck in her throat – or so she thinks, and the world is ending until she can gobble down a bucket load of grass) and they all pooped and it was all good.

Update: Watching Azzie sleeping and she is now also “running” in her dreams… also chasing deer!

some things I’ve noticed

Just a few things I’ve noticed recently: Azzie is growing up. Her birthday was 2 weeks ago, and she turned 3. It’s actually quite dramatic how turning three, and reaching Berner “maturity” changes a puppy-like dog into a “I’m almost a grown up” youngster. She grumbles hardly ever – only when she really needs me to take her out, or she’s very hungry – and when she does it’s very quiet and very polite now. Even my husband noticed that! She also doesn’t eat as much (or grumble as often FOR food as she did) or as often and sometimes leaves food in her bowl as well. She pays attention to me (generally – except of course if there’s an over-excited dog on the horizon, but we’re working on that) and has learned a whole bunch of new commands and still knows all her old ones. She’s polite, she doesn’t stand on me or my feet nearly as much and she’s calming down a lot faster if she DOES get over-excited. It’s absolutely wonderful. I’m not sure if it’s just her growing up, or if it’s also to do with all the hard work I’ve put in, and my change in attitude (yes, still harping on about the conversation with my friend Nicole and the “eureka!” moment I had after that) that has done it, or maybe combination of all of it. Whatever it is, long may it continue and I hope it extends over to Odin as well. His training has barely begun and while he has some strange quirks we need to get under control, I think he will catch on quickly.

I want my relationship with my dogs to be awesome – and it’s really getting there. I want to be their “mama” but in the correct way. I want them to trust me in all things. That I can handle being “leader” of this nutty pack, and that I will keep my cool under duress. I think that’s important to them all. Especially Gina.

 

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