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You read about Skidboot here a few weeks back when I wrote about his lymphoma diagnosis and the chemo that followed. Things took a turn for Skidboot and his owner, Lauri Cash, just a few days after my post appeared.

It was the final day of March.

Skidboot, diagnosed with lymphoma last year, appeared to be doing well post-chemo in February. His fate took a cruel turn a month later. A previously undiagnosed tumor on his spleen burst. The rupture caused internal bleeding. Owner Lauri Cash was at his side when the red gentleman of a gelding was put down at OSU's vet hospital on March 31 -- the cusp of April Fool's Day. Photo by Diane Bernards

The day prior, Lauri  had a near-perfect cutting lesson on Skidboot. When she fed him that night and the next morning, Skidboot appeared fine. In the afternoon, Lauri found him in his stall shaking and clearly in distress. It could only be something related to the cancer, Lauri reasoned.

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She and loyal friend Heidi managed to get the sweating, hard-breathing Skidboot into the horse trailer. It would be the red gelding’s final ride to the vet hospital at OSU.

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It turned out a tumor had been growing all the while on Skidboot’s spleen. Now it had ruptured, causing internal bleeding. Skidboot was telling everyone: It’s time for me to go.

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Skidboot was put down early the night of April Fool’s Day eve.

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In the midst of her catapulting emotions, Lauri was clear that she wanted a necropsy to be performed for teaching purposes..

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The vet students at OSU would discover the unexpected: a 90-pound tumor attached to Skidboot’s spleen and liver.

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When he’d cut cows the day prior, there was nary a clue what Skidboot harbored inside. It was Skidboot’s secret to the end. He was a gentleman to the end, too.

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“What needs to happen is there needs to be a way to diagnose this disease,” says Lauri. Her hope is that whatever OSU vet students learn from Skidboot may help move things in that direction.

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Holding back tears a few days after Skidboot’s death, Lauri tells me, “He had such a huge heart, and that’s what I loved about him all along.”

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Skidboot, looking quite robust, and ridden by owner/rider Lauri Cash, awaits his turn at a cutting clinic in February. He'd completed chemotherapy only a few weeks prior. Skidboot sports a green lymphoma cancer ribbon, pinned to the rear left of his saddle blanket.

To look at Sageolena, barn name of Skidboot, you’d never know he’d undergone chemotherapy.

Skidboot’s sorrel coat shines. His muscles, ready and willing to work again, ripple as he moves. I watched him successfully cut cow after cow at a cutting clinic post chemo and never suspected he was staging a comeback.

I’d seen Skidboot, a 14-year-old Quarter Horse gelding,, on cows before cancer. My eyes had been drawn to his chiseled face and the intent look in his eyes.  The eagerness he’d displayed, and the “here I am, and I’m the boss” flick of his tail had told me he found joy in his job.

He’s won or placed reserve in all classes in which he’s competed since 2005: Even in 2011 when signs of illness were surfacing.

At the clinic, I noticed a lime green ribbon (similar to the pink breast cancer ribbons widely seen today) pinned to his saddle blanket. I asked Skidboot’s owner and rider, Lauri Cash of Oregon, what the ribbon signified, and she shared his inspiring story.

“In early 2011,” Lauri recalls, “He had a slight loss in weight and condition.” Lauri did the things horse owners do when a horse seems off. She’d had him vet-checked; had his teeth floated; had him adjusted by a chiropractor; wormed him; increased his feed; and treated him for ulcers. Nothing had helped.

Then his body shape had begun to change. His hips and ribs had become  more prominent. His energy level and attitude had stayed the same, so Lauri had continued to ride him.

Over the summer, Skidboot had become increasingly mellow and then, lethargic.

“He’s always had an edge. He’s the most difficult horse to ride I’ve ever had, but he’s the best one, too. He had no trust when I got him eight years ago, and it took years to build the rapport we have now,” she explains.

The two became so in tune that Lauri had suspected her horse was trying to tell her something when he’d begun repeatedly, and deliberately, leaning on her in a way that suggested he wanted his belly rubbed. In retrospect, he may have been saying, “My stomach hurts.”

By fall 2011, Skidboot’s body had changed dramatically. “He was pot-bellied,” Lauri remembers. “He had no conditioning left on top.”  He’d begun behaving oddly, too. Lauri had found herself  dragging him to the arena for lessons on cows—something he’d always enjoyed. “It was like he had no legs. He’d just stop and refuse to go,” says Lauri.

At the suggestion of her farrier, she’d taken Skidboot for a second opinion. This vet, equine veterinarian Jack Root at Oakhurst Breeding Farm in Newberg, Ore., had heard a heart murmur in Skidboot’s broad chest.

A cardiac ultrasound was the logical next step.  Dr. Root suggested making an appointment with Dr. John W. Schlipf at the College of Equine Medicine at Oregon State University a few hours away in Corvallis.

At OSU, Skidboot weighed in at 1,050 pounds, 50 pounds underweight. Dr. Schlipf quickly verified a heart murmur; however, he didn’t think it was bad enough to be causing the horse’s decline.

A battery of tests awaited Skidboot. He was, says Lauri proudly, a perfect patient as he was poked, prodded and petted. His lung capacity proved strong.  His blood tests and urinalysis were normal. That was all good.

Then came the abdominal tap. It would pull fluid from Skidboot’s belly. That would reveal any infection and, if there were any to be found, cancer cells.

After the tap, Dr. Schlipf found Lauri in the waiting area and told them he had an answer. It hadn’t been good. Skidboot had thoracic lymphoma, a rare cancer in horses. Because it was rare, the vet told them, there wasn’t a lot of research about treatment or results.

Gentle but direct, Dr. Schlipf cut right to the chase: Without chemo, Skidboot might survive for six months. The doctors could administer steroids to minimize inflammation and discomfort. If the chemo was successful, Skidboot might live for years. Lymphoma horses usually respond well to chemo, Dr. Schlipf had told Lauri. Most horses, said the vet, improve after a few treatments.  He also cautioned that cancer can’t be remedied, only arrested – for how long no one can know.

And the cost? Not nearly as many “kachings” as Lauri expected: A six-week-treatment plan would be $1,000 to $1,500. That news, plus the vet’s assurance Skidboot was not likely to have ill effects from the chemo, cinched it for Lauri: Skidboot would have to learn to like injections and infusions.

He was also to get all the feed he could eat. By the second week, Skidboot was showing improvement. “His neck and hips looked less hollow,” recalls Lauri. “It was like the lymphoma had been stealing his food, his nourishment.”

In fact, Skidboot didn’t miss a beat during chemo. Nor did he lose his hair, or experience nausea as most humans do while being treated for cancer. Though the OSU vets had assured Lauri she could continue to ride Skidboot during treatment, she opted to let him rest.

Still, by the day of his last scheduled injection, he’d gained only 16 pounds. Lauri and Dr. Schlipf decided on a few more chemo injections. When the round of treatment ended in February, Skidboot had gained 33 pounds and weighed 1,083 pounds. His blood work was normal. The following month, he’d gained another 15 pounds. The bill remained less than $2,000

This spring, Lauri plans to cut competitively with him and go horse camping, too. “He seems to ride differently since chemo,” she says. “He seems smoother. The vet keeps telling me Skidboot will tell me if and when he’s not up to something. I believe that, too.”

Skidboot in action post-chemo at a cutting clinic last month.

Skidboot ‘s green cancer ribbon remains. It’s a sign to others to keep a distance. Since Skidboot’s treatment regimen still includes large doses of steroids, his immune system is compromised.

To protect Skidboot, Lauri takes every possible precaution, including avoiding nose-to-nose contact with other horses. But that doesn’t mean he can’t beat them at cutting – and beat back cancer for a time, too.

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Even St. Patrick’s Day has its animal element. 

We attended a St. Patrick’s Day gathering where this young Irish setter, Kevin Rory (call name of Kevi), sported a Kelly-green shamrock cravat. And hoped for a morsel from the table where the theme was green, as in pesto, guacamole chips, spinach dip, minty green frosted brownies, green M&Ms and cupcakes frosted lime.

Kevin Rory is the fourth Irish setter for owners Bill and Carolyn, of Irish descent themselves. Kevi was quite the party gent, and that’s no Blarney.

Kevi came to Bill and Carolyn, who live in Oregon, through the Internet Irish Setter Rescue Group in Oklahoma. He was found roaming the streets when he was four months old.

The couple’s late Irish setters are: Toby, given to Bill as a gift by his aunt; Carnelian Dun Conor, a six-month-old pup with a genetic eye condition that the breeder was going to put down; and Donegal, a stray Irish re-homed by the Houston Rescue Group.

For many years Bill, Conor and Donegal marched in the Houston St. Pat’s Parade. (It’s a huge parade like those in Boston and Chicago.) All three sported green.

Of course, horses are a big part of Ireland and its history. So I had to find some Irish horse art, too.

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A NOTE TO MY HORSE-OWNING READERS: This is a survey worth taking the time to complete. It will provide much-needed data on the state of the horse industry in America. We all know statistics are power:The survey results will help power changes in horse welfare legislation and provide indicators about the future of horses and their owners. It took me about 10 minutes to do the survey. I hope you’ll do so, too.

American Horse Publications Launches

Its Second Equine Industry Survey

MARCH 5, 2012 – The American Horse Publications (AHP) is launching its second Equine Industry Survey to gauge trends in the U.S. equine industry. The AHP Equine Industry Survey is being sponsored by Kentucky Equine Research, Merck Animal Health, and Pfizer Animal Health.

In 2009, AHP conducted an online nationwide survey made possible by the sponsorship of Intervet/Schering Plough Animal Health and Pfizer Animal Health.  Upon its conclusion on Jan. 31, 2010, a total of 11,171 usable responses was collected.  This completed the largest-ever equine industry survey of hands-on horse industry participants in the United States.1  AHP will strive to exceed that number with the current survey.

As in the previous survey, the purpose of the 2012 survey is threefold. The first objective is to obtain information regarding past, present, and expected future participation in the equine industry. The second objective is to identify which issues currently facing the equine industry are perceived as being most critical to those who own, or manage horses. The third objective is to analyze issues pertaining to horse health. In addition to questions on vaccines and deworming, the 2012 survey includes questions relating to nutrition, feed, and nutritional supplements.

Those eligible to participate in the survey are men and women, 18 years of age and older, who currently own or manage at least one horse and live in the United States. This study is anonymous; this means that no one–not even members of the research team–will be able to associate information that is given with responses. When the survey results are tallied, only aggregated results will be presented.

To show the type of important information AHP collected in the first survey, following is new data from the 2009-2010 AHP Equine Industry Survey on how horse owners use their horses.  These responses have been broken down by geographic region and discipline.  Within each region, the most popular use of horses is for pleasure or trail riding.  It is also the most popular activity nationwide.  After pleasure or trail riding, the top 5 most frequently reported activities in each region are identified.
To download the results of the 2009 AHP Results Discipline by Region Table, click on the link below.
http://www.americanhorsepubs.org/resources/2009-AHP-Results-Discipline-By-Region-Table.xls

To take the 2012 AHP Equine Industry Survey, go to www.horsesurvey2012.com

The survey closes May 15, 2012.

The 2012 AHP Equine Industry Survey is being conducted by American Horse Publications (AHP). AHP is a nonprofit association that promotes excellence in equine media; Its members include equine-related publications, digital media, professionals, students, organizations and businesses. Dr. C. Jill Stowe is providing consulting services for data collection and analysis to the AHP; Dr. Stowe is currently an assistant professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky. The survey is sponsored by Kentucky Equine Research, Merck Animal Health, and Pfizer Animal Health.


The 1995 NAHMS survey collected responses from 3,349 operations, and the 1998 NAHMS survey collected responses from 2,904 operations.  The 2008-2009 American Horse Council Unwanted Horse Survey collected responses from over 23,000 horse owners, non-horse owners, and equine industry stakeholders.

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Callie, too, says thank you for being a fan of AnimalsOurEVERYTHING!

I LAUNCHED MY BLOG a year ago this month.

Today’s post  was my 66th. During this year, AnimalsOurEVERYTHING! has enjoyed more than 4,000 views.

I’d like to say thanks to all of my followers, subscribers, visitors, blogging and writing colleagues for taking an interest in my blog. The animals and I are more than a little grateful. We wanted you to know.

Here’s to another year of learning from animals — the  best of  teachers.

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A typical winter dawn at stunning Running Mountain Ranch, site of the Open Barn affair on New Years Eve day. Photo by Tish Pollock

Now, this is the way to spend New Year’s Eve: On horseback with animal-loving womenfolk!

Good friends Tish and Stacy began musing about having a ring-in-the-new-year party shortly before Christmas. An open house affair was discussed. That quickly morphed  into the idea of an Open Barn  to be held  at Tish’s on New Year’s Eve day. Party central would be the covered arena at the hub of her sprawling working ranch. Running Mountain Ranch is a rural sanctuary in the coastal hills of Western Oregon.

Looking down on the Running Mountain Ranch barns and arena from a trail in the hills above the Open Barn party site. Photo by Tish Pollock

Tish’s barn stretches on forever and is full of her Arabians and the strapping  warm-blood show horses of boarders. What a treat to watch these big-boned steeds being ridden by Tish’s resident dressage trainer, Lynne Salewski. She makes these guys move with grace and glory.

Dressage trainer Lynne is silhouetted as she mounts Cobus, the Friesian that starred in the 2009 movie, "The Dark Horse." Poor guy, he's big and brave, except for the poinsettia you see in the background. It must have looked like a weird predator to him: It scared the easy-going horse to trembling. Photo by James Sherman

One of them, a  giant black Friesian named Cobus, is even a movie star. He and Lynne were in the 2009 movie, “The Dark Horse,” acclaimed at several international film festivals. And yes, Cobus was  the leading man.

Quite fittingly, Stacy affectionately refers to Cobus as the  Antonio Banderas  horse — after the famous dark-eyed movie star.

I think we all felt a little starlet-like riding our horses around such a grand facility.  Something was happening in every corner. Some riders were giving cutting horses a  “play-date” experience completely devoid of competition and cows. Others were having easy rides on tried-and-true trail horses. Some rode English, others Western.

My Gal Gallop pals astride on New Years Eve day.From left to right, Katherine, whose horse is named Boone; Stacy on Sparky; Kelsey on Tucker; Diane on Bobby; and me on Callie. Photo by Jim Sherman

Stacy was astride her prancing senior-citizen black Morgan, Sparky. He seemed to have the most spark of any horse that day; hence his name, we presume. There was a long-legged paint, Tucker, ridden by Stacy’s daughter, Kelsey; another paint called Velvet; and of course, my Callie, who was quite excited to be out of her usual environs.

Tish also raises bearded collies and is active in herding dog circles; hence, several dog handler friends  and their fast and focused dogs were on-hand, busily urging sheep and ducks here and there. It’s always a treat to watch these savvy dogs at work.

Tish raises bearded collies at Running Mountain Ranch. This photo was taken the day the herding switch flipped for young Rock. It was like he awoke from a nap and suddenly knew what he'd been born to do. Then off he went, sweeping and dodging behind the wooly trio as Tish (upper left) helped direct the ewes for him.

I think it’s safe to say my hands, gloved and all, were colder than they’d ever been after some of us struck out to make a few loops around the wooded hillsides and slopes.

When we got our chilly selves back to the barn, I dismounted, pulled off my gloves, held my hands under Callie’s muzzle, and let her warm breath defrost them.

Once the horses were groomed and blanketed, we headed for the party room – the office in the barn.  Fudge, cookies, ham, biscuits and other delicious traditional holiday snacks and good cheer were waiting. The riding now done (Drinking and riding are not a good combo when it comes to staying safe in your saddle and atop your horse.), Tish had  chilled champagne waiting as well as mulled cider.

Tish is known for attention to detail, and her touch was quickly evident at the Open Barn. She had red, white and pink poinsettias placed along the edge of the arena with the sky as background. And she’d made the cutest little cheese-ball snowman complete with scarf and a carrot nose –a mini horse treat perhaps?

Actually, it became a dog treat later that day when Tish was transporting the  too-cute-to-eat snowman from barn to home post-party. She left a car door open when she went to get something else to return to her  kitchen. A visitor hurriedly jumped into the car. It was  Maverick, one of her bearded collies. “Mav” had his way with the cheese ball until Tish returned moments later . Then he abruptly exited the car with a leap, telltale pieces of nuts and cheese flying off his silky, hairy lower lip.

IT WAS  THE PERFECT TIME TO SHOW OFF MY NEW SLEIGH BELLS

These World War I - era sleigh bells were a Christmas gift from a friend who has known my animal-loving ways since childhood. Sleigh bells were commonly referred to as horse bells in Europe and rural America. Photo by Adam Sherman

The 30-bell strand was a  Christmas present from my oldest and dearest friend, Karen. I’ve been animal crazy since birth, I think. Karen, not so much. But she ALWAYS honors that about me. She and I do share a love of antiques and the history they carry forward. When she came across these World War I-era sleigh bells, she said she knew they were destined for me.

The bells were found in an old barn in Vermont. They’re extra-special and pretty hard-to-find, because they are circa World War I. Before the war, bells were created from brass. During the war, all brass was sucked into the making of shell casings, creating a brass shortage. Other available metals, especially tin and nickel, were used  as a brass substitute.

That’s how Karen knew these hushed-sounding  jingle bells were authentic — and antique: They have a gentler, more muffled sound than brass bells. Much lovelier to the ear in my book. I wonder what the horses would say about the bells’ differing sounds?

It was fun hearing the “oohs” and “awes” when I  showed them off during the ride after-party.

Tish, consider this as a tip of riding helmets and snow caps from us to you. Thanks for a blue-ribbon day. You throw a swell out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new party:  Dogs and horses concur.

The patina of the table contrasted with the deep, dark brown of the leather, reminds me of sunlight drifting into a barn through a hayloft window. Sun rays set the same mood in barns today. Oh the stories theses bells could tell about farming America in wartime. Photo by Adam Sherman


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The 100-year-old horse barn at the heart of ArborBrook Vineyards now houses a tasting room. Photo courtesy of ArborBrook Vineyards.

Living in Oregon’s Wine Country provides many opportunities to be part of the grape and wine culture. That’s how I found myself working behind the scenes at a winery event.

At first blush, serving or sipping wine wouldn’t appear to have much to do with critters. Unless you’re at ArborBrook Vineyards in Newberg. The importance of animals is evident at ArborBrook.

For starters, the tasting room is housed in a century-old red barn that was home to horses in the not too distant past. That explains why I felt immediately at home there: When I walked into ArborBrook, I was looking straight into horse stalls. Well, kind of.

One former horse stall serves as a staging area, another is a showcase of wine displays. The spacious hospitality area may well have been a foaling stall, it’s that roomy. Narrow stairs head up to a loft, still used to store bales of horse hay. Barn doors slide open and closed as cases of wine are moved through aisles where horses once stood cross-tied for grooming. And then there’s the tasting room ambassador, Tippy, the black-and-white cat.

Two people with individual passions were behind the creation of ArborBrook Winery, the husband-and-wife team, Dave and Mary Hansen. Dave’s appreciation of fine wine led to his desire to have a vineyard of his own. His wife, Mary, a horse lover from way back, had long hankered to have her horses living alongside her instead of at a boarding stable.

In 2000, The Hansens found 30 acres in the Chehalem Mountain Range where land is coveted for pinot noir vineyards. Dave got what he needed for a premier vineyard: gentle elevations of 400 feet; south-eastern exposure; subtle micro-climates; and rich soils. The site provided Mary the cornerstones to bring her horse hobby home: a barn, pasture and riding arena steps from the farmhouse back door.

Maddie gave birth to her colt in the new barn at ArborBrook Vineyards. Maddie belonged to ArborBrook owners' daughter, Sydney. Photo courtesy of ArborBrook Vineyards.

Today, from the picnic lawn and fire pit the Hansens’ backyard shares with the tasting room grounds, it’s easy to spot Mary’s paint Quarter horse, Esme, and their daughter, Sydney’s, bay horse, Maddie. The mares are a picture of contentment as they graze green pastures bordered by vineyards—with some very nice views, I might add. Maddie will soon go to a new home; hence, Sydney has a new horse coming.

Some very special horse photos have a prominent place on ArborBrook Vineyard’s website: just-born pictures of the foal Maddie gave birth to last spring. The colt was born in the new ArborBrook barn, built to replace the original 1910 barn when it was converted to a tasting room.

Busy with winery business plus entertaining visitors, tourists and Wine Club members, Mary still makes time for the horses. Since they’re close at hand, she can saddle up before and after she pours tastes in the barn or strolls guests through rows of vines thick with summer’s fruit or alive with fall colors.

Maddie and her colt, born May 25, 2010. Photo courtesy of ArborBrook Vineyards.

But back to the evening I was there. ArborBrook has some signature seasonal events. This summer’s affair had a sophisticated cowpoke style. The red barn/tasting room was the backdrop. Lariats played an integral part in the outdoor décor. Most were borrowed from genuine ropers.

Called Picnic in the Vineyard, the event was staged in what was once Mary’s riding arena. Fresh white paint splashed on posts and rails; lush green lawn; and gray metal washtubs filled with ice water made it an ideal hot-summer-night setting for barbecue and wine.

Cattle Connection

Longhorn bull, Fey's Rio Casino, had a horn span of 70 inches at the age of three. Photo courtesy of Fey Longhorns.

Angelina Fey is the Hansen’s go-to person for all things ArborBrook: She is the winery/tasting room manager. She brings an animal connection as well. She and her husband, Daniel Fey, have raised registered Texas Longhorns for a decade. Currently their herd is made up of 35 breeding cows, three bulls and two show steers. They chose the Longhorn breed because of its Old West nostalgia.

The Feys’ customers are similarly drawn to this hardy breed, most using Fey Ranch cattle for pasture pets or show animals. The goal of the Feys’ breeding program is to produce cattle with lots of horn, eye-appealing color, correct conformation and great disposition.

“In today’s market horn size, length and shape matter more than ever. A strong pedigree is important for us. Our cows are sired by some of the greatest sires in Texas Longhorn history: Gunman, Emperor, Roundup, VJ Tommie,” they explain. “Our Senior Herd Sire, Crown’s Smoke Jumper, has proven to be an outstanding horn producer.”

Longhorn bull Rodeo Max had a horn span of more than 80 inches tip to tip a year ago. He was 2010 Horn Showcase winner. Photo courtesy of Fey Longhorns.

“Twisty horns” and “with good direction” are phrases you like to hear in Longhorn circles. The scale of the horns on these cattle is grande! The horns on their bull, Rodeo Max ST, measured an incredible 80.25 inches tip to tip in December 2010. The Feys’ young brindle bull, Fey’s Rio Casino, had a “horn span” 70 inches tip to tip by the time he was three years old. The horns on the offspring of these bulls measure up, too.

Where there are cattle, there are generally herding dogs to help move the livestock. The Feys have two Queensland heelers, Zip 8 and Paco 4.“They think,” explains Angelina, “that they can herd, but they are not really trained.”

The only things missing from ArborBrook’s  wine-country-Western-flair cookout were a few Old West sounds echoing through the vines: a cattle dog’s yip, a horse’s whinny and a Longhorn’s lowing. Maybe even a real Texas Longhorn.

There were, however, a few cat meows. If Mary, Dave or Angelina don’t greet you at ArborBrook events or the tasting room entrance, Tippy will. The relaxed way animals blend in at ArborBrook demonstrates how important they are to the quality of life for owners and staff.

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