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One degree off the normal scale

I have every intention of eating these sticks.

When I declare my dog as one degree off the normal scale of things, most times I get an askance look of skepticism.

Aw, c’mon, is the usual response. Only one degree?

Well, I gotta say, he is one of a kind, the mighty Micron.

We all think our dogs are unique, don’t we?  And of course, you’re right in this observation because really, who knows your dog better than you?

Nobody, that’s who.

We live with these critters and by going through the circadian rhythm of eating, walkies and evening cuddle time, we get to know every nuance and behavior of our canine companions. So that if they should do something a bit off point, we find ourselves surprised at the change in behavior.

And it’s the same for The Mighty. This dog has been part of my life for nearly five years now. We welcomed him in our home in November 2009 as an eight week old cotton ball and, except for three months in Advanced Training at Canine Companions for Independence, he’s been hanging around here eating my food, napping in the office, and generally leaving dog hair all over the place.

I think we both know each other fairly well by now. Both of with secrets about the other that we’ll never tell. That’s a partnership, people.

To recognize Micron’s impending birthday this week (he turns five on Tuesday), we’ll share with you five Micron-isms that can only be this one awesome dog o’mine.

1. Micron does this wink thing. 

Hey girl. You must be my backyard
because I’m really digging you.

What a flirt with this one-eyed Hey Ladies slow wink he does.

As a puppy, I would insist our veterinarian put on her special microscope glasses to inspect his root-beer orbs. A rogue eyelash? Some foreign object adrift in there? No, she says. I actually have no idea.

Still today, he winks at me. I wink back. And he returns the wink.

Back and again we go. It just never gets old.

This behavior reminds me of the empathy game we did for Dognition last fall, which involved an experiment to see if Micron could “catch” a yawn from me.

Spoiler alert … he didn’t.

But this winking thing we’ve got going on is a whole nuther animal, so to speak.

I pretend it’s code for I love you. 

Because, you know, if it is I don’t want to not say it back.

2. He’s part sea lion. Or something.

I’ve never seen a dog lie down like that before, says the casual observer.

And you likely won’t again anytime soon, I will reply.

Otherwise referred to as his boneless chicken impersonation, the dog has some remarkably loose joints.

Flat upon his sternum with his front legs bent like the wings of a fledgling bird, this is Micron’s position of comfort.

Always has been.

A standing conversation at his twice yearly vet check-ups, yet nothing seems to be amiss here. He’s not offering up any signs of discomfort or pain, so until we reach the If & When I’m going with the only thing I have to work with here. Keeping him active and at a healthy weight.

And just shrugging when fielding the Huh, that’s really weird how he …

3. He smells like mushroom soup when he gets wet

It’s rather nostalgic, this sensory phenomena.

Just like that can of Campbell’s Mushroom Soup that your mom would heat on the stove for you. By adding milk, of course. Not water.

No budgetary shortcuts for our grilled cheese and mushroom soup lunch at our house. Heck, we were living large by putting two packets of Kool-Aid in the pitcher to make our own custom flavor experiences.

That’s how well off we were. I just want you to know that.

But anyway, he does. Smell like mushroom soup. Maybe it has something to do with the same genetics in play with the sea lion thing.

You know? Like whatever gene makes a calico cat nearly always female?

Maybe it’s his doggie DNA.

Who knows. Or could just be a matter of a good dollop of chamomile shampoo to remedy things.

4. Micron has a kind of ESP

I’m not here to judge you. Oh wait …

Like his spidey senses are tingling or whatever.

We talked about this way back on The Micron Effect when we were still training to be a Pet Therapy team.

My dog has a way of recognizing who is internalizing the most emotional turmoil in a room.

It’s rather interesting to have a canine barometer during a business meeting in the office. What I may miss in body language, Micron will quietly alert to.

How though? What is he possibly picking up in his assessment? A change in body chemistry … a scent perhaps?

An enigma for we mere humans, to be sure. But to me that’s not the big question.

No, what I really wonder is Why? Micron picks up on the stress and decides to take action on it by placing his body near the person. At times, even putting his head on their feet.

What motivates him to do this?

Even more fascinating about this is his littermate, Madden, does the same I’m told. Madden is a pet therapy volunteer in another part of the country. And when he’s on the job, he will find the person in the room who needs him most. Every time.

You just can’t train this kind of thing, folks.

It’s a gift.

5. He’s a retriever. Level: Extreme

Must. carry. something.

In his mouth. Something.

You came back from the mailbox! Wait, gotta grab the first thing I see [a shoe] and circle you.

You’re one of my favoritest people in the office! Hang on! Gotta grab something [destuffed toy] and show you my belly to rub.

A pizza! Thanks for bringing this to our house! Don’t move! Gotta grab something [goes for cat. changes mind. pulls arm cover from sofa] and scare the heck out of you by bouncing with it to the door.

Hi little girl. Welcome to the library. Sit down and read to me … wait a sec … your purse looks like a stuffed cat … [heavy breathing].

We have this weekly ritual with Micron after our Sunday grocery run. We purchase not just one, but two, rolls of paper towels for Micron to carry back to the house.

It’s his job. This is serious business.

He expects to perform this weekly duty and we comply. Because who wants to disappoint their dog this way? Not this chick.

For a short video clip of Micron performing, kind of, this important task check out Mutiny of the Bounty.  I’ll merely preface by saying it did not go as expected.

And good grief, the daily paper. It is Micron’s morning obligation to bring in the newspaper. Even the weighty Sunday edition.

What would you do without me, he asks.

What indeed, my fluffy companion.

Happy 5th Birthday, my amazing dog.  I do love you so.

Six Month Interview

It was on this day, two years ago, that the world welcomed eight new yellow packages of puppy goodness.

And our hearts melted at the sight of them.

Remember this? We spent the next eight weeks watching them on the Eukanuba Livestream as the tiny critters opened their eyes and ears to brand new experiences. Then in a blink, they were off to their puppy raisers for socialization and training for the next eighteen months.

This past May, our Extraordinary E’s – Emma, Everett, Ella, Elmo, Euka II, Emily, Ethan, and Eliza – returned to Canine Companions for Independence to enter the Advanced Training program to learn the ways of being highly trained Assistance Dogs.

Euka II ready for
Advanced Training at CCI

When we were nearing the end of our volunteer puppy adventures with Miss Euka, I sat her down for a James Lipton-esque interview. Using those familiar ten interview questions offered up by Mr. Lipton, we got a inside view of our little polar bear celebrity.

Of course we know that Miss Euka needs to focus on her education and so is not available for a follow-up interview on today, her second birthday. There’ll be time for all that later after training has been completed and her destiny determined.

No worries, y’all. Holly has stepped up and said she’d be glad to talk about herself with you instead. You see, she has a birthday coming as well.

The Hero litter, born on March 18 this year, will be six months old on Thursday.

So lessee here … in dog years, the Heros are something around seven years old.


What’s that, you say? How do I figure this? Oh sure, it’s a total WAG, not gonna lie. But here’s what I’m using as my resource. This is from the post The Seven Year Myth.

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There’s a plethora of opinions and resources out there on calculating dog age.  Here’s an article from the Mental Floss website that puts the logic back into my argument. From their story on Fuzzy Math: How do “dog years” work? . . . 

The folks at The Dog Guide suggest that when we think about “dog years,” we have to consider the breed and calculate accordingly. Across the board, they say, you can consider the first year of a dog’s life as equivalent to 15 or so human years. By that time, dogs and humans are approaching their adult size and have reached sexual maturity. On their 2nd birthday, you should add about 3-8 more years to your dogs “human age,” depending on size, and value each dog year as being worth 4-5 human years from that point on.

___________________________________

What is that for our hooman kids, do you think? Seven years old is first grade or something, right? Primary school, anyway.

So how about some interview questions designed for the young mind. Nothing scandalous that James Lipton would dare to delve into (what’s your favorite curse word), but instead a more whimsical look into the psyche of the delicate creature that is Miss Holly.

When I say delicate, that’s not really what I mean, of course. I don’t have a sarcasm font here.

And we’ll have to toss aside certain other queries that could otherwise be made of a seven year old child. A six month old puppy would be limited in her response to “what’s your favorite season” … um, Summer? Or favorite color … anything not grey?

With that in mind, here’s what we got out of the pup today.

Holly’s Six Month Interview


Food Lady:     Alrighty, kiddo. Let’s get started. That’s right, just sit right there and get comfy. Ok, we know your name is Holly VII, given to you by Canine Companions for Independence. But now that you’ve been living at Sword House for the past four months, have you picked up any nicknames?
Holly:             You mean like, Kiddo? You call everybody that. I think it’s the same reason you call us all Dog. It’s because you forget our names sometimes, isn’t it? But you also call me Holly Polly and Halle Berry.  I like those. There’s the times you call me that other thing, too. 
FL:  What other thing?
H:    Holy-[bleep]-what-is-in-your-mouth-now-spit-it-out-drop-it-drop-it-drop-it-oh-that-is-not-good-why-would-you-even-put-that-in-your-mouth.There’s Hawaiian volcanoes with fewer vowels, you know.
FL:  Right. We’ll cover this more offline, Holly Polly. Ok, next question. Ready? How would you describe yourself?
H:    I love to run! I’m a runner! I need to exercise my legs a lot because when my brains get tired, they leak all the way into my feet. I have to run to get my brains back in my head. And afterwards, I like sleeping in the middle of the room so I can wake up real fast if something interesting is gonna happen. Oh! And eat! Three meals a day! Food is the best stuff ever, I just can’t get it in my belly fast enough. Love, love, love to eat. It could be anything, too. I’m not picky. Bodine says that makes me a cheap date. Food Lady? What’s a cheap date?
Harvest & Holly at five months

FL:  Don’t listen to the cat. We’ve talked about that. And what? You have to run to get your brains back into your head?

H:    Don’t you?

FL:  I think that’s just a puppy thing. Speaking of .. I wanted to talk to you about your face time with a food bowl. This three meals a day thing is just for Little Puppies, you know. Your mealtimes are going to be upgraded to Big Puppy times later this week.
H:    Serious? Four meals? 
FL:  Um, no. But let’s add that topic to the Talk-Later list. Let’s move onto the next question for now, ok? Holly, my love, describe a perfect day.
H:    Duh. I just did. Four meals. Wait, no. Five. Five meals would be perfection plus infinity.
FL:  Don’t say Duh. It’s rude. But really, what else do you like to do? Besides eat all day and burn those calories by running around like your tail’s on fire, I mean.
H:    You know what else is fun? When Micron brings the newspaper in and he’s all [lowers voice] Lookit everybody, I’m a “working” dog and everything. And then I grab the newspaper from him and I run circles around the sofa with it and Micron drops to the floor with a huff-y sound and Jager jumps on the sofa and starts barking and I laugh and laugh and run circles until I get dizzy. Or until you yell at me to stop. Ha! That’s good times.
FL:  Good times. Copy that. Next question … what is your greatest talent as a six month old puppy? Please don’t say eating, running or sleeping. Pick something else, please.
H:    Eating isn’t a talent, Food Lady. Duh … um, duh dee dum dum la lee la. That’s a song. I just made it up. See, that’s talent. My power of eating is a gift. Anyhow, I’m real good at learning stuff. Right? You said so. I can do Visit and Lap now. And I can Shake paws like a boss. You said that, too.
FL:  That is true, Holly. You’re picking up the CCI commands like you knew them already. Good job, little girl. Now, think about this next one a second. What is your favorite joke?
H:    I don’t have to think!  I got one. Knock knock.
FL:  Who’s there?
H:    Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?
FL:  A food joke. Nice. And so efficient, condensing a knock-knock joke into a three-liner. Add a couple more lines and maybe it will actually make sense. Ok, last question, Holly. If you could say anything to your half-sisters and brothers, the Extraordinary E’s, what would it be?
H:    Thanks for saving all the good looks for me, you guys.
FL: Try again.
H:    All the brains? What? You’re making that meanie face again.
FL:  Stop it. Really, kiddo. Seriously. The E’s are doing wonderfully and I know you wish them good luck as we all do. Now, what did I tell you to say to them today?
H:    Ok, ok. I’ll be all seriously and for real. Happy Second Birthday to the Extraordinary E’s! Rock the world, my sisters and brothers!
FL:  Good job, Holly. Thank you.

H:    You’re welcome. Are we done here? It’s hungry o’clock.

Happy Birthday to the Yax Man

The soulful Mr. Yaxley just
before his third birthday

So who remembers staring back into those old soul eyes of this fella?

Longtime followers of Raising a Super Dog may get a hit of nostalgia as they meet the gaze of our former pup, the ever handsome, Yaxley. We raised Yaxley for Canine Companions for Independence; the third pup in this puppy raising gig we’ve got ourselves into. After a month in Advanced Training (Service Dog college, so to speak), Yaxley was released by CCI and began his new career in the field of Change of Career Dog.

Yaxley, and his fellow Yuletide Y littermates, celebrate their third birthday today. Each dog has been working in their chosen career field for the past few months. Some in the working dog field of Assistance Dogs and Medical Alert. Others are fulfilling their destinies as beloved pets.

What about the Yax Man, you ask? Our sensitive boy chose the natural career path of a stay at home nanny to a young boy. Just this month we had the pleasure of a visit by his adoptive family and were completely jazzed to see the love and commitment they show for each other.  What a blessing for all.

Yax at two months and fourteen months. Those eyes.

So on this day of celebration, I’d like to share some of my favorite blog posts of our journey with the Yax.

Out of the 70 plus stories on Raising a Super Dog from our year and a half together, these are the Yax-style posts that I still turn to for a smile.

The post for Yaxley’s first birthday is worth it just for the videos. With thanks to Susie, the Y’s breeder caretaker, we can sit back with a cuppa and enjoy watching these little hamsters on their first morning in the world. About three minutes of newborn puppy bliss.

Then we jump ahead in time in the second video to see the Yuletide Y’s experience their first solid meal. Our little Yaxley has a starring moment in this one. It’s an adorable awww moment with a snort giggle.

At the post of A calming influence. And not so much. I share a cautionary tale about showing off. You’d think I’d learn. I don’t.

And finally at Fortunate One you get a dose of the kind of wisdom that comes from Chinese takeout.

Read on … and enjoy our Yaxley puppies memories with us.

Happy Birthday to all the Yuletide Y’s!

Euka, Ella and Yaxley meet for a playdate.  Euka says, hey Yax, I think
your kid is stuck to me or something.
Happy happy.

Wordless Wednesday: Euka Flash


When we started raising our second puppy for Canine Companions for Independence, the mighty Micron, eventually we fell into a groove for this gig.

That is, we started some things that became traditions.

Like the One Year photo shoot at Flash Photography of Dayton.

So we have some shots to share with y’all of our lovely Euka showing poise amidst personality.

She just has that look, right?  Like the wheels are turning in that noggin, the fire’s burning bright, she’s not one slice short of a loaf?  A clever one, our Miss Euka.

Taken on September 14, 2013, her first birthday.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ok, one outtake for you.  Look! Look!, says Euka. I’m doing a Micron!
 
 
 
 
 

It seemed like a good idea

What look on my face? asks Euka. I wasn’t gonna
break my Stay, honest.  That right front foot tells
a different story, I think.

It seemed like a good idea


When you pick up Skyler* today, you’ll want to bring a change of clothes with you, I told Skyler’s mom on the phone.

Underwear, too, I added.

It seemed like a good idea, this impromptu pizza party for my little kid and his new friends.  What better bonding experience is there than breaking bread together anyway? I think none.

Or I thought none. Now I know better.

You see, we had just moved into town, separating my kid from his life long friends, and then plopped him into a new school to start kindergarten. So on an otherwise bleary fall day, I came up with the inspired idea to invite over a few of his elementary school pals for a pizza and playtime.

Sounds good, right?  What a good mom, so thoughtful I was. Sure, we all know the truth on this don’t we?Allow me to break down how things went deeply and terribly awry.

We can start off with my lack of knowledge about the energy level of young boys. The activities of an only child can be readily tracked.  One usually knew, at least generally, where in the house he was most times.  Add a six-year-old friend and it was necessary to merely bump your vigilance up to Code Yellow to make sure nothing gets set on fire or something.

But three or more kindergarten age boys in the house? It’s pure pack mentality, y’all.  They share one brain and move together in a swirling mass sucking in random items and depositing debri at whim.   

Now put a pizza and Kool-Aid lunch into the equation and we’ve added biological functionality to the fray, alimentary track-wise.  That is, what goes in must come out.

Over excited boys plus lots o’pizza equals the Skyler Incident. In my six short years of raising a child, I had never (never!) seen anything like this.  The big D it was.  Spread about my water closet-sized half bathroom.  The sink, the floor, the walls (!) and of course, the porcelain throne itself.  I actually swooned, the room went gray and fuzzy for a second, when I opened the bathroom door to Skyler’s call for assistance.  Like a crime scene with the whole splatter thing going on, only this was, well . . . you know.  It’s like the kid used a paint roller or something.

Boys! I called loud enough to make them jump. Outside!  Let’s play Capture the Flag!  Skyler, honey, you just sit here in the grass until your mom gets here, ok?

To my defense, I did not get the garden hose out. It was just too cold for that.  But that I did actually consider it for a second probably negates my defense plea.

So, I’m much better with dogs

Treats for Euka and Micron’s friends

Twenty years after this emotional trauma upon my delicate psyche, I’d like to think my party planning skills have improved.  Lessons learned and all that.

But that would just be silly talk.  

To celebrate Euka’s first birthday we held a party in her honor at the office this week. A combo affair, this.  Micron’s fourth birthday is later this month. Sure ’nuff, we’re pet passionate folk here in the office and a dog’s birthday party is totally a socially acceptable kinda event. 

And yes, people asked if this was a dog cake or people cake.
Hint: It’s a people cake. Really, you can trust me.

However, two dog parties in the same month teeters on that fine balance of Socially Acceptable and Crazy Dog Lady.

So only one party, but we’ll invite all co-workers and canine friends and make a big hairy deal out of it with cake and cookies and balloons and such.

It seemed like such a good idea.

Then as per invited, the dogs started showing up and it was kinda like six-year-olds at a pizza party.  We human beans all took a step back as new stuffed toys were inspected for weaknesses then efficiently disemboweled. Squeakers nestled gently inside the polyester stuffing were pulled out and displayed proudly like the still beating hearts of their prey. As I waded through the white fiberfill stuffing to rescue canine digestive tracks from processing afore mentioned squeakers (he makes a funny sound when he farts, Doc), the various dog leashes became tangled about dog legs until Micron eventually became the official birthday piñata all prepped to hang by his ankles.

Euka shares Micron’s new toy with our VP of Canine
Communications, the esteemed Pawl Griffin.

I gotcha, Mike, I say. There, now go sit over here for a minute so I can pull Euka off of the company mascot.

But, the squeaky! cries Micron. It’s still in one of the toys! I have to get it out . . .

At this point, I’ll go ahead and admit it was my full intention to take lots of photos of the birthday action, including a group photo of Euka and Micron with their friends.

Didn’t happen.  Actually, never even came close to achieving this lofty goal.  Instead I have a full set of, wait just a sec and I’ll count . . . yeah, I got eighteen shots of Euka and Pawl Griffin that look more or less like a two player game of Twister (See photo above right.) Well, I suppose three players if you count the half stuffed hedgehog toy tossed about in the melee.

It’s easy to tell the people treats from the dog
treats, right? Right?

But you know what? It was an awesome time, really.  A nice break in the office that enhanced our company culture in P&G Pet Care and we enjoyed watching the dogs as they wore themselves out in mindless play.

And having cake and cookies was icing on the . . . wait, I need another metaphor. Well, anyway it was another bonus for us humans to enjoy.

Oh and Reason #148 of why dog parties are better than kid parties.

No Skyler incident, thank dog. No need for a bucket brigade to recover from this party. I can pick up stuffing innards all day long, y’all. 



This is a people cookie, too. But since I brought most of
it home, I prolly should have labeled it so.  Hindsight and
all that.



Par-TEE … Par-TEE … Hey Food Lady, is it 2:00 yet?



Naw, I didn’t swallow a squeaker. Why?

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* Name changed, not necessarily to protect the kid’s identity, but mostly because I don’t remember his name. This was nearly twenty years ago, people.  Ok, I’m just messing with you.  I do remember his name and it wasn’t Skyler.  But it does rhyme with it. Yeah, and I realize I really I need to get over this and move on, thank you.

The Ohio E’s celebrate their first birthday

The Ohio E’s of the Canine Companions for Independence celebrated their first birthday on September 14, 2013.  We’ve gotcha some photos of these amazing dogs on their special day for y’all to enjoy.
 
Let’s start with a shot of our cutie patooties at 8-weeks old, shall we?
 

Left to right: Ella, Everett, Emma, Euka

Then fasten your seatbelts for a fast forward another ten months to their one-year birthday.  Same cuties, same stone bench.

Clockwise from top left: Emma, Euka, Ella, Everett

Clockwise from top left: Emma, Euka, Ella, Everett

Ok, back in time again.  Here’s Emma and Euka at their breeder caretaker’s house before they came to Ohio.  Emma looks a bit distressed at Euka’s antics, right? 

Some things don’t change.

Then we have some close ups of our Ohio E’s on their special day.



Ella
 
Emma

Euka II
and Everett

Wishing a very happy first birthday, our extraordinary E’s.

Happy Ten Month Birthday to the E’s

Posted on
At ten weeks and ten months. The Ohio E’s consider their progress as they look their former and future selves.


Hold onto your britches, folks, as we direct your attention to the nearly inconceivable factoid that Euka II and her E littermates are celebrating their ten month birthday today.

Yep, indeed the little furry cotton balls we met seemingly just a few weeks ago are growing into the amazing dogs they are destined to be.  The precious Euka is not our little girl anymore [sniffle].

I could lament over this puppy growth in the same manner as I deal with the knowledge that I’m the parent of a college grad. Sometimes it hits me all at once and I sit wondering how I could possibly be old enough to have a kid out of college.  What the heck just happened here? I think. Wasn’t he just working on his science fair project in middle school?

So putting things into perspective, watching a ten month old puppy grow is not as impactful to my fragile self-esteem. Our lovely Euka has gone from a bouncy carpet stainer to her canine teenage phase and you know what?  I’m still pretty much the same age as when we got this thing started.

And there you have it.  Yet another wonderful thing about volunteer puppy raising.  The benefits are just never ending with this gig.

We had the Ohio E’s together for a training session a couple of weeks ago. When Ella, Emma, Everett and Euka were a young two months old, we introduced their puppy noggins to some new experiences during a group training.  You can see what we covered back then in the post Time to Ramp It Up.

In this next session, our maturing pups were proofed on commands for a greater proficiency and asked to do a few new things as well.

In this photo on the left our E’s are in a Sit with an implied Stay.  For CCI commands, a Sit or Down comes with the Stay command unspoken yet still attached. That is, the pups learn that they are being asked to maintain their spot until the next command is given.  A very helpful mindset to have wired into their mindsets are they learn to be service dogs.  And so as the pups mature, we extend the Sit/Downs with the implied Stays for longer periods.

Puppy raisers are just out of the shot to provide a quick correction for any distracted furry thoughts. Should one of these E’s decide to move on from their Sit, they’re met with a verbal correction and get their bum placed right back to spot they were warming up just a moment before.  See the orange thing by Ella? Yeah, we were tossing a football dog toy into their space for the extra challenge.

Pretty much the same things going on here with the photo on the right.  To proof the Down command we walk between, around and step over them. And yeah, the orange football has a bit part here again in this scene.

Note the pups are in a sternal position and we also like to see them roll onto a hip. Alert, but relaxed is what we’re looking for here.

Our training facilitators, Emma’s puppy raisers, have provided some props to bump up the session for additional challenges.  A ladder flat to the ground provides a walking experience over a novel surface.

A teeter totter and a wobble board is set up to help with puppies adjusting their walk and overcoming any concerns about putting their paws on an unstable surface.

 
And the tube, that glorious thing, is out again too.  Everett and Ella at ten weeks old had enjoyed some camaraderie moments in the blue tube. The two pups fit well within its confines and found the environment snug, yet comfy enough to move one’s body about for a robust wrestling match.
 

This time around, they do still kinda make it in there together. But it’s more like trying to fit into your jeans from high school. Sure, you can stuff some leg in there, or for some of us maybe it’s just an arm, but it’s clear that the zipper isn’t going seeing any action.

Any anyway, our confident *cough dominant cough* Miss Euka prefers ownership of the thing for her own purposes.


I have conquered the tube, says Euka.
It is mine.
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