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Dealing With Separation Anxiety While Ill


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Guest ceeboymama

i've had my 18-month-old puppy for just over 4 months and haven't been able to leave him alone for any amount of time without incessant barking. Complicating the situation: I have a neuroimmune disorder that restricts my ability to exert myself—if I overexert, my symptoms worsen.

 

What I’ve tried (on the advice of various professionals/books/laypeople):

· Rescue remedy in his water twice daily

· GNC Ultra Mega Relax in his food

· Thundershirt

· dogTV

· kongs

· exercise before departure

· item of clothing with my scent

· ignoring him when I leave

· ignoring him when I come home

· desensitizing him to signals of departure--jingling my keys, getting my purse--by repeating and then not departing- (this had zero impact and proved too exhausting to sustain)

· closing the front door and standing outside, then yelling “no bark!” or banging on the door or opening the door and spraying water or all of the above

 

this last approach is the only one that’s produced any results: i'm up to 15 minutes but am still stuck not actually leaving (there's no way to 'no bark' chastise if i do--he knows i'm there, and will start barking the minute i venture beyond the front yard.)

greyhound adoption person says I need to perform this exercise 4xday for no telling how many months. keeping the puppy exercised and socialized with daily dog park visits and short evening walks, in addition to once daily training exercise, is the most i can manage (on bad days, it's difficult to even do this much).

my health requires i spend much time at home, and i'm told that this is what's created the behavior--which has me wondering if it will be a constant problem unless i am forever engaged in the separation training. this was never an issue with my last greyhound.

i don't want caring for this puppy to become a casualty of my illness. the vet doesn't want to medicate a healthy puppy (can't say i blame her).

 

does anyone know of solutions that would be manageable given my health?

 

 

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I'm so sorry you're having this trouble. You clearly care a lot and are trying hard to get your puppy over his SA! It may come down to doing what Susan suggests. But you deserve to have your efforts acknowledged and appreciated. Can you handle the idea of asking your adoption rep to take the puppy back and find you an older, lower-maintenance greyhound? The adoption group should be able to appreciate that your health creates some legitimate limitations on how much you can work with this situation.

 

Wishing you all the best,

Mary

Mary with Jumper Jack (2/17/11) and angels Shane (PA's Busta Rime, 12/10/02 - 10/14/16) and Spencer (Dutch Laser, 11/25/00 - 3/29/13).

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Guest ceeboymama

thanks so much for your compassion. on good days, like today, i can't imagine giving up. he had great playmates at the park and has been konked out peacefully all afternoon. he really is adorable and sweet-tempered. i've also heard that black dogs and puppies are more difficult to place. when i first got him, he was considered the most unruly of the 40 or so dogs at the rescue center and in the time i've had him most of that unruliness (fighting against the leash, etc) has disappeared.

 

several people at the dog park have mentioned that they remember when i first started bringing him and say that they see a dramatic improvement in his ability to play well with others (he's still wildly rambunctious but i've been working with him on pulling away and taking breaks when the adrenaline starts to spiral, and try to steer him towards appropriate playmates).

 

do you both really think that the separation issue is so insurmountable for someone with my condition?

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My first though, too, was that an older and calmer dog might be better suited for you, but it really does sound like you're doing everything you can to make this work! I don't think they're saying it's insurmountable for you - I think they're just concerned that all the training will have a negative impact on your health. I think it would be worth talking over with your adoption group, just so they're very aware of the SA problem you're having. Even if you decide to keep working through his issues, it's a good idea that they know what you're going through in case he doesn't get better.

 

Have you tried crating him? Do you play music when you leave (I find the "Liquid Mind" meditation station on Pandora is a good one)? It sounds like he may be too bothered by your absence for these to work, but it's something else to try. As a last resort, I've heard getting a second dog can help a lot, but I don't know if you'd be in a position to do that (I know I'm not - I have to sneak out the front door and play music for Eli when I leave or he throws a fit..haha..if I could afford a second dog with both time and money, I'd add another!).

 

He sounds like he's a great boy despite the SA! I hope someone else has better suggestions, or that you're able to work it out somehow.

Mom of bridge babies Regis and Dusty.

Wrote a book about shelter dogs!

I sell things on Etsy!

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Sounds like you're putting in a lot of effort and doing everything you can to work through your boy's issues. I think it's worth considering whether this is something you can handle long term, but I also don't believe separation anxiety is an insurmountable issue.

 

If you do decide to continue working with your pup, the one part of the current training I'd suggest changing is this:

 

· closing the front door and standing outside, then yelling “no bark!” or banging on the door or opening the door and spraying water or all of the above

 

this last approach is the only one that’s produced any results: i'm up to 15 minutes but am still stuck not actually leaving (there's no way to 'no bark' chastise if i do--he knows i'm there, and will start barking the minute i venture beyond the front yard.)

 

I find it more effective to reward the appropriate behavior, rather than punish the unwanted behavior. By yelling "no bark", you're not teaching him what you want him to do, and as you realized yourself, it requires that you be present to continue to correct the behavior. All he's learning with the current technique is that when you leave, you'll come back and yell at him when he starts barking.

 

Instead, when desensitizing a dog to being alone, or "alone training" as it is often referred to here, you should return while the dog is still calm and quiet, so that you can reward the behavior that you want. And this way, the dog also learns that you will return before he gets upset. So this is very similar to the method you're already using, but rather than waiting for him to start barking, go back inside a little earlier and praise him while he's still quiet. Gradually increase the time you're away from him, just like you're already doing.

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice

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Some dogs with separation anxiety can require long term (ie. years of) management. With consistent training and possibly with the help of medication, some can turn around and be significantly improved in months. There's no guarantee and every dog is different. However, your boy is only 18 months old, so he probably has more energy than the average mature greyhound, and it may be several years before he really settles down. It does sound like you've been dealing pretty well with his energy level so far, so you may be able to manage just fine.

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice

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Guest ceeboymama

i sense you are trying to help me be prepared for a worst case scenario.

 

my tendency (and in all honesty my preference) is to cling to the most optimistic of all possibilities. but maybe that's just setting myself up for living hell.

 

is there really anyway to tell just what and how long it's likely to take for him to get over this?

 

 

i was really hoping for responses with happy success stories and creative solutions that can save me from exhausting myself (and thereby further damaging my health). i guess what the people on greytalk are saying is that this situation is pretty dismal. non-greyhound people have suggested flower essences (beyond rescue remedy) and tellington touch and the possibility that because he's still a puppy he might grow out of it in as little as six months. but perhaps these are not realistic for greyhounds?

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I'm really not trying to be discouraging, just realistic. When making a decision like this, I believe it's important to consider all the possibilities, both best and worst case scenarios, so that you can be prepared for either. Unfortunately, I doubt there's any way to reliably predict how long it will take for him to get over this. There are many factors that will affect this, including his underlying temperament and personality, as well as what training techniques you use and how consistent you are with it. Each dog is an individual, and they don't all "read the book." Especially with behavioral issues, there are too many variables to predict how a dog will respond.

 

I don't see anyone really saying that the situation is dismal. Separation anxiety is one of the most treatable behavior problems, but it does require quite a bit of patience and effort. Only you know how much you're able to handle, but given your description of your illness, I'm sure everyone is concerned about how this will affect your health.

 

I find that most of the natural remedies and holistic options (like flower essences, calming supplements, anxiety wraps, etc) are not very consistently effective from dog to dog. These options help some dogs, but have no effect on others, and it may take some trial and error to find one, if any, that works for your particular dog.

 

The only treatment option for separation anxiety that has really been studied is the combination of anti-anxiety medication (Reconcile or Clomicalm) with a consistent behavior modification program. Using these methods have been shown in controlled studies to result in significant improvement within 2-3 months. However, you would first need to have an evaluation done by an experienced vet and/or behaviorist to confirm a diagnosis of separation anxiety. If the anxiety component is fairly mild, and the dog is upset at being left but not actually panicked, I find that you can achieve similar results with the training alone, using appropriate methods.

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice

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Sounds as if he is just too high-energy for your lifestyle.

 

A puppy needs lots of vigorous exercise, and you are unable to give this to him.

I agree with others who have suggested you trade him for an older, quieter hound.

 

Nancy...Mom to Sid (Peteles Tiger), Kibo (112 Carlota Galgos) and Joshi.  Missing Casey, Gomer, Mona, Penelope, BillieJean, Bandit, Nixon (Starz Sammie),  Ruby (Watch Me Dash) Nigel (Nigel), and especially little Mario, waiting at the Bridge.

 

 

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Guest ceeboymama

you wouldn't know if there's anyone who might know if there are certain factors that increase the likelihood of flower essences being effective by any chance?

 

his temperament--i think most people who encounter him think he's a very confident dog. he clearly likes people and other dogs and doesn't exhibit shyness or fear. the vet who advised against medicating him specializes in greyhounds and attributed the separation issue to his dislike of being alone, not to anxiety but i'm not able to take on a second dog to keep him company.

 

part of me was hoping that maybe this is just part of his adapting to being alone for the first time in his life. after all, before coming to live with me, he'd lived his entire existence in kennels.

 

during the separation training exercise i'm currently attempting on a daily basis, he does eat the treats.... at first they would go untouched, which i attributed to his being too upset to benefit from them. so i'm thinking treats going from being uneaten to eaten signify a little progress, don't you think?

 

i haven't heard before of separation issues being caused by inadequate exercise; the rescue group i got him from knows how much exercise he's getting--i keep in touch with them and had a subsequent training visit about a month after adopting him--and no one there has ever said he might need more.

 

but, yes, i do consider the idea of giving up dismal. i imagine that every dog will have his or her own unique issues, and understand that separation anxiety is impossible to predict. if the subdued lifestyle dictated by my health is a contributing factor, then i imagine the chances of it recurring with another dog are probably higher than average. also, while i knew at the time i adopted him that a puppy would be a lot for someone with my condition to take on, i figured that puppies aren't puppies forever. my last greyhound died on his fifth birthday, and though not a logical basis for my choice, i know this factored in. i didn't want to lose another dog after such a short time with him.

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Guest PiagetsMom

 

i haven't heard before of separation issues being caused by inadequate exercise; the rescue group i got him from knows how much exercise he's getting--i keep in touch with them and had a subsequent training visit about a month after adopting him--and no one there has ever said he might need more.

 

 

 

I think that often a pup who is destructive when left by itself due to lack of exercise, gets labeled as having separation anxiety. I don't know if anyone is suggesting that lack of exercise actually causes separation anxiety, but I would think that it certainly wouldn't help a pup who is dealing with it. I used to see often, "A tired dog is a good dog", and I really do believe that plenty of exercise, especially with a younger pup, is really helpful.

 

I can certainly attest to the fact that my older pups are much more content with less exercise, and I think that's why others are suggesting you consider an older pup. I understand your wanting to have more time with an adopted pup, but as you know from losing your pup so young, there is no guarantee that adopting a younger pup will make your time with them longer.

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Based on the original post, it sounds like the main problem is "incessant barking", not destruction. I don't necessarily think this means the dog is not getting enough exercise, or even anxious, just that he is complaining about being left alone. There's a good chance that this can be improved with consistent alone training and rewarding calm, quiet behavior. I'd also consider other interactive toys besides Kongs to keep him occupied, such as a Buster Cube. Depending on whether he's crated or not, there are also other creative ways to keep him entertained while you're gone if boredom is contributing to the problem.

 

Obviously, this is the OP's decision, based on what she feels she can handle. None of us are there with her, and I don't think we're in a position to judge whether she can handle this particular dog, or tell her that she should return him.

 

I actually disagree with the "tired dog is a good dog" theory. Dogs do have daily exercise needs that should be met, but people often tend to overestimate what they really need. A tired dog will temporarily be "well behaved" simply because they are worn out and can't get into trouble. But relying on tiring a dog out on a regular basis doesn't address underlying issues like anxiety, and can result in a very physically fit dog that takes more and more exercise to tire out. Too much exercise, especially fast-paced chase games like ball or fetch, or highly stimulating play at dog parks, can actually keep a dog hyped up and increase reactivity. Teaching a dog to truly relax is different from simply tiring him out.

Jennifer &

Willow (Wilma Waggle), Wiki (Wiki Hard Ten), Carter (Let's Get It On),

Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice

gtsig3.jpg

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Guest PhillyPups

It could be that you two are not the right match. A greyhound puppy (I think up to the age of about 4 they stay puppies) needs a lot of exercise, which you have said you are not physically up to.

 

I do not think anyone can give you a time line as to what will work on what date, which in reading your questions is my interpretation of what you said. There is no magic wand one can wave. I do know that no matter what I feel, my hounds care always has and always will come first. I have lived alone with my five and their care is 24/7, no matter how well/not well I feel. I am saying this, not to be insensitive, or cruel, but possibly an older hound (say 9 or above, as younger are more active) that has been returned and needs a home would be the best match for what you need and want in a greyhound. Trust me, 9 is not "old" in greyhound ages, over half of my greyhounds that I have/have had have come to me at 9 or older, and our time is awesome.

 

Wishing you the best of luck in whatever decisions you make.

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Guest ceeboymama

JJNg,

 

thank you for your sensitivity and understanding, and realization of just how significant the commitment, and therefore the decision to give up, to my puppy is.

 

and thank you for continuing to submit creative solutions, like the Buster Cube. that's exactly the kind of thing i was hoping for with this post: ideas that might help that won't exhaust me.

 

i'm confused that so many people responding keep saying that i'm not exercising him enough, even tho i've written here that 1) the greyhound rescue group knows his exercise schedule and expressed no concern that it's inadequate, 2) the problem is his barking in my absence, not destructive behavior.

 

indeed, the number of responses suggesting i simply return him--and put an abrupt end to seeking any sort of solution that might be manageable with my condition--i find alarming. when i adopt an animal, i consider them part of my family, not a car that i can conveniently exchange for a different model.

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I have an 8 month old grey puppy, he has struggled with some separation anxiety also. I have had him since March and he is much better now than he was, although he does still bark some when I leave. This is what I have done, I use a DAP diffuser in the room (seems to help as when it runs out I notice and increase in anxiety), obedience training to gain a closer relationship with him, a variety of treats in his crate when I leave (kongs, frosty paws, biscuits used with success and I rotate what I give him), consistency in my routine, exercise, leave radio on when I leave and time. I think Jack is just getting used to our routine and is learning I will come back, even though he does not like to be left alone, he manages. He does go to doggy day care twice a week and I have a variety of friends that can take care of him if I am away too long. I don't leave him for any more than about 4 hours at a time, I live close to work and come home at lunch. I have tried him out of the crate but he still barks and frankly, he is just not trustworthy at this time in the house. I actually think he got a little more anxious out of the crate. I have another dog in the home but I think he just does not want to be without his people. He is getting there and he now will not bark when I go in the basement to do laundry! Good luck, sounds like you are working had with him, give him some more time and continue with the training, I bet he will progress.

Linda, Keeva and Jack

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Guest PiagetsMom

i'm confused that so many people responding keep saying that i'm not exercising him enough, even tho i've written here that 1) the greyhound rescue group knows his exercise schedule and expressed no concern that it's inadequate, 2) the problem is his barking in my absence, not destructive behavior.

 

indeed, the number of responses suggesting i simply return him--and put an abrupt end to seeking any sort of solution that might be manageable with my condition--i find alarming. when i adopt an animal, i consider them part of my family, not a car that i can conveniently exchange for a different model.

 

I should clarify my comments - you were questioning the link between the suggestion of lack of exercise and SA, and the point I was trying to make was that SA seems to encompass a wide variety of behaviors, and perhaps there are times that we, in general, (GreyTalk posters), and not you specifically, attribute certain undesireable behaviors to SA that are not necessarily SA, but possibly a pup that is not being properly exercised and thus looking for a release for that energy. SA often seems to be a "catch all" here for many undesirable behaviors that occur when a pup is left on it's own. I was not suggesting that you're not exercising him enough or that is the cause of your pup's problems, only that perhaps the lumping together of behavioral issues into the SA category might be the thought behind those comments made.

 

"I actually disagree with the "tired dog is a good dog" theory. Dogs do have daily exercise needs that should be met, but people often tend to overestimate what they really need. A tired dog will temporarily be "well behaved" simply because they are worn out and can't get into trouble. But relying on tiring a dog out on a regular basis doesn't address underlying issues like anxiety, and can result in a very physically fit dog that takes more and more exercise to tire out. Too much exercise, especially fast-paced chase games like ball or fetch, or highly stimulating play at dog parks, can actually keep a dog hyped up and increase reactivity. Teaching a dog to truly relax is different from simply tiring him out."

 

I've also heard this said recently, possibly by you in another thread, and while I understand what you are saying, I was speaking more along the lines of a good walk before leaving a pup, which is recommended frequently here as a place to start, especially with newly adopted pups, along with "alone" training. I also understand that for a pup with true SA, simply exercising him will not cure the SA - I'm sorry if my comments implied that, as that is not what I meant to imply.

 

ceeboymama, I don't think most here would advocate simply returning or giving up on a pup withouth first seeking a solution for the situation, but more as an option for someone who can't or is not able to find a solution that works for them or their pup. I hope that you're able to find that solution for you and your pup - good luck :grouphug

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ceeboymama, I don't think most here would advocate simply returning or giving up on a pup withouth first seeking a solution for the situation, but more as an option for someone who can't or is not able to find a solution that works for them or their pup. I hope that you're able to find that solution for you and your pup - good luck :grouphug

 

:nod I know that's all I meant. Trust me, I would never advocate just giving up (I volunteer at a county shelter and see the stupidest reasons for abandoning dogs - it kills me when it's something fixable, or even a non-issue). Adopting is a lifetime commitment and even though people are saying that an older dog might be easier for you and that your young boy might be too much, I think everyone understands that you adopted this boy and want to do everything possible to work with him (which is awesome - too many people just give up on dogs too quickly). I'm sure no one is suggesting that you just return him in favor of a "different model", as you put it. Things don't always come across the right way on the internet.

 

If I was in your position, the first thing I would try would be more exercise. Does you have access to a fenced in yard, or maybe a dog park? A good walk and some time to run, coupled with training, might be a good option. While the "tired dog is a happy dog" thing might not be totally accurate, it'll definitely help with training if he's tired. Give him a good walk like you do, and then right after (once he's cooled off a bit) work on some alone training like you've been doing. Keeping his mind busy and exercised is also a good thing - Kongs and other toys that force him to think and work for the treats are great for this (especially now that you said he's eating the treats when you're gone, rather than ignoring them).

 

I don't know if this would freak him out more, but would it be possible to set up a computer with a Skype video call that you can use to check up on him? Then you could talk to him even while you're gone. Or maybe leave a recording of your voice (reading a book or something) playing while you're out, along with clothes that smell like you. I've never heard of either of these and they likely won't work, but they just occurred to me and I thought it might be worth mentioning. The Skype one would probably freak him out, but a recording of your voice may help...

 

(On a totally unrelated note, I'd love to see pictures of your boy!)

Mom of bridge babies Regis and Dusty.

Wrote a book about shelter dogs!

I sell things on Etsy!

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Guest ceeboymama

thanks for the additional suggestions and encouragement.

 

scooby172, thank you so much for sharing your encouraging experience with the puppy. i keep seeing people mentioning the DAP diffuser as part of a panoply of methods for addressing the issue but your observation really helps clarify its potentional impact. also, hearing your progress gives me reason to hope!

 

piaget's mom, thank you, too, for taking the time to post comments and offer insights. your posts need no clarification whatsoever--while i understand that some people may come across more abrupt via the internet than they might in person, i do not think you even come close to falling into that category. each of your posts is very articulate, and i truly appreciate your efforts to help me with my dilemma.

 

i see your point about SA becoming a kitchen sink for behavioral issues; descriptions i've read of extreme cases definitely do not sound like the scenario i'm dealing with. i was actually beginning to think that the barking in my absence might simply be purely a discipline issue--his need to learn that it's not ok to bark incessantly. but then he started barking yesterday when i left him with his dogsitter and showed reluctance to leave me when a friend walked him the day before.

 

as for the 'tired dog is a well behaved dog' theory, that's what i've always heard too, so i found JJNg's perspective interesting and instructive.

 

and roo, thank you, too. i found your initial post to be among the most encouraging. the exercise issue--cetus does get the dog park nearly every day for up to an hour, sometimes even a little longer (i always curtail a visit if there's a dog i consider hazardous). twice weekkly, he gets to meet up with other greyhounds as well. and he gets a short walk each night. he also has a--albeit, very small--yard in front of my house, in which he's carved up his own dirt race track from running in circles in the lawn. i try to perform the alone training as soon after we return from the dog park as i can but don't always have the strength to do this without several hours' rest first.

 

one trainer i hired for a one-on-one session when i first tried to tackle this SA problem (unfortunately, attending a series of classes is also pretty exhausting for me and one-on-one time means i'm not tiring myself out while someone else's pooch is the focus) said that walking him wouldn't ever come close to tiring him out.... but that was just one person's opinion, and i found myself strongly disagreeing with him on other ideas so....

 

anyway, i very much appreciate the time and effort, suggestions and support.

 

just a quick little status report: i've been doing daily alone training, reaching 20 minutes with ZERO barking the other day. so exciting! the bad news--it had been so long since i'd had the opportunitiy to be out at a party that last night i wound up staying out 2 hours longer than i'd initially told my dogsitter (my neighbor's teenage son). i didn't have his ph# with me (i know, tsk, tsk) and saw that he hadn't tried to call me...but i'm really hoping i didn't piss off his parents too bad. even tho i was home by 8pm, it was a school night...i paid him for the extra time and brought over a huge batch of cookies.... i don't have any kids so this is really my first time dealing with babysitters....

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Guest Wasserbuffel

Being able to reach 20 minutes without barking is a really good sign! Keep up the positive reinforcement.

 

Do your leaving routine occasionally, then don't leave the house. Watch him to see what cues he's looking for in your leaving that get him anxious. Is he starting to get antsy when you put on your shoes? If so, put on your shoes about an hour before you leave. Stuff like that.

 

Remember that how you behave when you return home will also have an effect on his SA. Don't greet him immediately when you walk in. Keep calm, ignore his happy greetings until he's calmed down, only then should you give him attention. The goal is to make your return immensely boring for him, that way he doesn't get as keyed up in anticipation of seeing you again (not that he won't be glad to see you, he just needs to be able to control himself when he does). Neither coming nor going should be at all remarkable events in his day.

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