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Bite Incident


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This is a post I'm not happy to be making. Yesterday, I was playing on our bed with Bonnie the way I always do, kissing and patting her face and belly like one would do with a human baby. We were lying side by side while I was kissing her muzzle, when she pushed me away with her paw and then suddenly growled and reached out to bite me. She only managed to graze my forehead, but #*&%! was I shocked. It wasn't as if I had overdone it with the play and she'd had enough; we had barely started. This may sound stupid, but I am feeling very hurt that it happened. Reconciling these hurt feelings will be a challenge, but after my little pity party, I'll get over this bit of immaturity and try to understand it from the animal's point of view.

 

I have read posts on this forum about space aggression, but Bonnie's never demonstrated any signs of having it prior to yesterday. I've been able to lean over the various spots that she's claimed as a place to relax or sleep, (spare bed, couches, our bed), lie beside her, and have played with her on our bed many times.

 

It just doesn't make sense that this was an instance of space aggression, but then again, what do I know? We've had Bonnie only 7 months. It took her 2 months to hop up on the couch and 5 months before trying out our bed, which was the last and I suppose prime piece of real estate for a dog to conquer. Could it be that she suppressed her space aggressive tendencies to a back burner until she could build trust in her new environment? Could space aggression just be surfacing now, or am I making this more complicated than it needs to be?

 

As a response to this incident, she is no longer allowed on our bed. I don't know if this is the correct response, as I can't say whether what happened was actually space aggression or a result of something else. Bonnie's a very confident dog and very friendly with people. Is there anything I should be doing that will send her a clear message that she's not the top dog, or is banishment from the bed enough of a message?

 

On an ironic note, Bonnie & I are doing our first Meet & Greet this Sunday. Hope I'm a good actor, lol.

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Forever Home on December 20, 2012
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
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Are you sure she was being aggressive and not just playing? The reaching out with her paw beforehand makes me think this might have been play where she got a little overenthusiastic. A lot of dogs growl as part of play. It's impossible to say not having witnessed it, but that's my initial thought without more details.

ETA: Maybe I should be more specific about my use of the word play. I can envision a scenario where she was trying to elicit more petting and just got too worked up. Violet's typical way of eliciting more when I'm rubbing her belly is to roll around on her back and paw at me. Does Bonnie ever do this?

Edited by NeylasMom

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"The great thing about science is that you're free to disagree with it, but you'll be wrong."

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I'm going to say this as gently as possible because I think you're a good greyhound owner who just made a mistake.

 

This is NOT an instance of space aggression. It likely has nothing to do with her trying to be 'alpha' or 'top dog' or trying to challenge you in any way. Accidents can happen when you get in a dog's face, which, from your description, is exactly what happened. It sounds like she was trying to give you a signal that she was uncomfortable with what you were doing. Either that, or she was playing with you like she would with another dog (growls and play biting are common forms of communication). If she really intended to bite you, she wouldn't have just grazed you- there would have been major damage. My advice is to just be careful and use common sense when playing. Yes, it's a good idea to discontinue furniture privileges for at least the time being. But in this case, I don't think the problem had anything to do with the furniture as much as she was just uncomfortable with your being in her face.

 

And also, I should mention that it's not uncommon for a dog to allow you to do something 99 times, then snap on the 100th. That's why we as dog owners should set our dogs up for success by not intentionally testing their limits. It sounds like you and Bonnie had a good relationship before this, and that does not have to change. It is a little scary and upsetting, but hopefully you can chalk it up as a lesson learned.

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I'm at work, so can't write much, but did want to offer this little bit of personal experience that may make you feel a little less hurt.

 

Summit is my boy, my buddy, my special little man. He has been home for 2.5 years now. I routinely take things out of his mouth, lay on the bed with him, sometimes sleep with him when my BF is on night shift, etc. Once when he had been home for probably just about a year (give or take) I went to get him for his last out of the night. He was laying in our bed as usual. I called him and he didn't respond. I called him again and still no response. So I went right over to the bed and he still wouldn't come. I reached under him to push him up and he half jumped up and growled at me. Scared the heck out of me and hurt my feelings a bit. I asked him to immediately get off the bed, which he did, and he lost his bed privileges for a couple of weeks. It has never happened since and I do not worry about climbing in bed with him to cuddle, leaning over him in bed, taking high value treats out of his mouth (bones, bully sticks, kongs... but I do trade for these items as opposed to just taking them away!). I don't know if he was half asleep. If he just had no intention of getting up. If he wasn't feeling 100%. No clue. It happened once. It can happen with any dog. And it doesn't necessarily mean it will happen again. It hurts our feelings, and once you kind of get over that read through the advice you'll get here and I'm sure you'll be able to find an appropriate plan of action.

 

Just wanted you to know it happens with the best of dogs (because Summit IS the BEST dog ;)).

 

Edited because I can't speeel.

Edited by krissy

Kristie and the Apex Agility Greyhounds: Kili (ATChC AgMCh Lakilanni Where Eagles Fly RN IP MSCDC MTRDC ExS Bronze ExJ Bronze ) and Kenna (Lakilanni Kiss The Sky RN MADC MJDC AGDC AGEx AGExJ). Waiting at the Bridge: Retired racer Summit (Bbf Dropout) May 5, 2005-Jan 30, 2019

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These things happen but, .. until you know what caused it, play or otherwise, I suggest that you cancel the meet-n-greet. I had one dog that was always great at meet-n-greets and then one day out of the blue, he growled at a child that was reaching over my other dog to pet him (we were on a walk at that time). No more meet-n-greets for him.

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Agreed! Not space aggression at all! She either wasn't as comfy as you think with this kind of play and let you know. Or she was escalating the play into the ouchy rough house zone. If your going to rough house with a large dog... well..... LOL

 

I've rough housed with Rainy and ask the injuries I've gotten I've deserved. Bf was rough housing with Sunshine and got bit. Can't blame the pup for that one. LOL

 

Take a deep breath, realize you crossed some dog boundaries and move on. :-) Live in the moment like the pups do. And have fun at your meet n greet!

Edited by JAJ2010

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It's important to ALWAYS remember, they are NOT "fur babies" and all the other cutsie pet names some people call them. They're animals with large teeth.

 

Animals with large teeth who use their mouths on each other in many different ways. She may have snapped at you, or she may have been playing--you might never know.

 

This is easy enough to deal with--don't do that any more! Don't pretend she's a baby. She's a dog who can, if she chooses, hurt you.

 

I learned the hard way "don't wrestle with the pit bull mix puppy" when my darling and beloved dog, Kramer, bit me in the lip when it got too rowdy. Hurt like heck, upset me, but it never happened again cause I never got down on the floor with him and played that way.


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Bella "air snaps" occasionally as part of play. Once she put some teeth marks into DH's hand - of course, then she got off the sofa and put herself in her crate and acted as though we were punishing her, although all he did was yelp like another dog would. I'm trying to train him more than her at this point that the kind of play that he's encouraging is not good for when we have kids.

Dave (GLS DeviousDavid) - 6/27/18
Gracie (AMF Saying Grace) - 10/21/12
Bella (KT Britta) - 4/29/05 to 2/13/20

 

 

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We had a similar experience with Spencer after his first couple months, during which he'd also shown no signs of space aggression. We then had a thyroid panel done, and he turned out to be hypothyroid. (He also had some other symptoms, such as tiring after a half-mile and mild seizures.) I think that hypothyroidism is most likely to manifest a few weeks to months after neutering, as the hormonal balance changes. It's a thought. And it's an easy fix. We never saw that behavior in Spencer again after treatment started, no matter what the provocation. Good luck, as I know how disturbing this is.

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 grey_dreams

Sounds like she was overexcited and got carried away. She may have been wanting to mouth you a bit. When Zariel gets overexcited from my petting and playing, he just has to have something in his mouth to nit and will randomly attack nearby toys. I'm pretty sure this was just overexcitement. You could work with her to redirect her excitement away from you physically and onto a toy.

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I think it's a mixture of not being comfortable enough/fully trusting in you and possibly playing.... Leyla was with me 2 months when I leaned over her to hug/kiss her (on floor, not on her bed). She growled and snapped at me to let me know she wasn't comfortable. My feelings were hurt but after 6 more months, she had not problems with that kind of stuff cause she fully trusted me. That kind of play could also have really excited her and she could have been playing as she would do with one of her mates.... I wouldn't hold a grudge... just give her some time to really get comfy and fully trust you, and play with her by tickling her, but don't put your head in her belly until you fully trust each other.

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Don't take it personal. Dogs bite. It is one of the way's they communicate. She was not striking out at you personally and I am quite sure she would be sad if she realized how it hurt you. She did not mean by it what you got out of it. IMO it was just a warning/communication anyway as if she had wanted to actually bite you she would have. Its no biggie. Keep hanging around dogs and it'll happen again if not with her than with another dog. It'll all be fine. Just give it time.

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kissing her face and belly like one would do with a human baby.

 

I would never kiss a dogs belly. I would never press my face anywhere near a dogs abdomen. Expect a dog to protect it's vital organs from your teeth. I would also never do a lot of what you described with any dog that is lying down, particularely one that you have only known for 7 months. And you should not feel hurt. Is Bonnie not allowed to express herself whether it was play or a defensive response? My advice would be to make up with Bonnie by taking for a fabulous long walk.

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Thank you Everybody,

 

You`ve made me feel so much better after hearing all your feedback; my waterworks have been off and on all day. Silly maybe, but that sweet goofy dog has my heart in a vise. I'd like to think of the incident simply as over-exuberant play with her tooth accidentally catching the skin. The wound's from one tooth only, and I know she didn't clamp down, so it's very plausible and not just wishful thinking.

 

The funny thing is, when we're engaged in this play and I'm talking to her, she actually looks as though she's listening to me; her breathing slows and her "smile" widens. I could swear she's enjoying our "talks", but then again, I could be wrong. (Btw, I don't stare into her eyes during these times.) No matter the reason, from now on I will be wary of anthropomorphizing her behaviour and will hold back a little on the rough housing.

 

Poor Bonnie, with her being our first dog ever, I feel like the parent who makes all their mistakes on the first born. Maybe that's why we got such a resilient and confident dog that can roll with the punches. We`re definitely going to the M&G though. It is extremely unlikely that a child`s (or adult`s for that matter) safety would be at risk because of her presence at a M & G. I don`t have my head in the sand. With all honesty, in our neighbourhood, Bonnie`s friendliness and sociability is becoming legendary. She has what it takes to be a great ambassador for the breed (in spite of my bias). Please wish us luck on our maiden M&G!

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Forever Home on December 20, 2012
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
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Best luck at your M&G!

 

Glad nobody was physically hurt in your little incident. Hard to tell if she got overexcited or crabbed out on you -- either can happen, even amongst dear friends, so always best to be cautious when your face is near the sharp end. :)

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We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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Coming a bit late but Paige regularly air snaps, nits, and mouths me. She also growls, snarls and pounces with me. I am the only person she does this to and it is because she trusts me. That said, I never put my face anywhere near her when she's in this mood (I have a cute nose that I'm attached to!) and we've had some ups and downs as we've learnt each others limits. She is by far the most respectful and careful dog of my two.

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It's important to ALWAYS remember, they are NOT "fur babies" and all the other cutsie pet names some people call them. They're animals with large teeth.

 

Animals with large teeth who use their mouths on each other in many different ways. She may have snapped at you, or she may have been playing--you might never know.

 

 

 

I would never kiss a dogs belly. I would never press my face anywhere near a dogs abdomen. Expect a dog to protect it's vital organs from your teeth. I would also never do a lot of what you described with any dog that is lying down, particularely one that you have only known for 7 months. And you should not feel hurt. Is Bonnie not allowed to express herself whether it was play or a defensive response?

 

 

Very important to remember that she is not a human baby or even a dog baby.

 

 

I SO agree with all of the above. She isn't a baby, she's a dog and it takes an exceptional dog and a whole lot of trust to enjoy being kissed on the face, let alone the belly.

 

Chances are she'd already tried to let you know that she didn't much like it, but you missed the signals.

 

The funny thing is, when we're engaged in this play and I'm talking to her, she actually looks as though she's listening to me; her breathing slows and her "smile" widens. I could swear she's enjoying our "talks", but then again, I could be wrong. (Btw, I don't stare into her eyes during these times.) No matter the reason, from now on I will be wary of anthropomorphizing her behaviour and will hold back a little on the rough housing.

 

I'm glad you are going to be wary. I think you should also read up on dog behaviour and social signals, because reading your description makes me wonder if she was not 'widening her smile' but showing you an anxious face.

 

But as others have said, it could also be that she was enjoying the game and playing. It's impossible to tell by reading your post.

 

For your own safety though, I would advise you to read a good book on reading dog 'language'. Stanley Coren's How To Speak Dog is a good one.

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Lots of good advice above.

 

Whether she was being playful or not, it's good to remember that racing Greyhounds were not treated like "family dogs" in their earlier life. They were "athletes" with an important job to do - win or place in races. They're used to eating and sleeping undisturbed in their kennel. They are different from tiny puppies that grew up inside a family home with roughhousing. Greys (and many other dog breeds) don't understand that type of human-to-animal affectionately invasive playful behavior. Most retired racing Greyhounds are not considered a roughhousing breed. Many dogs (of any breed) don't like having their bellys rubbed, or having their fur rubbed the opposite direction of it's natural growth.

 

Thankfully, it sounds like you're okay physically. Try not to worry about it, but it is safer to respect dogs' personal body. Playing with toys, and giving her gentle petting affection while she's standing up are much safer during the early months and beyond. Some groups recommend waiting at least six months and preferably longer before even considering whether or not to allow a dog on any human furniture. It can take that much time (or more) for a dog's personality to blossom.

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Guest Davros

without seeing the actual behaviour, this is just my guess from what you've described...

 

i would say she's not entirely comfortable with your snuggling with her, patting and kissing certain areas... the slowing down of the breathing can sometimes be a relaxing thing, but it can also mean the dog is getting ready to aggress... you may have just been lucky so far...

 

i have worked with protection trained dogs for the best part of the last 9yrs, and almost all of my dogs, when they cue onto someone/thing without instruction from me, will slow their breathing... it's something most people wouldnt pick up on but it's one of the first things i see change in my dogs...

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Every time a dog has bitten, or threatened to bite, me, it's been my fault. And in all the threads I've read here in T&B, there are very, very few times where the dog has been truly aggressive. There is almost always a warning or a signal that the person missed or misread, where their dog was telling them s/he was uncomfortable or didn't like something they were doing. The dog growls, gets corrected for growling at the human, and so the next time the dog skips the growl and goes for a more direct form of communication. They don't have words, and only have about 10-15 actual vocal sounds to communicate with, so they are left with body language and their teeth.

 

Please don't her actions this personally. She's not a person, in the first place. And what she did was entirely predictable, and not meant to hurt you. You were close enough that if she had wanted to bite you, she really could have. She was merely upping the volume control on her discomfort to a level she felt you would understand.

 

One of the hardest things for dog owners seems to be to respect the abilities and boundaries of our canine companions. I'm as guilty as the next person of anthropomorphizing (sic) my dogs, and it's taken some blood and some close calls for me to really understand that each dog has their own level of comfort with attention and affection. They come to us as fully formed adults, with complete behavioral systems and personalities already in place. The difference between what I can do with my retired racers and what I can do with the puppy I've had since she was 11 weeks old is actually pretty far. I can do raspberries on Lilly's belly and kiss her face all over and roll her around by her legs on her back and she just wiggles and plays with me. If I try those things with Whiskey - who has been in our house exactly the same amount of time, but who was 4 years old instead of a young puppy - there WILL be blood. That's just the way it is, and I'm the one that has to adjust my expectations and desires.

Chris - Mom to: Lilly, Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

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It just doesn't make sense that this was an instance of space aggression, but then again, what do I know? We've had Bonnie only 7 months. It took her 2 months to hop up on the couch and 5 months before trying out our bed, which was the last and I suppose prime piece of real estate for a dog to conquer. Could it be that she suppressed her space aggressive tendencies to a back burner until she could build trust in her new environment? Could space aggression just be surfacing now, or am I making this more complicated than it needs to be?

 

As a response to this incident, she is no longer allowed on our bed. I don't know if this is the correct response, as I can't say whether what happened was actually space aggression or a result of something else. Bonnie's a very confident dog and very friendly with people. Is there anything I should be doing that will send her a clear message that she's not the top dog, or is banishment from the bed enough of a message?

 

I'm guessing Bonnie would have given you the same reaction if she were on the floor when you were playing with her that way. She wasn't comfortable with the invasive interaction.

 

Some Greyhounds blossom in retirement more quickly than others. We've had mature hounds continue becoming more comfortable and noticeably blossoming for two, three, or more years (usually in a wonderful way). Just my opinion, in my experience, I am not a fan of allowing dogs to relax/sleep on human furniture, especially not a human's bed. Dogs can't "talk" to tell us what they're thinking. Too many dogs (of any breed) can develop issues over time involving their individual sleeping space.

 

We have a couple of extremely affectionate hounds that we will allow to place the front half of their body on our laps to snuggle, but that happens on the dogs' terms when they are standing up, wide awake, and desiring our affection. The dogs move off the lap the instant they're ready. The other hounds have no interest in that level of close contact.

 

Greysmom: So true, and well written.

 

I agree with Davros too.

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Such good advice and ideas. My girl is extremely laid back. I could probably do anything with and to her but I don't because she's a dog with teeth that I never want to feel on my body. I hug her. I kiss her (not on her belly though.. LOL). I give her full rub downs. I can touch her all over her body, brush her teeth and dremel her nails, but the hugging and kissing occurs only when she's come to me seeking attention, which she does several times a day, and I keep it short in duration. I do reach out and give her a quick pet or scritch behind her ears without her seeking the attention but it's only in passing. BTW, Annie does not come on my bed -- her choice -- but I would not allow it anyway. I toss and turn and wake up and read, etc., and I don't want to ever wonder if I'm disturbing the dog so much she'd react negatively.

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Guest k9soul

I just want to say that I can really empathize with your feeling hurt. I had an incident with Rudy awhile back where he had been sleeping and then woke up and he got up and came to where I was sitting. I began stroking along his neck and shoulder as I always do and those seem to be some of his favorite spots, sometimes his eyes drift shut and he just leans into me. Well for some reason that time he suddenly growled and I took my hand away and looked at him and his ears were kind of "half mast" and eyes looked anxious and defensive. I turned away from him and after a moment he went back and laid down. But I was really confused and a bit shocked, and yes I felt hurt. I knew it was silly to feel hurt but I just couldn't help it. I still don't know why it happened. Was he still disoriented from sleep somehow? Had he had a bad dream? Had he been laying on that side and maybe I touched his shoulder where it had fallen asleep or something? I really don't know. I have had him for about 5-1/2 months now.

 

I got up after I had managed to get my emotions in check and did a little clicker training session with him and everything seemed good, and in fact since then he has seemed almost more relaxed and at ease. When I gave the dogs some meaty bones on Sunday, I gave Rudy his in a separate area as I usually do so he won't feel pressured or threatened by the other dogs. Well he got up and brought the bone to the room I was in and laid nearby me to chew on it. I felt like it was really a demonstration of trust and security with me.

 

So I just wanted to share my little incident and let you know I understand how much it can hurt and affect you. After all we love these dogs so much and want them to trust us with all their being, but it just takes time and some understanding on our part I think. I'm hoping things only get better from here on out for you and Bonnie.

Edited by k9soul
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I just want to say that I can really empathize with your feeling hurt. I had an incident with Rudy awhile back where he had been sleeping and then woke up and he got up and came to where I was sitting. I began stroking along his neck and shoulder as I always do and those seem to be some of his favorite spots, sometimes his eyes drift shut and he just leans into me. Well for some reason that time he suddenly growled and I took my hand away and looked at him and his ears were kind of "half mast" and eyes looked anxious and defensive. I turned away from him and after a moment he went back and laid down. But I was really confused and a bit shocked, and yes I felt hurt. I knew it was silly to feel hurt but I just couldn't help it. I still don't know why it happened. Was he still disoriented from sleep somehow? Had he had a bad dream? Had he been laying on that side and maybe I touched his shoulder where it had fallen asleep or something? I really don't know. I have had him for about 5-1/2 months now.

 

I got up after I had managed to get my emotions in check and did a little clicker training session with him and everything seemed good, and in fact since then he has seemed almost more relaxed and at ease. When I gave the dogs some meaty bones on Sunday, I gave Rudy his in a separate area as I usually do so he won't feel pressured or threatened by the other dogs. Well he got up and brought the bone to the room I was in and laid nearby me to chew on it. I felt like it was really a demonstration of trust and security with me.

 

So I just wanted to share my little incident and let you know I understand how much it can hurt and affect you. After all we love these dogs so much and want them to trust us with all their being, but it just takes time and some understanding on our part I think. I'm hoping things only get better from here on out for you and Bonnie.

 

Thank you so much, K9soul! I really appreciate your taking the time to write about your own similar experience, and understanding how my interpretation of Bonnie's actions could hurt my feelings. After it happened, I actually broke down for a minute or two. I wrote about it to hopefully learn something valuable and hear others' opinions, including their critique, but it really touched my heart that you understood how it could hurt. Thank you again!

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Forever Home on December 20, 2012
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
My Etsy Shop

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