Thank You, Trivia & Gus!

< A version of this article was published in the FEB 2021 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 07FEB21 >

< A short link for this page – >

January marks the anniversaries of two of the dogs that have been part of my life. They have both passed, but there is not a day I do not think about them or acknowledge how they helped me to become a better dog trainer and a better person.

Trivia – I had wanted a dog since I was five years old. My parents finally succumbed when I was 17.  I found a puppy at a pet store that was described as “A Poodle/Keeshond mix, and they never found the father.” I didn’t care about the breed; I just wanted a dog. Trivia had wavy hair and was as excited to see me as I was to see her. It was love at first sight. I left the pet shop with her, a collar, a leash, food and water bowls, a couple of toys, a rawhide, and the name of the veterinarian recommended by the pet shop. I was thirty plus dollars poorer but felt like the richest guy on the planet.

Why my parents let me get a dog at this point in our lives, I will never know. I suspect it had something to do with the fact that we had lost my older sister to a brain tumor just days before Christmas. Looking back, their decision makes even less sense, as my dad was scheduled to retire in two months, and they planned on traveling.  I was a junior in high school, active in many extracurricular activities, and had a girlfriend. You know what happened and who did most of the work of caring for Trivia the first few years of her life. My mom. Thank you, mom and dad, for your crazy decision to let me get a dog. It was clearly based on love with no logic involved.

In 1977 I knew nothing about training a dog or the benefits of training a dog, and no one suggested I train Trivia. I regret I did not know then what I know now as I believe I could have made Trivia’s life so much better. Trivia inspires me to help my clients and students do all they can for their furry companions. Thank you, Trivia; you were small but were in no way trivial.  [ FMI – ]

Gus (Laird Gustav MacMoose) – Gus was the first puppy Paula and I raised together. He was a Cairn Terrier, and despite our knowing better, we bought him at a pet shop. Most of my friends in the pet care professions believe that we learn the most from the dogs that are difficult. Paula and I remember Gus as the equivalent of a post-doctoral program.

  • Gus bit me on our first night in puppy class due to my ignorance and the class’s two instructors’ arrogance. That led to my interest in canine behavior and training. [ FMI – ]
  • Gus was the epitome of a silent thief. He walked off with tools from people working in our home and stole food right out of our hands and those of some of our staff. He taught me that the management of a dog and his environment was as crucial as training.
  • Within the first few months of his life, Gus developed a chronic urinary tract infection, which caused crystals to form in his urine. His veterinarian felt it was due to nutrition but could offer little advice other than to suggest resources where we could teach ourselves more about his nutritional needs. That led to a lifelong interest in pet nutrition for Paula and me and a commitment to educating others. We eventually found the answer for Gus’ crystals in 1997.[ FMI – ]
  • Thunderstorms were a significant event for Gus. One to two hours before the thunder and lightning started, he would become agitated. By the time the storm arrived, he was barking and lunging at the door to get outside so he could “kill it.” Most dogs that have issues with thunderstorms want to hide. Not Gus. The medications prescribed by his veterinarian were of no help, nor was the
    Don & Gus in 1991, Before the Alpha Roll

    desensitization CD played at very low levels on a world-class sound system. Gus knew the difference between a real storm and one on the stereo. The closest we came to a cure was moving from Wisconsin to Maine, where thunderstorms were not as frequent.

  • Gus started having seizures as he became older, which were diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. Like everything else in his life, Gus lived large, even with seizures, each in the Grand Mal category. He was treated for many years with the medications in use at that time. Even then, he would still have a seizure about every ten days. Eventually, we could not increase the dose of his medication without harming his liver. Paula started investigating complementary therapies such as homeopathy and acupuncture. Gus finally found his most significant relief from seizures through acupuncture, which, interestingly, also stooped his reactivity to thunderstorms. Both Paula and I credit Gus for opening our minds to complementary healing modalities that we now use with our pets and ourselves to supplement traditional medicine.

Gus was ultimately the catalyst that caused Paula and me to join the ranks of pet care professionals and to buy Green Acres Kennel Shop. He inspired our interest in behavior, training, nutrition, and complementary healthcare. While there were times, Gus frustrated us beyond belief; there was not a day he did not make us laugh. Thank you, Gus!

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
(  )

 Our Pets – Remembering Trivia (13NOV74 – 04AUG89) –

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gus

Thank You, PPG, and Gus Too!

In Memory of Gus (1991 – 2004)


Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©07FEB21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Shared Article – Thank You, PPG, and Gus Too!

By Don Hanson, PCBC-A

< Updated 3OCT22 >

A version of this article was first published in the May 2017 Issue of  BARKS from the Guild

< This is short link to this article on my blog
< >

I was not allowed to get my first puppy until I was a junior in high school in January 1975. I am not sure why my parents succumbed to my pleas after twelve years, but they did. When I purchased my cute little puff of black fur, a Keeshond/Poodle, and we never caught the father mix, neither the pet store nor the veterinarian suggested training her. Other than some basic housetraining, Trivia had no real training   during her life. She was a happy dog who liked everyone and was with us for 14 wonderful years. However, I believe that the life Trivia and I shared could have been much better if I knew what I know now. I am thankful that PPG exists today because they are an excellent resource for anyone who has just adopted their first dog.

My first venture into training a dog was when my wife Paula and I got our first puppy as a couple. It was the spring of 1991, we had just purchased our second home, and we decided we needed something to shed on the carpets; just kidding! So we did some research, and on the advice of Paula’s employer, a veterinarian, we went looking for a Cairn Terrier puppy. We found one and named him Laird Gustav MacMoose or “Gus” because he just acted like a “Gus.” Then, on the advice of Paula’s boss, we immediately enrolled ourselves and twelve-week-old Gus in a

Don & Gus – April 1991

puppy kindergarten class offered by the local dog club. We also purchased and read both Mother Knows Best and How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend because those were the two dog training books that were recommended at the time.

Our first night in puppy class was a complete disaster. First, things went downhill when I was told to command Gus to sit, and Gus failed to comply. Now, this was neither a big deal to us nor a surprise, as Paula and I knew that Gus had not received any training. However, it was a massive deal for the two instructors. In no uncertain terms, they told me that Gus was exerting his dominance and that I had to alpha-roll him to show him that I was the alpha. The alpha role was precisely what the books we were reading recommended. So not knowing any better, I did as I was told. Then, as I grabbed Gus by the scruff and pinned him, he immediately began thrashing around underneath me, growling and snapping and trying to connect his teeth with any part of me so I would let him go. I know now that he was terrified.

When I was told to grab his muzzle and “hold it shut,” I again, naively, complied. That is when Gus’ taught me that the dog’s teeth will ALWAYS be faster than the human’s hand. Gus instinctively sunk his canines deep into my palm. I said something inappropriate and immediately let go and began to bleed profusely all over the training room floor. As one instructor ran to get me some ice for my hand, the other gave me a dirty look and continued teaching the class. I handed the leash to Paula, disappointed in Gus and myself. I know now that the physical pain I experienced was nothing compared to the emotional trauma experienced by Gus.

After we went home, it was evident that the relationship between Gus and me was severely damaged. I was no longer being asked to “throw the ball” by the Cairn with a tennis ball in his mouth and a vibrating tail. Gus did not trust me, and I did not trust him. I let Paula handle him in the remainder of his puppy classes. When she went on to the next level of classes with a different training club, I elected not to participate. I am thankful that PPG exists and today can guide a young couple with a dog to find a qualified trainer that will teach them how to create and maintain a relationship based on trust and positive reinforcement. I am grateful that PPG can also recommend which books to read and, equally important, which to avoid.

Over time Gus and I learned to trust one another again, and training became something we both enjoyed. So when Paula and I adopted a second dog, we decided to take Gus and Shed to some additional classes. We were fortunate to discover Dr. Patricia McConnell and her Dog’s Best Friend Training facility, where we learned about the wonders of reward-based training. I worked with Gus, and Paula handled Shed, and the four of us learned a great deal but more importantly, we also had lots of fun.

Gus eventually became the catalyst for our getting into the pet care services industry. His behavioral issues, he became reactive when people tried to leave our home, led to my interest in aggression and reactivity. His bladder and urinary problems, determined to be due to diet, resulted in our preoccupation with pet nutrition. Finally, when Gus developed epilepsy, he sparked our interest in complementary medicine. Thank you, Gus. You were quite the teacher as well as being a fabulous furry friend.

In the fall of 1995, we moved from Wisconsin to Maine after purchasing the Green Acres Kennel Shop. Paula and I jumped right into our new business. Having learned the value of professional organizations in my previous career, we discovered and joined the American Boarding Kennel Association (ABKA) and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). Through the APDT email list, I met several people who remain close friends.

I also started reading every book I could find on dogs, behavior, husbandry, nutrition, and training.  I also began attending seminars and worked with our existing trainer to learn my craft.

After attending a series of seminars on clicker training in 1997, I started working with Gus using the clicker. I sent a press release to the Bangor Daily News, which sent out a reporter to interview me. They published an article about Gus, me, and clicker training, including two photos! Immediately we were inundated with people asking about clicker training classes. I realized I had to scramble to develop those classes. Thankfully, I discovered what I believe was Dr. Deborah Jones’s first publication on clicker training, a course curriculum. In a few weeks, we started our first pilot classes, and by the end, I decided we would use the clicker in all future classes. As you can see, Gus was quite an influence.

In the fall of 1998, I attended my first APDT conference in Valley Forge, PA, and stepped right into my first debate over shock collars. A shock collar company was exhibiting at the APDT trade show, and there was a significant discussion as to whether or not they should be allowed to do so. A group of us from the APDT email list, known as the “Treat Slinging Weenies,” complete with t-shirts, expressed our displeasure. That was my first experience in advocacy in the dog world, and the experience rewarded me. After that conference, APDT adopted a policy prohibiting the promotion of shock collars at future events.

Three years later, I was encouraged to run for the APDT Board of Trustees and started my first three-year term on the Board in 2002. Hoping to expand upon the ban on promoting shock collars at the conference,e in July of 2002, I proposed that the APDT adopt a resolution defining dog-friendly dog training. At the time, the term “dog-friendly” was used in both the APDT Vision and Mission statements.

I based my resolution to clarify what APDT meant by “dog-friendly on a position by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association WSAVA stating, “No companion animal should be trained in such a way that is detrimental to its health and welfare, especially by methods which force it to exceed its natural capacities or strength by employing artificial training aids which may cause physical injury, pain, suffering or distress.” Since a survey of the APDT membership indicated that 65% of the members responding believed that APDT should advocate only positive training approaches, and 57% of the respondents believed APDT should NOT be impartial toward training methods. I naively thought the adoption of my proposal would be a “No Brainer.”

My proposal ended by stating, “THEREFORE, it is only logical to conclude that “dog friendly-training” does not include the use of tools or methods that are intended to cause pain or physical injury and that a majority of the membership support this conclusion. And THEREFORE, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, as an organization, will only advocate, promote or endorse, dog training which does not cause the dog pain or physical injury.” Sadly, my motion died for lack of a second. I was very disappointed that no one was willing to discuss my proposal.

I served on the APDT Board for two consecutive terms waiting for an opportunity to get APDT to take a more assertive position on dog-friendly practices. Still, it never happened during those six years. I was again encouraged to run for the Board in 2010 and was elected to another three-year term. Sadly, it was evident the APDT was still not ready to take a stand on the use of aversives.

In 2014 I took my first serious look at PPG, applied for membership, and let my membership in the APDT expire. Earlier I stated that I believe professional organizations are essential. To me, membership in such an organization demonstrates an individual’s and a business’s commitment to the best practices of their profession. For that reason, as soon as a team member at Green Acres or ForceFreePets completes their probationary training period, I enroll them as a member of the PPG no matter what role they play here. Every trainer, pet care technician, groomer, customer service associate, and manager is a PPG member and is expected to live up to the PPG guiding principles. It is a condition of employment.

I am very thankful that I finally found a cohort of like-minded pet care professionals committed to the same things I am and their willingness to support those beliefs publicly. Thank you, PPG, and thank you, Niki Tudge.

I continue to believe that it is necessary to advocate for the humane treatment of pets by all pet care professionals. I became an email list manager for a group of boarding kennel and daycare operators in 1996. In 2006, some members of the list began discussing how they used squirt bottles, spray nozzles on hoses, and anti-bark shock collars on their guests to control barking. I was appalled and made being pet-friendly a requirement of being a member of the list. Around the same time, a client informed me that a kennel in our area used a shock collar on their dog while the dog was in the care of the facility. This was something the dog’s owners would never have approved, and they were rightfully very upset.

As a result, I decided Green Acres Kennel Shop needed to be proactive about stating precisely what we mean by “Pet Friendly.” As a result, we published our first position statement entitled “Green Acres Is A “Pet-Friendly Facility” ( in February of 2002.

In the Spring of 2022, we took another step forward in the goal of a world where all pet care professionals are humane, ethical, and transparent in their policies and practices by applying to become an organizational member of Pet Industry Advocacy International (PIAI). Membership in PIAI is open to any pet professional organization that currently practices and advocates for ethical, humane science-based services that have been in business for at least three years and have a minimum of ten members/employees/volunteers. Green Acres Kennel Shop is the first boarding, daycare, and grooming facility to be accepted by PIAI. I encourage all eligible organizations and facilities to become PIAI members as it’s what pets need and what most people with pets, expect of those caring for their pets.


Green Acres’ First Statement on Being A Pet Friendly-Facility

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly, Force-Free Pet Care

Green Acres Kennel Shop Position on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs

Pet Professional Guild Guiding Principles

Pet Professional Guild – Pet Training, Management and Care: We Now Know Enough to Stop Shocking Our Pets – An Open Letter to Pet Industry Representatives Regarding the Use of Shock in Animal Training –

Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Training Dogs – Gus, the Dominance Myth, An Alpha Roll, and a Damaged Relationship

Dominance: Reality or Myth –

Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) and the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), serving on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairing the Advocacy Division. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show podcast, available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: The opinions in this article are those of Don Hanson.

©3OCT22, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gus

< A version of this article was published in the Winter 2017 issue of Maine DOG Magazine>

In this series of articles on pet nutrition, I will start by discussing myself, my pets, and why I am so passionate about this topic. I will follow that with an article discussing the fundamental nutritional needs of both dogs and cats along with my opinion on the pros and cons of various type of diets; kibble/dry, canned/wet, homemade, frozen raw, freeze-dried raw, dehydrated, and others. Next, I will review the many myths circulating about pet food and the facts that refute those myths.  Lastly, I will discuss what to look for in a pet food and a pet food company and what to avoid.

The first four things I tell my clients and students about pet nutrition are; 1) Quality, wholesome nutrition from fresh, whole foods is fundamental to good health, 2) all pet food companies and pet foods are NOT the same, 3) there is no single brand or formula of pet food that is the “best” for all pets, and 4) Be wary when seeking advice on pet nutrition, as the pet food world can be a deceptive place. Considering the latter, you are probably asking yourself; “Why should I trust what this guy has to say about pet nutrition?”  So I will start with some background on why I am so passionate about this topic, and hopefully, you will find that I am worthy of your trust.

I became interested in pet nutrition long before I knew I would become a pet care professional. My interest was not driven by choice but by necessity. My wife and I adopted our Cairn Terrier Gus, in 1991. Before Gus had been with us for a year, he started to have chronic urinary tract infections (UTI). Our veterinarian tried all of the conventional treatments, and without fail, the infections kept coming back.

Crystals are often present in the urine when a dog has a UTI. Gus had two types of crystals in his urine; calcium oxalate crystals which occur when the urine is


acidic and triple phosphate or struvite crystals which occur in urine when it is alkaline or base. If you remember your high school chemistry, you will recall that acid and base are opposites. Measured on a numerical pH (Hydrogen potential) scale, seven is neutral, less than seven is acidic, and more than seven is base.

The pH of Gus’ urine could swing between 5 and 8 in a 24 hour period, going from base to acid and back. This variation in pH was just one more conundrum in determining what was going on with him, but our veterinarian was convinced it was a nutritional issue. As a result, he had us purchase several bags of different brands and formulas of pet food and to feed Gus x number of kibbles of one brand and y number of kibbles of another brand while monitoring his urinary pH and keeping records of our results. We did this for several weeks, and there was still no significant change. The infection cleared up, but the crystals remained, they continued to be an irritant and Gus continued to have accidents and infections. We kept trying different foods and measuring pH to no avail, and Gus eventually had to have a bladder stone removed.

In the summer of 1994, we vacationed in Maine, and while we were here, my wife purchased a copy of Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Dr. Richard Pitcairn. After reading the book, Paula started preparing Gus’ food from scratch, based on recipes in Dr. Pitcairn’s book. We tried different recipes, measured Gus’ urinary pH, and there were still no significant, lasting improvements.

We moved to Maine in the fall of 1995 when we purchased Green Acres Kennel Shop, and Gus’ UTI’s remained a part of our lives. In the spring of 1997, a pet food distributor walked into the store trying to convince us to sell his brand of pet food. We were not looking for another food at the time, but as we chatted, we started sharing dog stories. We told him about Gus and his UTI’s, and then we realized we had something in common; he also had a dog that had had crystals in his urine. He told us his dogs UTI’s resolved when he started feeding his brand of food, supplemented by a probiotic and a pH supplement also manufactured by the company he represented. He offered us a six week supply of the food and supplements at no charge saying “Try it and let me know what you think.” At this point, we had been dealing with Gus’ UTI’s for over five years and thought what have we got to lose. Before we had used the six-week supply, we saw marked improvement in Gus’ urinary health and decided we needed to learn more about this pet food and supplement company.

We started feeding this brand of food to our pets and selling it in our store. This company has a strong belief in education, so we started reading the books written by the company’s owner, a veterinarian. His approach to nutrition was very different from other pet food companies. When asked “Why shouldn’t we feed our pets only dry pet food, even if it’s a quality brand?” he responded “For the same reasons people would not eat the same tired old packaged product at every meal for a lifetime. We intuitively know variety and freshness are linked to health. 100% is not known about nutrition, and it is therefore absurd to claim one can fabricate a 100% complete diet. It seems that the ideal would be for people to make their own pet foods, but many people are too busy for this. The critical thing is to know the ideal, and for pet carnivores that is their natural prey diet–fresh, whole, and raw. Since it is never possible to achieve the ideal at all times, compromises must be made. By keeping the diet as close to the ideal as possible, one makes the fewest compromises and thus has the best chance at health.” [emphasis added]

Wow! The owner of a pet food company is saying that fresh, whole food prepared by a pet’s guardian is a better choice than any commercial pet food. That is not something I ever expected to hear from the owner of a pet food company, but at a common sense level, everything he said makes perfect sense. This prompted us to start reading everything we could on pet nutrition as we wanted to feed our pets as best as we could afford while helping our clients do the same.

We have been on this pet nutrition journey for 24 plus years. We learn new things all of the time while watching the continually changing cast of characters in the pet food world. It takes effort to keep current with all of these changes, but we feel it is necessary because we need to be looking out for our pets.


Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog (


What do you feed your dog?

Should I Feed My Pet A Raw Diet?

Video – The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton – A video of animal nutritionist, Dr. Richard Patton’s presentation, The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition, presented for Green Acres Kennel Shop in Bangor, ME on April 28th, 2016. –

Reflections on 20 Years as a Pet Care Professional – Changes in Pet Food and Nutrition – part 1 –

Reflections on 20 Years as a Pet Care Professional – Pet Food and Nutrition – part 2

Homemade Food for Your Pet –

Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 1

Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 2

Which Brand of Pet Food is the Best? – Part 3

Why Rotating Diets Makes Sense

Determining True Pet Food Costs

How Much Fat Is In Your Pet’s Food?

Book Review – Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack – The paradox of pet nutrition by Richard Patton

Pet Nutrition –Vital Essentials® Pet Food


Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show (


What do you feed your pets?

Podcast – Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton

Podcast – Holistic and Complementary Wellness for Pets – Our Personal Journey

Podcast – Raw Diets and the Carnivore Meat Company-Vital Essentials-Dee Ferranti and Jodi Langellotti

Podcast – Holistic and Complementary Wellness for Pets – Nutrition and Raw Food for Pets with Bette Schubert from Bravo Pet Foods

Podcast – The Rationale for Feeding Pets Raw Foods with Bette Schubert from Bravo Pet Foods

Podcast – Bravo’s Raw Pets Food, Treats, Chewables and Bones with Bette Shubert

Podcast – Feeding Your Pet A Raw Diet with Gary Bursell of Steve’s Real Food for Pets

Podcast – Feeding Your Pet A Raw Diet with Nicole Lindsley of Steve’s Real Food for Pets



Beginnings – Getting Your Dog and Cat Started on a Raw Diet by Melinda Miller and Honoring Your Cat’s Natural Diet by Terri Grow <Click here for a free download>

Feline Nutrition: Nutrition for the Optimum Health and Longevity of your Cat – Lynn Curtis

Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purr-fect Health – Kymythy Schultze

Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats – The Ultimate Diet – Kymythy Schultze

Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack – Dr. Richard Patton

See Spot Live Longer – Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

The Truth About Pet Foods – Dr. Randy Wysong

Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet – Steve Brown


Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( in Bangor. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show heard on The Pulse AM620 WZON and streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. A list of upcoming shows and podcasts of past shows can be found at Don also writes about pets at his blog:

©3APR17, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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