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It has been a hard few weeks: poor Minstrel has left a huge void.

Three weeks ago I scattered his ashes along with those of Spot, his earlier amd most beloved companion.  We had planted a tree for Spot in a place where he loved to rest and I scattered the joint ashes around this tree in the little spinney.

But we now have little Chester/Jester who has come to keep lonely Saxon company: from the same animal sanctuary.

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As you can see he is a Shetland.  He came on trial but has fitted in well and is a very amenable chap although not backward in coming forward!  As our vet said, “He is a leader isn’t he?”  And that is just what Saxon needed: they got on well from the beginning.  As Chester/Jester was unloaded and came into the field he just took off and inspected everything with no qualms, basically saying, “Come with me or not, it’s up to you but I’m going this way.”  Saxon looked bemused at first but then followed on behind and now they are inseparable.

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We prefer the name Jester but as we have not yet been given his Passport we can do nothing about that.  He is a rescue from the Shetland Isles, as yet we do not know his full back story.  He is 12 years old and 35 inches at the shoulder, only 2/3rd the size of Saxon.  In fact when he stands in front of Saxon he looks as though he could almost stand under Saxon’s tum!

The temptation is to treat him like a large dog but we need to remember that he is in fact a large horse, just in a small body.  He now whinnies at me when I go out to the field and seems very sweet but it is important that he knows who is boss.

We had the vet out last week to file down Saxon’s teeth which were giving him trouble.  Our vet, Chris, has had Shetlands for many years.  At Easter he had to have his two put down, they were 34 and 36 years old respectively.  He was heartbroken.  He said they used to wander wherever they wanted, often coming into the kitchen.

So he went and adopted seven Shetlands from the Sanctuary that Chester/Jester and Saxon come from.  Chris and his wife began taking the ponies into Old Peoples’ Homes and to Schools for children with special needs.  But because of Health and Safety rules the ponies have to wear socks and horse nappies.  Two of the ponies did not enjoy this so they were left at home to graze peacefully, but the others loved it.  One old lady spent her last months knitting socks for the ponies: when she died Chris asked her family if they would like her favourite pony to come to the funeral.  They were overjoyed, said yes at once, and the pony led the cortège.

One particular incident which moved Chris profoundly was when a boy of 8 who was deaf and blind was shown one of the ponies. The lad felt it all over and then just leaned over the pony’s back with his arms around its neck, feeling it breathing and stayed there for ages, at least forty minutes.  The pony remained still the whole time.

Chris confirmed that, unlike most horses, Shetlands can live out in the worst weather because they have two coats of hair, rather like water birds have with down and feathers.  The base coat is very dense and soft like down, with the longer coarser hairs making up the top coat.  So we have bought Saxon a new, very thick, padded winter coat with a cover which goes all the way up his neck to his ears and fits round his neck so that he can stay outside more in winter with Chester/Jester.  But Jester will just have to come in and spend the night in the stable if the weather is too bad for Saxon, even though Jester gets bored and wants to be out and about.

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(This is not Saxon’s new coat, but gives the idea.  His is navy blue with green edging.  This photo comes from Google images.)

So there we are, the continuous circle of life moving onwards.  Sometimes comforting, sometimes feeling rather cruel when we might rather get off and take time out.

But it is a great blessing to have two happy ponies once more grazing in the field behind the house: to look out at empty fields would be desolate.

 

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They came to take Minstrel’s body away yesterday.  I remembered the day 20 years ago when he came to us.

I had driven over to Matlock to fetch him in a horsebox which had an open internal body so that the horse could see the driver and vice versa (my choice).  There was only a short partition between us meaning he could lean over, just, to us. He did not like the journey much and was shivering with stress so we stopped early on in the journey at a Newsagent to buy him some mints: horses usually LOVE mints.  Minstrel certainly did and my companion fed him polo mints all the way back to our house.  Minstrel’s stomach always ruled his life!

Saxon our remaining pony was adopted from a local animal sanctuary when Spot our first and oldest pony died.  Spot had been Minstrel’s companion and when Spot went blind Minstrel became his guide and security, leading him around the fields and standing guard over him when Spot lay down to sleep and rest.  When Spot died at the grand old age of 32 Minstrel was beside himself with grief: it came off him in waves so tangible that it affected all who came near him.  Before that I never knew that horses could shed tears.  Minstrel became iller and iller with grief, hence the adoption of Saxon.

Now Saxon is left alone.  He does not appear to be grief-stricken as Minstrel was all those years ago.  We left Minstrel’s body in the field for 24 hours so that Saxon could come to terms with what had happened and so that he was in no doubt that his friend had not just left, but had died.  For the first day and night Saxon stood beside Minstrel’s body but after that he drifted around the field.  After Minstrel’s body was taken away we brought Saxon into the stable for the night: the place where he felt secure.  But yesterday afternoon and today he has been standing at the top of the field looking for – what?  Something.  He is constantly scanning the horizon.  Is he looking for Minstrel or any horse/pack that he can find?

Saxon has always been a nervy pony and clearly hates being alone: in the horse world this means that he is vulnerable to attack by predators.  Some horses can cope, some cannot.

So what to do?

Husband resolutely states that this must be my decision.  However, he refuses to let local farmers run other animals on our land, which would provide company for Saxon.  He also refuses to let anyone else come and pasture and stable their horses with us, which would have also helped.  He suggested getting a pig or a goat, but they would be lots of work and more vets’ bills.  If I were younger I would leap at the chance but having a gammy knee is not the time to take on more work.

This appears to leave two alternatives.  One is to return Saxon to the Sanctuary.  But he has been here for over 12 years and is at home here.  He is also bonded to us.  I rang the Sanctuary today to find how they were doing and it appears that things were so bad this summer that they were one month away from having all their animals put down.  The last thing they can manage is yet another animal.  So that one is off the agenda.  Of course there are other sanctuaries but it seems hard on Saxon who is an old horse (27) with not many years left to him.  The second choice is another horse.  The lady at the Sanctuary said that they have a 12 year old Shetland pony who is beautifully natured and will get on with anyone.  He was abandoned some years ago on Shetland itself.  Forewick ChesterI don’t know much more about him yet.  He is only 35 inches tall at the withers (about 8.75 hands) so would, in theory, be easier to manage than a large horse.  Saxon himself is only 12 hands.

Also it appears that Shetlands are good-doers, hardy and easy to care for.  Tick, tick, tick.

The upshot is that Chester, for that is the name of the Shetland, is coming on Sunday morning to see how he and Saxon get on.  Of course this will be explained by husband to family and friends with uplifted eyes and a deep sigh, as being my choice:  I suppose it is, but only because all other avenues were closed off to me!

I hope that this will help Saxon to be happier, give Chester a good home and help the animal Sanctuary.  Nothing will fill that particular hole in my heart though.

(Husband has just come in and said that he dislikes Shetlands! OK but what does he want to do?)

As for me, apart from the internet I am holed-up and taking some days off away from the world.  I cannot speak to anyone yet without breaking down and it is taking all my energies just to get through at the moment.  Minstrel was cremated today and his ashes will be coming home in a few days.  I will scatter them along with those of his oldest and greatest friend, Spot, whose ashes I still have.

I have asked for a tiny piece of his forelock to keep in a drawer because it still smells of him.  These animals, they do so get into your heart.

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Life has been complicated lately: I have had a couple of accidents, nothing in themselves but the accumulation of trauma has caused an old injury on a knee to re-assert itself.  So I have not been able to sit, lift or drive.  Walking is compromised and going to the loo is cause for imagination and extra dexterity!!

Husband is not himself either, so all in all, we have had some weeks of abnormal home life.  At  least, I insist that it is abnormal and not the beginning of new ‘normal’ around her.

I have had to cancel a couple of trips to see close friends, one in Ireland and the other in Oban, much to my disappointment.  And also had to cancel our appointments with the Supervet to take our two dogs for consultations:(

There is another trip planned which I will tell you about in another post, so fingers crossed it will come to pass.

But I wanted to share a short video with you of the most inspiring and wonderful person who has helped me enormously this year while I was feeling so helpless and desperate.  I identify so much with her and regard her as a role model.

I hope you enjoy this too:)

 

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“A scapegoat is a person or animal which takes on the sins of others, or is unfairly blamed for problems.”  From:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scapegoat

Well, this post introduces the Scape-rabbit!

Every Tuesday morning I have a flute lesson.  In fact it is a dual flute lesson as I go along with a friend who also plays the flute.  We have a joint lesson during which we do the usual: some sight-reading, some tonal exercises and some duet playing.  All great fun.

However, we are two ladies of ‘a certain age’ which carries along with it certain responsibilities.  This means that we often find that fitting in our practice takes some doing: there are always elderly neighbours, young grand-children, husbands or other family members needing our attention etc etc

We are past the stage in our lives of using the excuse that ‘the dog ate our homework’.  Usually we just explain quite honestly what prevented us putting in the work during the previous week.  But this morning my friend explained that she had not been able to practice because she is looking after her son’s house rabbit, called Watson.

 

( Photo:By Aznseiteki at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20975823)

Apparently whenever she tried to play her flute, he dashed under the table in the dining-room, which has a wooden floor, and thumped vigorously and loudly with both his hind feet, frantically signalling to all and any rabbits in the area that danger was afoot.

Next photo and text from: petnaturals.com

https://i1.wp.com/petnaturals.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/6757941_l.jpg
“Thumping doesn’t go quite the way Disney would have us believe, right? Instead, it looks a bit more like a donkey kick. Rabbits stand on all four feet in a tiptoe fashion and lift just their back feet to pump them against the ground. The thump is a warning to all other nearby bunnies and humans: something dangerous is here.” – See more at: http://petnaturals.com/blog/why-does-my-bunny-do-that/#sthash.XeEt0zPU.dpuf

Even when my friend climbed her tall Victorian house and played in the high attic, he still heard her and the loud, echoing, thumping reverberated throughout the house.

Being of a kindly nature she disliked upsetting or worrying Watson so clearly she had to refrain from playing at all last week.  Hence, no practice.  And of course, it was all the rabbit’s fault.

Our flute teacher fell about laughing.  This was the first time a Scape-rabbit had been presented to her as the cause of a pupil not working:)

 

By Xoxi at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7484047

 

I actually have no idea what Watson looks like, I was laughing too much to ask, and have no photos of him, hence the borrowed photos on this blog post.

 

 

 

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When adopting Ronda, the owner and manager of the Rescue explained that dogs meet a horrific end in Eastern Europe.  He would not go into details, but said that he brought dogs over to the UK so that he could have them humanely euthanased even if he could not find them homes, as that was so much kinder than the death they would expect back home.  Interestingly, he mentioned that the countries that adopt the most of these dogs are Germany and the UK.

So when looking for our second dog we looked at various Romanian Rescues.

We went to meet one dog who was very sweet but because of her experiences was rather nervous and dominant (they have to fight for their lives in the public shelters in Romania):  Ronda ended up frightened by this dog and begged at the door to go home, so we reluctantly decided against adopting that other young girl.

Back to the websites and I found a dog whom I thought might be a good match both for us and for Ronda: a male,  quieter, who loves other dogs, rides in the car, walks well on the lead and has been fostered for a couple of years already so is used to living in houses etc.  Unfortunately, he is quite a lot older than we hoped for at nearly eight years old, but we are assured he still likes to play.  Although Ronda wants to play and bounce we felt that for the sake of her legs we would need to adopt a dog who would play but would not excite her or bounce around more than was good for her.

Eddie, the name of this potential adoptee, was four hours drive away.

So arrangements were made, and we and Ronda went downto Norfolk to meet Eddie.  We all had a walk in the forest together and they were fine: they ignored each other for the most part but there was no agression or anxiety on either side.

Eddie was very ‘backwards in coming forwards’ as we say around here: ie he was very self-contained and disinclined to interact with us or Ronda but had the sweetest expression. index.jpg eddie in pub 1

My husband was not won over at all and expressed considerable misgivings but I relied on the assessment of the fosterer and pushed to adopt him: so we did and brought him home, with both dogs riding side by side on the back seat in their dog harnesses.  They were not bosom buddies but they behaved well and neither tried to take advantage of the other.

Eddie’s background is even sadder than Ronda’s.  Someone has chopped his tail off leaving a six inch stump:

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it was clearly a very fine Collie-type tail before that time.

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Someone has also bashed him on the top of his nose with an iron pipe or bar totally crushing his nasal passages which has left him with a slight drip to one nostril and a lot of snorting and snuffling.  And someone else caught him in a dog-snare and left him for days without food or water, causing great trauma to his hips.  Finally he pulled the snare clear of the stake and was found wandering round with its end hanging, with the loop completely embedded in his flesh and bone.

Capture

 

He has a huge indentation round his body which is obvious when one runs a hand over his hips; his rear end is deformed where he has physical bone and muscle wastage and he has suffered considerable damage to his rear leg muscles.  As far as we can ascertain his internal organs are OK but time will tell.

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He is very sweet and undemanding and I hope that gradually he will come out of his shell and get to love life.  (We had one cruelty case many years ago and it took that dog two years before he would wag his tail.)

Day 2 with a bone:

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But after two weeks Eddie loves Ronda and she loves him.  Today I found them both curled up together in the same dog bed, only when I went to take a photo they moved.  Sorry about that.

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They are both undominant and submissive dogs and have bonded into a little pack with us.   They now come to their names and my dog whistle and dried black pudding plays a huge part in both their lives as a training aid!

My admiration and thanks go out to the wonderful people in Romania who spend their time, money and love, on trying to cope with a really difficult stray dog problem in a country with limited resources.

PS  Today Eddie began to wag his little stumpy tail!!!!!  Progress:)

Today I took this photo of them both on  a duvet on the landing.

 

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Celebrate Dr. Jane’s legacy with the global Roots & Shoots family!

On February 19th, 2016, Roots & Shoots celebrates its 25th anniversary. Help celebrate by joining the global Growing Together campaign for plants, trees and forests. Create healthy habitats for plants and trees and become part of a movement that is making a difference for people, animals and the environment!

It was in the early 1970s that by reading her book, ‘In the shadow of man’, I became familiar with Jane van Lawick Goodall’s ground-breaking work with chimpanzees.  She had lived alone with a group of chimps, eating and sharing their lives and made observations that were to change the scientific community’s perception of the great apes: no longer were human beings the only tool makers and users on the planet.

“By remaining in almost constant contact with the chimps, she discovered a number of previously unobserved behaviors. She noted that chimps have a complex social system, complete with ritualized behaviors and primitive but discernible communication methods, including a primitive “language” system containing more than 20 individual sounds. She is credited with making the first recorded observations of chimpanzees eating meat and using and making tools. Tool making was previously thought to be an exclusively human trait, used, until her discovery, to distinguish humans from animals. She also noted that chimpanzees throw stones as weapons, use touch and embraces to comfort one another, and develop long-term familial bonds. The male plays no active role in family life but is part of the group’s social stratification. The chimpanzee “caste” system places the dominant males at the top. The lower castes often act obsequiously in their presence, trying to ingratiate themselves to avoid possible harm. The male’s rank is often related to the intensity of his entrance performance at feedings and other gatherings.

To preserve the wild chimpanzee’s environment, Goodall encourages African nations to develop nature-friendly tourism programs, a measure that makes wildlife into a profitable resource. She actively works with business and local governments to promote ecological responsibility. Her efforts on behalf of captive chimpanzees have taken her around the world on a number of lecture tours. She outlined her position strongly in her 1990 book Through a Window: “The more we learn of the true nature of nonhuman animals, especially those with complex brains and corresponding complex social behaviour, the more ethical concerns are raised regarding their use in the service of man–whether this be in entertainment, as ‘pets,’ for food, in research laboratories or any of the other uses to which we subject them. This concern is sharpened when the usage in question leads to intense physical or mental suffering–as is so often true with regard to vivisection.” (from http://www.biography.com/people/jane-goodall-9542363#discoveries)

 In 1991  Roots & Shoots was developed: Dr. Goodall created Roots & Shoots with 12 Tanzanian high school students who wanted to tackle urgent problems they witnessed in their community and it is now the youth-led community action and learning programme of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane Goodall to place the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people. Through the program, young people map their community to identify specific challenges their neighborhoods face. From there, they prioritize the problems, develop a plan for a solution, and take action all while developing the skills and attitudes to become part of the next generation of Dr. Jane Goodalls.

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The programme is about making positive change happen — for our communities, for animals and for the environment. With hundreds of thousands of young people in more than 130 countries, the Roots & Shoots network connects youth of all ages who share a desire to create a better world. Young people identify problems in their communities and take action. Through service projects, youth-led campaigns and an interactive website, Roots & Shoots members are making a difference across the globe.

For more information, please visit http://www.rootsandshoots.org.

 This year, Dr. Goodall is inviting individuals around the world to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Roots & Shoots by participating in the Growing Together Campaign.


Learn more about the campaign in the USA:

http://www.rootsandshoots.org/25years_USA

Learn more about the global celebration:

http://www.rootsandshoots.org/25years

 

 

Example Growing Together Projects from around the world:
In Western Australia, students planted a native species
garden where endangered animals can feed and nest.

In Austria, groups are contacting local media and making films to inform on the important functions of the forests.

In Belgium, Roots & Shootsers planted a vegetable garden to offer a haven for urban biodiversity and promote sustainable food. Elementary students in British Columbia, Canada removed invasive species to enhance habitat around a lake. In France, youth organized to clean up litter in their school yard and the nearby forest. Roots & Shoots Youth in India are not only planting trees but are working to raise awareness about conservation.
Young people in Indonesia are teaching the community about organutans to raise awareness about habitat destruction. In Peru, students protect schoolyard plants by caring for them and posting signs to keep
others from harming them.

Roots & Shoots youth in Qatar created kits to share with members of their community to
show them how to start their own roof gardens.

In Spain, students are recycling cell phones to reuse components and fund educational and conservation projects in Africa. Tanzanian students planted 2 acres of diverse trees to benefit their school and community. Youth in the United Kingdom are promoting educational resources to connect kids with nature

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We did not set out to adopt a dog from Romania.

We knew nothing about European Strays.

We went to the local pound and found that the dogs we liked were now too large and strong for us at our advancing age, and, in this part of the country, the others were mostly Staffie crosses: very sweet but my husband does not like how they look.

Appearances should be irrelevant but we both need to be happy with our choices.

I decided I would like to go back to having a couple of dogs as we used to and that since we could not manage a large dog I would like to adopt two medium sized ones.

After hours spent trawling the internet and visiting local pounds and shedding many tears at the judgements we were making when we did not adopt a particular dog, we travelled a few miles north to Barnsley to meet a young dog, just under two years old they think, whom I felt might be a good match with us.  She was at Royston Animal Rescue near Barnsley: a rescue which looks after both local and foreign dogs although I did not know this when we first made contact.  It appeared that this dog, called Ronda, was a stray rescued from the streets of a city in Romania.

As soon as we met her I knew she was the one.  I felt I knew her already, like meeting an old friend after a separation.  She was very smiley with a real twinkle in her eyes.  We had taken some dog treats and she sat down  for one and then rolled over to have her tummy tickled.  Leaving her there while we went home to await our home inspection was really difficult.  She sat in the door of her kennel grinning and looking after us as we left.

Three days later we were inspected and passed albeit with the requirement that we install a dog proof gate beside the steps leading up to our hard standing: this was duly done.

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We were warned that Ronda had never lived in a house before, therefore was not house-trained, nor was she car-trained or used to walking on a lead.  Also, the kennels had just noticed a limp in one of her back legs and had decided to have that investigated before she left them.  We were not worried by any of this after meeting her, but it might have made a difference if we had known beforehand!

Two days later we went to collect her.  Well, I did not go as I was in bed with a virus, but a young friend/unofficial daughter, her partner and my husband went to collect her from a local vet because she had been having an anaesthetic that day while she had X-rays to check out her back leg.  Unfortunately, the results are not good.

It appears that life has not been kind to this young stray.  She has been hit at least once by a car/s: her pelvis has been deformed by one accident when young, and one back leg has been broken and had a metal plate and wire implanted, rather badly I’m afraid, which means that the leg sticks out at an odd angle and has suffered nerve damage.  She limps after the slightest exercise, which for a young dog is very sad.  It also turns out that she has very bad hip displasia in both hips made worse by her lifestyle and diet.  We do not know the prognosis yet or what may be physically or financially possible.

However I rang the vet whose video you can watch on my earlier post of January 25th ‘A Ray of Hope’.  Their practice is many miles away but I knew they had considerable orthopedic experience.  They said they would give me a free electronic consultation if my vet would email the X-ray results to them: they will say what they might be able do for her, and whether there is another vet nearer to me whom they think could offer the same expertise.

Meanwhile, Ronda, the dog in question, has settled in like a dream.  Given that she was not house trained and had never been in a house before, she has been no trouble at all. (Photo taken on first day here after a bath and a good brush I hasten to say, as she smelled dreadful when she first came!)

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She does like to tear her bedding to shreds to make it comfy and is always on the look-out for plastic boxes or bags to investigate for food, but hey, she grew up a stray so these things are only natural.  We love her to bits and she has my husband wrapped around her littlest paw.  We just make sure to take her out every four hours during the day and shut her in her dog crate at night, and there are no ‘accidents’.  We have had to acclimatise her to riding in cars and by cars passing her in the street, but the judicious use of dried black pudding has done wonders for her confidence in these area.  She does pull on the lead but we are working on that: however, she HATES to be held by her collar: we are told this is typical of Romanian strays, because being held this way was always the precursor to pain and trouble.  So we walk her on a harness and that obviates the problem.

She is the smiliest, happiest, sweetest dog, attentive to our every mood and intonation: we have to go very gently with her training as she is a sensitive girl.

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If you raise a hand or foot, flap a tea-towel, fry fat in a pan or unwrap some aluminium foil she cringes to the floor and rushes to her dog crate for cover.  Even a stern ‘No’ sends her crashing to her stomach to crawl away. It is so sad and makes one feel like a brute.

But this week, after five weeks with us, she learned how to play for the first time.  She ran after a ball and brought it back.  She has a rope octopus which she flings in the air and carries around.  And she lies at our feet with a bone exuding happiness and contentment.

The Rescue asked us for photos of her as she settles in to send back to her rescuers in Romania.  These wonderful people gather pathetic scraps from the street or the ghastly public shelters, nurse them back to health and then send them off on trains to other countries and do not always know what happens to the dogs they cared for.  The least we can do is send them some photos:)

I understand from the Manager of the Rescue that he tries to bring as many strays over as possible: he knows he cannot find homes for all of them, but he would rather have them kindly and humanely euthanased over here than face the barbaric and horrific deaths awaiting them back home.

Interesting fact: apparently Germany and UK take most of the dogs from Romania.

However our girl got here, she has enriched our lives beyond measure already, and I hope we can do the same for her.

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