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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-28-2019, 11:28 AM Thread Starter
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Puppies and separation anxiety

About two weeks after coming to live with us, Myers has started to show signs of separation anxiety, especially pacing frenetically in his crate, barking endlessly, and losing control of his bowels when I leave the room.

Right now, he and I are working on calming training. That seems to be recommended by behaviorists; however, one thing that I have not run across on this forum (although I could have missed it) is “Do SA symptoms fade as the puppy matures?”

Eventually I have to go back to work, although I have arranged my schedule so that after a good walk, he will be at home alone 4 hours in the morning before I come home for lunch. Very likely I can take him back to my office in the afternoon (if he is well-behaved enough not to bark incessantly if I leave my office briefly).

I appreciate any feedback! Thanks!

(In the picture below, Myers is frenetic in a good way.)
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-28-2019, 12:48 PM
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First, we can start with a definition of anxiety, fear, and phobia and whether we can use these terms interchangeably in dogs? True fear always involves avoidance, with an intent to decrease the probability of social interaction. This is in contrast to anxiety, where avoidance is not the first choice. Dogs that are driven primarily by anxiety may put themselves into a social situation although it makes them uncomfortable and worried. Fear and anxiety have signs that overlap. Some non-specific signs like lowering of the back shaking and trembling can be characteristic of both fear and anxiety. Phobias involve profound, non-graded, extreme response and manifest as intense avoidance, escape, or anxiety and associated with the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Anxiety, in general, is broadly defined as the apprehensive anticipation of future danger or misfortune. Non-specific signs of anxiety include: Urination, defecation ,anal sac expression, panting, increased respiration and heart rates, trembling/shaking, muscle rigidity (usually with tremors,lip licking, nose licking,
grimace (retraction of lips), head shaking, smacking or popping lips/jaws together, salivation, vocalization, yawning, freezing, pacing or hiding.

Separation anxiety can be defined as physical, physiological and/or behavioral signs of distress exhibited by the
animal only in the absence of, or lack of access to the owner. The diagnosis is confirmed if there is consistent, intensive destruction, elimination, vocalization, or salivation exhibited only in the virtual and/or actual absence of the
owner. In virtual absences the owner is present but the dog does not have access to the client (e.g., a door is closed). How common is separation? Estimates are that 10-20% of dogs could experience it at some point, and some people estimate that affected dogs could go as high as 30%. Most dogs are distressed within the first 30 minutes of being left. We tend to see most behavioral conditions appear as full blown conditions as the dog is undergoing social maturity but puppies 4-6 months of age can also show separation anxiety. It can be related genetically.

While there are attachment concerns for some types of separation anxiety, ignoring the dog is a disaster. Instead, people need to learn the signs of calm behavior versus anxious behavior and only reward calm throughout. Dogs that are anxious may look normal part of the time, but they may not be and the best time to teach a dog that they do not have to be distressed is when they are not frantic. If the owner knows that the dog can be left for four hours without elimination, but not six hours, the client knows that – for now – he needs to avoid longer absences. Avoidance is key in the treatment of all behavioral problems since every time the behavior - no matter how undesirable or abnormal - is repeated, the dog will be reinforced for the behavior. Practice reinforces learning and is reinforced. Logs are best used in combination with video surveillance because some signs are much easier for clients to note than others. Dog sitters, dog walkers, day care, boarding, pet sitting by a older child who is not otherwise allowed to have a dog may all be options that could mitigate the dog’s distress. If the dog likes crates, will go into a crate willingly, can sleep and eat in a crate, and is calm when in a closed and locked crate, crating or gating the dog may be part of the solution.

Not all dogs can be crated. Many dogs will break their nails or teeth attempting to get out of the crate, and dogs have killed themselves by becoming entangled in or impaled on the crate if they panic. Clients should not even consider using a crate as a management strategy for dogs with separation anxiety unless they can video the dog responding as stated when they are home and not with the dog for hours at a time. The risk of gating or crating a dog who views this as entrapment rather than security is huge, and in such cases, it will always make the dog worse. No dog who is crated should wear a lead or collar of any kind because if the dog becomes distressed these pose strangulation hazards. No dog with separation anxiety should be tied. Tied dogs are at increased risk of injury or death from strangulation if they become distressed. Food toys may be good indicators of when dogs start to improve enough to eat, but they are not a treatment for separation anxiety. Dogs who are profoundly distressed cannot eat. If a fresh food toy is left for the dog daily, the day he starts to use it indicates that he was sufficiently less distressed to be able to take food and so to be rewarded for less
distress.

People inadvertently reward anxious behaviors for two common reasons. 1. They think the dog is just seeking their attention and they don’t distinguish between dogs who want attention and those who need it, so the latter group of dogs is
inadvertently rewarded for anxious, pesky behaviors. 2. They recognize that the dog is distressed and they are seeking to reassure the dog. Unless the dog is rewarded only when calm, anxious behaviors are also being reinforced, resulting in a miscommunication. Recommendations for the treatment of separation anxiety usually include an instruction to teach the dog to ignore ‘departure cues’. The intent of these ‘departure cues’ is to desensitize dogs who are already sensitized to cues that signal the client’s departure – to such cues. Common cues that cause dogs distress can include packing or picking up a briefcase, putting on sunglasses, picking up the car keys, et cetera. If the clients can identify cues that cause the dog to begin to worry – including setting an alarm the night before a departure and if they are successful in their initial behavior modification efforts they may be able to use desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques to help the dogs not react to these triggers.

With separation anxiety , puppies are more susceptable when there is a drastic change in attention. Initially many people make the mistake of constantly fussing with and paying attention to the new arrival. And this can go on for weeks. Then suddenly they are forced to be separated in an abrupt manner. It is essential to leave them alone for brief and frequent times at this early age. Leave them after a good workout ,walk and tire them out. Leave them with a yummy kong. But slowly add the time duration.
S.A. is workable . The treatment depends on how severe it is. True S. A. is generally deemed to be when they have panic attacks , elimination , chewing on furniture etc, and constant vocalization. If the dog has these sort of episodes, it might be best to get a professional in. This is when a formal program of desensitizaion is done. At this point most dogs become stressed well before you leave. They have learned all the signs that indicate that you are about to leave. They know you are leaving before you know you're leaving, LOL. The dog will start to display certain anxious signs ,eg, panting, pacing, drooling or whining. And here is where a professional will slowly desensitize the dog to these triggers. He will repeat these trigger events by making the dog comfortable by not taking the next step in the departure routine. Gradually the dog is taken one step further in departure process . Eventually real departures are incorporated. It's a slow process but it is quite often succesful. Some dogs are just more anxious than others. Separation anxiety is quite often brought on by our constant attention to them. We have bred dogs to be social and this has come along with the ride.

You can't reward the dog once you are HOME for being calm while you are GONE. All this will do is teach the dog to get aroused in anticipation of your arrival and then become more aroused due to your excited greeting. One of The objectives of an SA program is to remove excitement from comings and goings. As for rewarding good behavior while you we gone...if it's not effective to punish accidents and/or destruction after the fact, it is also ineffective to reward after the fact. Reinforcement and punishment are time sensitive. They have to follow in close proximity. For many stressed-out dogs, the same mechanism is at work. But chewing provides stress relief for dogs, and in many cases, despite their stress, dogs will excavate stuffed Kongs, gnaw on chew bones, or work at food-dispensing toys. If you stuff a Kong or other food dispenser for your dog, place the item within easy reach and lay out a short trail of super yummy treats leading to it. This trail o’ treats is more likely to entice your dog to begin chewing than leaving the Kong lying there by itself.

Whether getting a second dog will alleviate the anxiety of the first depends largely on whether the original dog’s distress stems from being separated from a particular person (what we typically think of as separation anxiety), or from simply not wanting to be left alone, which is more accurately called isolation distress. In the case of the latter, any warm body will do. That’s good news, as the problem might be solved by the presence of a different person, another dog, or, in some cases, even a cat. So for a dog with isolation distress, getting another dog certainly could help; but there is always the chance that it won’t; and, in the worst-case scenario, you could end up with two dogs with separation issues!

The following is from Parthasarathy and Davis study ... Dogs’ dysfunctional attachment relationships with their owners are assumed to be the underlying cause of separation anxiety. Thirty-two dogs with and 43 dogs without owner-reported separation anxiety (SA) participated in a formal attachment test (AT). After the AT, the dogs were videotaped for 30 minutes while alone at home. Dogs left free in the house were scored on how long they were in proximity to the owners’ exit doors. Dogs who were crated or closely confined were scored on several anxiety-related behaviors, which were then compared to those dogs’ behaviors during the attachment test. Dogs with SA spent no more time in contact with or proximity to their owners during the attachment test than dogs without SA (P>0.05). Instead, they tended to jump up on the door after the strangers left the room and remain stationary when alone with their owners (P<0.05). There was no significant difference (P>0.05) between SA and non-SA dogs in the amount of time spent in proximity to the owners’ exit doors when left alone at home. Dogs crated at home showed no relationship between the amount of anxiety-related behaviors during the AT or at home (P>0.05). There was no significant difference in the type of proximity-seeking behaviors exhibited by dogs with and without SA in the home . These finding suggest that separation anxiety is not based on “hyperattachment” of the dog to the owner, but that a different attachment style may be present between dogs with and without SA.

Separation distress is the most common and is a little easier to modify than full-on separation anxiety which will invariably require veterinary intervention along with behaviour modification. If in doubt consult a qualified behaviour professional or just ask us for help! It’s critically important that a problem behavior be correctly identified prior to the implementation of a behavior modification program. It does no good to try to modify separation anxiety if that’s not really the problem. Distress over being left alone is not always a full-blown separation anxiety problem. First, a dog may suffer from a mild distress to a severe anxiety disorder. “Distress” indicates a lower intensity of stress behaviors when the dog is alone, while “anxiety” is an extreme panic attack. The distinction between “isolation” and “separation” is equally important. Isolation distress means the dog doesn’t want to be left alone - any ol’ human will do for company, and sometimes even another dog will fill the bill. True separation distress or anxiety means the dog is hyper-bonded to one specific person, and continues to show stress behaviors if that person is absent, even if other humans or dogs are present.

There are a number of drugs that can aid in conjunction with a behavioural modification program and this should be done with a vet and behaviour specialist working together with your program you have in mind. Many people find the best way to go is to consult with someone who specializes in behavioral issues. Here are some options:

Consult an animal behaviorist. An animal behaviorist attempts to understand the reason for the behavior by considering the animal's history, temperament, environment, experience, etc. After making a diagnosis, a behaviorist would help you understand the way animals learn, and how you can work specifically on the behavior problem to control and/or correct it. You can ask your vet for a local referral or visit the Animal Behavior Society website at: http://www.animalbehavior.org/Applie...directory.html

Work with a trainer. A trainer works differently than an animal behaviorist. In most cases, a behaviorist is more appropriate for help with a serious behavior problem. If no animal behaviorist is available locally, and you want to work with someone in person, check out the programs of local trainers. Trainers vary in their experience, services, and training techniques. Make sure that you are comfortable with the person you'll be working with. Information on choosing a trainer, Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) can be found at Certification for professional dog trainers and behavior consultants
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-28-2019, 04:01 PM Thread Starter
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clarification of original question

Hi--With all due respect, I am asking for collective wisdom from forum members about whether their puppies (in my case, 14 weeks) exhibited SA symptoms and, whether, in conjunction with maturation and calming training, they eventually showed a decrease in symptoms.

Behavioral calming training is recommended in the article used in the first part of the response above. Its full text, which is an interview with Dr. Karen Overall in conjunction with the AKC Canine Health Foundation, can be found at

http://www.akcchf.org/educational-re...on-Anxiety.pdf

The 14-page podcast transcript is an interesting and helpful read.

Unfortunately, I am not sure what the conclusion of the Parthasarathy and Davis study means for the average dog parent who is trying to help an anxious puppy mature into a healthy, well-adjusted dog. Narrow scientific hypotheses can be misinterpreted, and at this point, I am more interested in personal experiences.

Thank you for the response; I look forward to hearing more voices.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-01-2019, 11:52 AM
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Your puppy is only 3.5 months old and is in a new home. I think, what you're experiencing is typical. What kind of set up do you have?

Our puppy was 3-months when we got her. We set up an ex-pen that opened into a kitchen family room area where there is a lot of activity. That room was gated off.

Inside the ex-pen I had one of those mobile gray crates for a bed, food and water bowels, toys and a Ugo Dog potty tray. I put toys and treats inside the crate, so Patti would love the crate. I left the crate door open and sometimes would close it for a few minutes to get her use to the door being shut. Puppies sleep a lot and when she was tired I placed her inside the crate, closed both the crate and ex-pen door.

At night, I moved the mobile crate from the ex-pen into my bedroom. I let her cry but reassured her by putting my hand on the crate or petting her. She usually feel asleep fairly quickly. The crate had a door in the top and one side door. It's best to try and keep puppies awake during the evening before you go to bed, so they're tired and sleep throughout the night.

When your dog barks or whines do not let them out of the crate or ex-pen. Wait until the barking or whining stops and then take them out. If you take the dog our when it puts up a fuss, you're teaching the dog to bark.

However, at night when the puppy wakes up take them out and place them on the potty tray and tell them to potty, do their job, pee, or whatever term you want to use and then put them back to bed. You don't want them peeing or pooping in the crate. It's best to error on the safe side and take them out when they wake up and tell them to "do their job" on a potty tray or outside. The puppy will probably wake up a couple of times durning the night. Don't play with the puppy. You want to put them right back and for them to go to sleep.

I recommend you indoor house break your puppy. It is easier, faster, less exhausting for you ... than trying to take them outside every 45minutes or more. Later they will go outside but if you indoor housebreak the dog you will have the convince of them going on a potty tray if you aren't home or the weather is bad.

In the morning, I moved the crate back into the ex-pen. The ex-pen door was opened into the kitchen-family area, provided eyes were on her. Patti wondered in and out but preferred the ex-pen because that was where her toys, food, water and bed were. If no one was in the room or wasn't watching, Patti was confined to the ex-pen with the door closed.

Dogs do not want to do their job where they sleep and play and will easily use a potty tray to do their job inside the ex-pen.

You want to have the ex-pen in a place where people are around most of the time. There will be times no one is there, confine them to ex-pen during those times. The dog will learn people leave and come back.

My dog, Patti is 11-months and when I need to leave for the afternoon or day, she stays in my bedroom. This is where she prefers to nap during the day. I turn on soft music during those times and when I leave. I also use to play soft music when she was confined to the ex-pen kitchen family room area when people were not around. In the bathroom attached to the bedroom, she has a potty tray if she needs to go. Patti is indoor house broken.

This last month we installed a fence and have a doggie door. Patti is now going outside most of the time to pee and poop. But if the weather is bad or we have to confine her when leaving the house she uses the potty tray.

The first months raising a puppy to be a well-mannered dog is emotional and exhausting. Keep reading this forum. Read books. It will help get you through those puppy months.

Last edited by Mikki; 02-01-2019 at 12:02 PM.
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If you think your puppy might have separation anxiety I would really suggest having a trainer at least observe. The problem is that it’s true that there is a good chance he doesn’t because all puppies do have to learn to separate, but if he DOES, most of the “normal” things people will tell you to do won’t work and can make it worse.

Example, ignoring him when we came in. Based on common advice to ignore a dog that is overexcited when returning home, I tried this approach. it took so long before I recognized he wasn’t overexcited - he was anxious and desperate for comfort. When I started picking him up right when I walked in, he started calming down immediately. Now I can walk in, pick him up and greet him, set him down on the sofa, and he’ll wait for me or calmly follow me around while I put things away, etc. Before it took him 30 minutes of frantic jumping around and panting before he would flop down on the ground and I could awknowledge him.
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To answer your original question about improvement, Yes and no. Dave has posted that article before and it was helpful to me because eventually we worked out that our puppy has isolation distress. We still call it “separation anxiety” because that’s what everyone except for more educated dog people call it, even though the article points out they aren’t the same. It helped me find the most relevant information since they are handled differently.

I’m going to be really honest, so don’t judge me too harshly! Once we reached a point where it was manageable it was really easy to let continued training slip. Partly because it was a lot of work just to get to the point where it WAS manageable. DD has a lot of extracurricular activities, and I have a son with special needs. Someone is usually home but not always free, and I have very little free time. Since we don’t live close to school or work, the minimum amount of time we would need to leave him for a “quick trip” is 40 minutes, which is round trip to my kids’ school. My goal was to reach that 40 minutes. We worked up to this slowly, but I say that loosely because we accepted anything where he wasn’t shaking and peeing on himself. He still isn’t “okay” being left alone. It was such a huge accomplishment to reach that milestone, but it took so much work to get there we had already made the decision to leave him for long periods at daycare.

On the rare occasions we have needed to leave him longer and couldn’t take him to daycare, he hasn’t done well. He runs back and forth between the window and the door, watching for us the whole time we’re gone, and he never relaxes. Once we were only gone for 2 hours but we forgot that the sun went down while we were gone and we forgot to leave a light on. We hadn’t left him for a while so I don’t know if it’s the lack of light or the inconsistency that was hard on him. Just one of these experiences causes regression. And intense feelings of guilt!

I have considered medication because based on what I’ve read I think he’s a good candidate. I intended to ask at his one year visit but I forgot and I should make an appointment.

Right now I take him to daycare one day a week and I’m able to minimize how often I leave him alone. We worked with a trainer briefly and we received some good advice about how to help him. I do believe he would continue to make progress with our training plan if we were consistent. He’s really becoming a well mannered dog, and has learned lots of tricks and skills. We always find time here and there to make sure his exercise and social needs are met, but I think these separation issues require a little more disciplined approach. In my opinion, it’s absolutely possible to make huge improvements. I just think it requires a commitment to working on it very consistently, although I don’t think it needs to be an overwhelming time commitment - just a few minutes set aside every day. It is harder with our demanding schedule, but I’ve been creative in meeting his grooming needs so there’s really no reason why I can’t do the same to work on his anxiety. This summer I really want to do a nose-work class because it’s supposed to help a lot with confidence. I also think it will help me follow through because a class will be worked into my schedule.
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The other part of your question was about the calming therapy! There is a very good article that was posted here on the forum a few months ago about comforting a dog. The information in that article is excellent. The advice in it was consistent with my own experience.

Our dog was anxious in general when he was a puppy. I used a technique from
ANOTHER article to teach our dog a trick that I used specifically as a distraction to desensitize him to situations that made him anxious. It was very effective in eliminating most of his anxiety, and it improved his confidence and gave us a special game to play together. Unfortunately, it depends on me guiding him so it wasn’t effective in managing isolation distress.

The reference in the article you linked about inadvertently sensitizing the dog is consistent with my experience. In the beginning we went very slow and were very careful but there were instances that caused regression and then you really have to start over. I didn’t do a very good job of backing up when this happened and often accepted behavior that was less anxious but just not as severe, and I know that was a huge mistake.
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Thank you for your responses. I have also asked parents at our socialization class, and they also agree that some of what we are seeing is normal for puppies.

Myers has a permanent crate next to my side of the bed. When I am there, it is his safe, comfortable place. He goes in willingly and has only needed comforting from crying a few times during the night. But if I exit the room, he starts to fall apart. Recently but only occasionally, he has started to accept my husband’s presence in place of mine, which is progress.

During the day, when I can’t observe him carefully, I use a portable crate (his ex-pen is too small for a crate, so we are setting up a larger space in which a crate will fit). We have figured out that he likes the crate to be somewhere close to the center of action, so he can watch, say, while I clean the kitchen. (Major action! ) Another bit of progress that we are seeing is that I can leave his observation area briefly without his falling apart. Before, if I disappeared around a corner or into another room, it was instant panicked behavior like I described above. Now he waits a bit, so I can pop out of the room for a few minutes without trouble.

We have not had a major panic incident recently because somehow my husband and I have made sure he’s not been alone—one of us is always here. It’s not a plan that will work long-term; we go to the gym separately when we used to go together, etc. I hope we will have the new ex-pen set up by the next time we both leave the house at the same time; at least then Myers can run out some of his stress instead of feeling trapped in his crate. If things don’t get better after the new set-up, we have our veterinarian’s referral to a behaviorist.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-02-2019, 12:11 PM
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From your description it sounds like Myers maybe protesting when you leave the room which is a normal response, if he is confined to a crate when he's not sleeping. An ex-pen where he has an area to nap and move around to play with toys, has access to water and a potty tray should help.

As mentioned, our ex-pen opened into a kitchen-family area. That room was gated so she could NOT leave the room, which allowed Patti to roam in and out of her ex-pen into the "center of action." When she got a new toy or we took one out of the ex-pen, she would pick it up and put back in her room - the ex-pen. So cute!

When she was very young she didn't protest much when we shut the ex-pen door or left the area. As she got older she would put up a fuss, but learned to settled down fairly quickly, as we didn't let her out until she'd stopped barking or making a fuss. If she was quiet for 10-20 seconds we'd open the door.

Our ex-pen was 3ft x 8 ft long. As she got older and we were confident she would go the potty tray in ex-pen to "do her job" and not chew on furnishings, the ex-pen door was opened when we left the room. Initially, for short periods, then longer periods later. If you have a big enough ex-pen you can put things Myers can crawl through and play on.

Dogs typically prefer women over men. Women tend to talk more to dogs and be the main caretakers such as feeding them. The way to a dogs heart is food. Kind of like men.

Therefore, I had my husband feed Patti in the mornings. Patti loves her "daddy" because he's been active in feeding her and giving treats when she does something good. She's also crazy about our adult daughter and grandkids. They all play with and give her treats. Carrots is a favorite. It's kind of hard to tell who she prefers, as she loves everyone in the family. Probably because from the beginning she was at the "center of the action," as you described it.

Patti is ALWAYS very!! excited to see any of the family. She's a big bundle of wiggles and jumps even if you walk out the door and right back in.

I often leave for several hours during the day to work in an office outside our home. My husband and I leave for the day to go out-of-town. Havanese can be left alone and do just fine. They just don't do well left alone for long periods of time on a frequent basis.

These little dogs are Super!!! Smart. Making them easy to train. Adorable and lovable.

Last edited by Mikki; 02-02-2019 at 12:28 PM.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-02-2019, 01:37 PM
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One more idea. By accident I found a Thunder Shirt works to calm Patti down. Every month through puppyhood there is a change, a new puppy issue.

Patti's 11 months and is through most the emotionally, exhausting puppy stages. However, sometimes early in the morning and evenings she'll become extremely hyper, wanting to play and a big annoyance to everyone. Durning those times, instead of giving her a time out in her crate, I put her harness and leash on to control and calm her down. After a time I found just putting her harness on calmed her down.

About a month ago, I had her spayed and purchased a Thunder Shirt thinking it might cover the surgical area, which it didn't and I was getting ready to return it, when my daughter suggested trying the Thunder Shirt instead of the harness. I must say there was a dramatic calming effect. I don't need to use it every day and some times use it for cold weather. Patti loves it.

You can try it and if it doesn't work you can return it. Thunder Shirt has a generous usage time. I think, 4 months if it doesn't work you can return it for a full refund.

Just an idea ...
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