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anngreenthumb

4th of July

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As the holiday nears, it will be the first with our rescue BC. Already some neighbors are shooting off firecrackers and she barks and runs crazy around the house for an hour afterward. This is going to be a tough 2nd thru 6th. Isn't there anything I can do to make life easier for her? The cats I usually put in the basement with classical music on and they do alright until morning, but Lana is going to keep me up all night for many nights. Is there any way she will tire and give up or adjust after a while? or do I just set my mind to sleepless nights? Maybe she will lose those last 7 pounds in a few days from the stress and exercise. I am NOT looking forward to this.

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I feel your pain. I have one dog who is deathly afraid of the fireworks, and her anxiety begins when the neighborhood kids start lighting off the little dinky ones, then culminates with the biggies that the city shoots off. We haven't been able to enjoy a July 4th in six years. :rolleyes:

 

She paces, pants, jumps in our laps and pants in our faces, hides, tries to jump through the screen door or windows to escape, urinates in the house, shivers and shakes....about the only thing she doesn't do is salivate excessively and lose bowel control.

 

When it first became apparent that she was afraid of the fireworks, we tried the ignore-the-fear thing, attempting to distract her with fun play and yummy treats, to create a pleasant association with the fireworks, and we also tried just completely ignoring her and letting her find a hidey hole to hunker down and wait it through. This did absolutely nothing to help. So we turned to our vet, who prescribed Acepromazine. We used the ace for a couple of 4ths and New Years, and weren't happy with the results. Our dog was still extremely frightened, but just groggy enough that she couldn't do anything but lay around. It also appeared that it took more and more Ace each year to get the same effect. So next, the vet gave us Valium to give her along with the ace. That combo has worked the best so far. While the ace provides a sedative effect, making her sleepy, the valium appears to reduce her fear quite a bit. I also tried desensitization using recorded fireworks sounds for about three months, and while she responded very favorably to that, she was able to distinguish between recordings and real fireworks so that when the 4th came along, she was just as stressed as ever, as if I had not done any desensitization work with her at all.

 

Every year, a couple of hours before dusk, we close all the windows and drapes and turn on the TV really loud and sit there as if nothing at all is happening. While this seems to help the dog, it's not much fun for our family.

 

Our plan for this year is to load all of the dogs into the car and go for a nice long drive in the country from just before dusk until about midnight. We'll probably give our one dog the valium, since there will be kids in the neighborhood lighting off fireworks starting on the 3rd, and she will be anxious about it. I'm just thankful that our other two dogs don't give a rip about the fireworks.

 

I keep reading in posts from Melanie (SoloRiver) about using Xanax, which is a relative of Valium, and that it was really effective for her dog. I've been considering it for future use with mine, when our current supply of the Valium/Ace combo runs out.

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Somebody has a suggestion on another board that i belong to, they train hunting dogs to get used to a gunshot by easing them into loud noises. I dont know if there is time now, but you and a friend have to work together on it. You take some firecrackers and go far enough away that she can barely hear them, just enough to spark an interest but not freak her out. If she is used to the clicker training then it works even better. But when the noise is still far enough away that she doesnt freak out, you click and reward. Do this on and off throughout the day and slowly get closer/louder with the firecracker each time. You cant have them up close within the same day, it is a slow process of getting them used to it, but it might be worth a try. Just be sure to reward when she doesnt freak out, but ignore her if she does. You dont ever want to coddle or sooth a dog that is freaking out over something like that, all the coddling does is reinforce that behavior. A prime example is my dads poodle, if its thundering and its just me and poodle in the room, the poodle gets nervous and paces a bit, but the second my dad walks in the room the poodle FREAKS, starts shaking, crying, and carrying on like mad. SHe does this because she knows my dad will pick her up and coddle her...she is a smart cookie and a drama queen. ha ha

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Before resorting to doping up your dog, do at least try the ignore-the-fear-thing. Treats, playtime, and cuddles can all help distract from the noise too.

 

Our Sparkie is very nervous around noises too. It gets to the point where we'll put her outside at night to pee and a lone firecracker echoing in the distance will send her running back to the house without ever taking care of her business. But we've found that cuddles and assuring her that everything is okay will calm her down enough. Belly rubs work well too.

 

And as cruel as it may sound, the ignore-thing worked rather well for us too. By us ignoring the situation Sparkie was forced to find a solution to the problem: She lays quietly down on the rug in the bathroom, the most central and quietest room of the house. Once we found out that she was comfortable there we added a nightlight to the bathroom and now it's her favorite spot to wait out thunderstorms too. Good luck with your pup!

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Samantha is terrified of fireworks. We've used acepromizine in the past, it knocks her out and to me, that's preferable to having her little heart pounding away at twice it's normal rate for a week.

But, this year, we're going to try something a bit different. We're going to give melatonin, which a couple of friends swear by. And we're also going to add a click + treat to every bang.

We'll have the ace on hand, just in case. But I'd love to hear what others do for their noise shy dogs.

 

Ruth n the Border Trio

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Thanks for starting this thread. Very helpful.

I didn't realize it was also going to be my almost year old BC's first July 4th. She is sound sensitive - except for thunderstorm. I am going to try playing similar sounds on my computer and TV and gradually increase the sound. At the same time play with her, use clicker and treat.

 

Thanks for great tips too.

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This post brings back horrible memories. I had a golden retriever who was terrified of loud noises - thunderstorms, fireworks, even if a plane flew too low overhead.

 

I had a situation that caused me to have to keep her outside for a bit. While away, there were fireworks being let off. She tried to squeeze in between some stuff to hide and got her collar caught and cut off her wind supply. It was the worst holiday I have ever had.

 

Please take this situation seriously. In most instances (just my opinion), I do not think that the dog is merely looking for extra attention... I think it is honestly scared to death, for whatever reason - just as some people are claustrophobic or afraid of heights.

 

I'm not lecturing, and I'm not trying to depress anyone.

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Originally posted by mistntag:

In most instances (just my opinion), I do not think that the dog is merely looking for extra attention... I think it is honestly scared to death, for whatever reason - just as some people are claustrophobic or afraid of heights.

I'm in total agreement with that, at least in the case of my dog. Her physiological responses to the stimulus of fireworks and thunderstorms are not something she has control over, are not learned, nor are they in order to get attention. She is literally so panicked that she is unable to function normally. If ignoring her fear were going to work, it would have worked a long time ago. If desensitization were going to work, I would have been successful, because I know I did it properly. To me, "doping her up" is far kinder than letting her shiver and pant in sheer terror for hours on end.

 

While it's possible that ignoring the fear will help, it's equally possible that the fear response will become worse if not addressed in its early stages. It's my belief that my dog's panic would not have developed to the proportions we have today had I addressed her fear early on with medication and desensitization rather than just ignoring it.

 

If anyone wants to try desensitization, these CDs are actually pretty good:

 

http://www.dogwise.com/ItemDetails.cfm?ID=DTB658

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quote:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Originally posted by mistntag:

In most instances (just my opinion), I do not think that the dog is merely looking for extra attention... I think it is honestly scared to death, for whatever reason - just as some people are claustrophobic or afraid of heights.

**********************

 

I totally agree that the dogs are actually scared to death, i in no way meant to imply that they were faking. But i do know that some will play it up when the person who coddles them is around, IF how you "calm" your dog is by coddling. It reinforces the behavior by saying to the dog, "good boy for panicing". If desensitizing doesnt work then by all means i think it is much more humane to gives them some medicine to calm them, and I didnt mean to imply that they should be ignored while they are sitting there shaking and freaking out, i was just saying if you coddle, it reinforces the behavior...so do something about the behavior, whether it be desensitizing or medicating.

It can be very dangerous for dogs to be this upset. But everybody's dog is different.

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Yes, Fergie freaks out about fireworks. So acclimating her to loud noises should work. But it doesn't.

 

She's also frightenend by low pressure areas. In fact, she associates loud noises and low pressure areas. loud noises mean there must be an undetected low pressure area.

 

Now, because the primary fear is low pressure, there is no way I can acclimate her to it. She knows it's coming before the weather people know.

 

Happy Traveler, Rescue Remedy, Benedryl, and lots of patience.

 

BTW, it was Hurricane Fran, whose eye came right over our house when Ferg was ~9 months old, that caused this to start. But we live in an area that gets lots of thunder storms and often hurricanes and tornadoes. Had I know before we headed south....

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I don't think "coddling" or trying to reassure your dog necessarily creates an attention-getting behavior in a noise-sensitive dog. I think it can, however, create a sense in the dog of "oh my god, my human thinks this is something to be afraid of, too, so it must be REALLY scary", which reinforces the fear and perhaps makes it even worse for the dog.

 

I think that's where the human behavior of being nonchalant and acting as if nothing is wrong can at least avoid making it worse for the dog.

 

I've had a couple of dogs who were utterly panicked at fireworks and thunderstorms. I just tried to let them find a safe place to go hide. I know that the reassuring I did with one of my first dogs didn't do anything to help and only seemed to make her more scared. I would try to go out of town around the 4th of July, but living in Colorado at the time, we couldn't escape the thunderstorms.

 

Deanna in OR

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Nancy,

I think that's part of the problem with trying to use recordings to desensitize dogs to thunder or fireworks. The average home stereo system is not capable of reproducing barometric pressure changes, nor is it capable of reproducing the entire spectrum of frequencies that are produced by real thunder and fireworks. My dogs were very quick to understand that the sounds were coming from the stereo, so I also used a portable stereo to play the sounds from outside the house, in an attempt to make it more realistic. Portable stereo systems have an even narrower frequency range, so that was ineffective as well.

 

I'm not saying desensitization does not work; it is certainly worth a try, and I would encourage its use. In fact, I'm probably going to give another try myself. One of the thoughts I had was that when the neighborhood kids start lighting off their fireworks, I could play my fireworks CD at the same time while behaving as if we are having a desensitization session.

 

Deanna,

I agree that reassurance does not "create" the fearful response. I think what it can do, rather, is reinforce the fearful behavior. My concern is that ignoring the fearful behavior, while it may work with some dogs, poses the risk that the fear will intensify if not addressed with behavior modification. That's because fears have a tendency to intensify if left to do so. That process is called "sensitization", and it's the opposite of "desensitization". Sensitization happens when a dog is repeatedly exposed to a fear inducing stimulus and rather than habituating to the stimulus (getting used to it), the fearful response becomes greater with each exposure.

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There's a difference between a dog who is sensitive to loud noises and a dog who actually has phobic responses to thunder and fireworks. Those of us who have experienced truly phobic responses with our dogs know that the "jolly routine" is not effective for real phobias. Noise phobias tend to be progressive and to worsen over time (thus the dogs who seemed to be OK when they were younger but are getting worse with age -- the dog has never been comfortable with noises but the reaction wasn't as bad before he'd been through several dozen bad experiences with storms/fireworks) and a phobic dog can hurt or even kill himself in his fear, normally by trying to engage in escape behaviors, not to mention cause a great deal of damage to property.

 

For dogs with real phobias, medication (and I include melatonin in this category) does not have to be "doping up" your dog. Personally, I don't appreciate such loaded language. It's not helpful. Used judiciously, it is treatment as well as management, not to mention a kindness to the dog. The goal is to (a) keep the dog from hurting himself or damaging property and (:rolleyes: teach the dog alternative responses to noise.

 

I don't like using ace for noise phobias for a number of reasons. It isn't really a sedative because it has no calming effects. I would call it more of a paralytic agent. The problem with acepromazine is that it merely immobilizes the dog without doing anything to blunt his/her senses. So, the dog is trapped in a non-responsive body but can hear and see everything and is just as frightened as s/he was before. (Look into the eyes of a dog on ace sometime. You'll see what I mean.) There's also some evidence that ace increases the effects of noise or other fearful stimuli. The veterinary literature describes unusual, hyper-aggressive reactions to ace (and Solo could be a case study -- he had one when he had a root canal and they used ace as a pre-anesthetic). All of this explains why dogs who are treated with ace during fireworks and storms never seem to get any better -- actually, their phobias seem to get worse, and fast -- and why they need more and more ace every time.

 

Now, I do consider using ace to be "doping up" the dog because it does nothing to treat the dog, it just eliminates the problem for the owner. The dog goes on being terrified. The reason that benzodiazepines like valium or xanax are so much more effective for actually TREATING noise phobias is that they actually have an anti-anxiety effect. If used properly and the dosage is right, the dog remains awake and alert but is calmed. This allows you to get a foot in the door and actually start trying desensitization, "jolly routine," or whatever because rather than being out of his mind, the dog is still with it enough to be receptive. He also starts to break the association between noise and panic, because hey, it's noisy, but for some reason he's not scared. Maybe he even feels pretty good. He doesn't know why, just that thunder does not necessarily presage panic anymore.

 

Most vets will reach for the ace first if you tell them your dog is scared of storms. Please demur. My information comes from one of the country's best veterinary behaviorists. She feels that ace is completely inappropriate for dogs with noise issues and in fact consulted with the vet dentists the second time I had to take Solo in for a follow-up after his root canal, to design an anesthetic routine that did not include ace. It is more common to prescribe valium (diazepam) than xanax for noise phobia, which is fine. It works well for most dogs. All dogs are individuals and Solo didn't have a great reaction to it (it made him groggy and stupid) so we tried xanax, which is a related drug, instead and that was much better for Solo.

 

Solo only needed xanax (alprazolam) for a few storms before he stopped being totally panicked by them. He doesn't like them, but he doesn't stuff himself into one-gallon pails trying to escape them anymore. Now he only gets meds if the storm is literally right on top of us and I will probably give him some for the 4th if the fireworks are really loud and nearby.

 

I have tried melatonin on Solo for a really bad storm and I don't think it works for him. But, there is literature out there that suggests it is helpful for many dogs so it might be worth trying. I know that it does help me get to sleep if I can't sleep well.

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Thanks for weighing in, Melanie. Sometimes it's difficult to convey the concept to others who have never had a truly phobic dog. There is a huge difference between a dog simply being a little nervous about the noise but able to cope with it, and a dog who is completely nonfunctional and unreceptive.

 

As for the Ace, I wish I had known all of this years ago when we first started using it. It did seem effective early on, as far as we could tell. She would find a place to go lie down and take a nap. Over time, though, it didn't work anymore and I could see in her eyes that she was still very afraid, but simply unable to do anything about it. I felt badly for her, as it must have felt very similar to one of those dreams where you're trying to run away from the axe murderer, but your legs don't work. Only for her, it wasn't a dream. That's when we went back to the vet and got the valium.

 

To me, the language "doping up the dog" isn't offensive, but it is very revealing about the mentality of the person who uses it. I prefer to say that I use medication to help my dog cope, rather than that I "drug" her or "dope her up". But, in an effort to find the humor in a very NOT funny situation so that we can deal with it with a more positive attitude, we do joke around about "doggy downers" and so forth. Having not been able to enjoy a July 4th or a New Year's eve in six years because of the dog, it is important for us to be able to use humor, because WE have to cope with it too.

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I just purchased some Rescue Remedy in the hopes that it will help. Just as long as it gets here before the 4th!

 

If this helps, will I be able to eventually phase it out, or will Riley always need it?

 

Betsy

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Rescue Remedy does absolutely nothing for my girl. In fact, I don't think much of it, to be honest. If anything, I think it's the alcohol in it that has the calming effect.

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Oh, totally agreed about needing to find the humor in situations. Solo as you know is on daily meds and every morning I ask him, "Feeling kind of psycho? Want some drugs?" He also swallows on command.

 

I always find it a bit odd when people are willing to use Rescue Remedy or herbal remedies and are not willing to use prescription drugs. Chemicals are chemicals. If it works like a drug, it's technically a drug. The only difference if one uses an herbal remedy is (a) you won't really know what the dosage is and (:rolleyes: you're giving all sorts of other crap along with the effective ingredient instead of something more pure.

 

Rescue Remedy had no effect whatsoever, in any situation, on Solo. I've tried it on myself and didn't feel anything either. Maybe if I'd swigged the entire bottle I'd have felt calmer -- I also believe the effect is mostly due to the alcohol.

 

One thing I forgot to mention, that medication-phobic owners might be willing to try (because it sounds like voodoo -- people who hate meds tend to like things that sound like voodoo) and that seems to have an effect is the Canine Comfort Zone plug-in device. This is a diffuser that gives off "dog appeasing pheromone," or the same pheromone given off by lactating bitches. It's supposed to produce a sensation of calm and safety in the dog. I asked Solo's behaviorist about it and she said that since there are no double-blind placebo studies associated with it she can't say that it works, but the mechanism is sound and she thinks it probably does work. Enough people I trust think they've seen good results with it that I went out and bought one and now I also believe that it works. Solo no longer even walks around during storms, but merely sits in one place looking kind of perturbed. Eventually he'll take a nap. (This is without the xanax, by the way.) I also use it when we are on the road traveling for sheepdog trials and such and he does seem more content even if we're sharing a room with a friend of mine and strange dogs. The whole thing is about $23 bucks and I think worth a try.

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Here's a link to DAP's. Sounds like something I'd like to look into. We dread the 4th around here.

 

Farnam Comfort Zone Canine Behavior Modification w/ D.A.P. Refill Bottle

 

Vicki

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We've been using the DAP for Shoshone, and it 'might' be having some effect. It's actually more for her aggresiveness towards our cats.

 

The kitty version, Feliway, is definitely a big success. Duke, the orange evil cat, is much, much less evil since we started that.

 

Ruth n the Border Trio

 

ps - Melanie, thanks so much for the info on ace. We'll be asking the vet for something else!

 

Ruth

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I always find it a bit odd when people are willing to use Rescue Remedy or herbal remedies and are not willing to use prescription drugs. Chemicals are chemicals. If it works like a drug, it's technically a drug.
Agreed, and I'd like to add that if my dog were in pain, I wouldn't hesitate to give her pain medication. If she were injured, I wouldn't hesitate to seek medical attention. Her thunder/firework phobia is a health and safety/medical issue, as she alternates between attempts to escape, which could result in her running into the street and being killed, and being too frightened to go outside, her heart pounding and stress hormones pumping through her system. That can't be healthy for her, especially for a prolonged period of time and repeatedly. Why in the world would I hesistate to seek medical treatment for it? I guess that's where I just don't get that reluctance to use medication. If the dog will respond to the Jolly Routine or will find a hidey hole to go wait it out, that's great. But when a dog is so panicked that they are a danger to themselves, and there is medication easily available that will help them, I can't see the humanity in forcing the dog to endure that kind of fear.

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A couple of questions/comments for a few of you:

 

Rescue Remedy has alcohol but not the kind you are thinking of. It's used to press the flowers/herbs. No action from the alcohol whatsoever. Rescue Remedy has worked on some dogs I know but only for mild stress things. I haven't seen or heard of it working for high stress things. It can't hurt if you already bought it though. I tried it once but it tastes terrible so I didn't try it again.

 

Melanie, would you please share more info about melantonin as a relaxer for anxiety dogs? Dosage? I haven't heard of this and I have my first separation anxiety dog that I can't control without adding medication. I'd love to try the melantonin if possible until his prescription meds. kick in. Vet said to expect 2-3 weeks before the meds. are working. Also, how long do the refills last on the canine calming machine?

 

I didn't take notice to who made the "doping dogs" comment, but I understand how it could offend some people. I have worked very hard on a few dogs to help them overcome their issues. While Benny, my permanent Golden foster, will be the first one I have to medicate it isn't because it's easier on me. It's because he will hurt himself otherwise. Even being in a plastic crate he throws himself at the door trying to open it, he digs, barks (sometimes through a bark collar), tries to eat his way out, etc. It doesn't stop until he is so tired he can't even stand up. By then he's a bloody mess and has torn a couple of nails in all of this. It's a true anxiety attack he suffers and I am hoping the medication will help him cope before he gives himself a stroke or something.

 

For the noise sensitive dogs, you can try the cotton in the ears thing. I have never had to do this but I've been told it can work. I don't know anything that will work on pressure changes except medication. I work with a guy that gets terrible headaches when there are big pressure changes. I'm sure it's worse for dogs since they are more in tune with such things anyway.

 

I'm learning a lot from this thread. I haven't had dogs that were this phobic or suffered anxiety attacks to this degree. Maybe you guys can help me get through Benny's problems before I start taking Ace. LOL!!!!!!

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If I am not mistaken (my chemistry is a little rusty), the alcohol in RR is grape alcohol, which is Ethyl Alcohol (CH3CH2OH), the type of alcohol contained in alcoholic beverages. Though in the amounts usually given, the liver can probably metabolize it fast enough that intoxication does not occur, so you may be right there. :rolleyes:

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HKM, the refills on the DAP (Dog Appeasing Phermones) last about a month. We're in the middle of our second month, and most sources say to give it a trial period of at least 2 months. Like I mentioned, for Shoshone, the jury is still out.

I've got to re-research the melatonin, but planned on doing that today later and will try and repost with that info.

 

Ruth n the Border Trio

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I wanted to prepare for the July 4th too. After reading those posts, I remembered that there was a shooting range right in front of a dog park. I take Jazzy there often, since she was a pup. We haven't had our first July 4th yet but I thought taking her there and give her some fun time might help preparing for the similar sounds. Since it was Sunday, there were tons of people shooting and we could hear it really well. Jazzy gave a glance at it when we got out of the car but her focus was on the ball in my hand the whole time. I am planning on taking her a little bit closer (gradually) in the next 7 days as we play balls. The shooting sounds are really similar to fireworks. If you have a range near by, maybe you can try from distance.

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This isn't really dog but anyway:

My cat was outside one night when there was a rugby match on with fireworks. She got totally spooked and ran out onto the road and was hit by a car, crushing her leg beyond repair, leaving her tail hanging by a thread and causing her to lose all the claws in one paw. She dragged herself back to our back door and sat their quietly for about an hour. My brother went out once to check if she wanted to come in but he didn't notice she was injured. Then, later, my brother picked her up and noticed her leg and dropped her. We rang the vet and he went back to the surgery (it was about 9.30pm). We didn't have a cat cage so she was sitting on my brother's lap all the way to the vet.

The vet had a look and he said he'd have to ampute the leg. She was kept in there for a few days and when we went to get her she had 23 stiches in her leg and 3 in her tail. We brought her home (in my dolls bed) and first thing she did when we put her down was limp up to my brothers bedroom and try and jump on the bed (one of her haunts).

Now, more than a year on, she is fine and gets around very quickly and can jump quite high but we think she'll probably get arthritis in her remaining back leg.

 

Just thought I'd share a fireworks experience

Naomi

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