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Archive for the ‘Health and Ailments’ Category

Oh my darling girl, my Greta. I cannot believe that you have left us. We have gone through so much together to keep you healthy and happy and then, in the prime of health, you decide it is time for you to go. We never got to say goodbye to you, to tell you we loved you and to wish you godspeed. But what was the very best way for you to go – suddenly, painlessly and in your sleep with your sisters around you – was perhaps the hardest for us unsuspecting humans to bear. My darling girl, I wish I could cuddle you one more time.

My sweet Greta was rescued in October 2012, one of three poorlie girls we took home from our rescue. A large, red swollen bottom meant my ever pessimistic prognosis was not good (but what do I know eh!!?). Initially Greta lived with the very poorlie Gina and the not quite so poorlie Grace Kelly in what was yet to be named Effie’s Garden. Sadly, Gina died soon after rehoming but Gracie the Pickle and Greta soon decided free range life was far too much fun to give up on and integrated with the Big Girls very quickly.

Miss Greta Garbo on rescue - already a Goodchicken

Miss Greta Garbo on rescue – already a Goodchicken

The Goodchicken name, as we know, is very sought after and one not lightly bestowed upon a chicken but Greta seemed to be born for the title. Always one to care for other girls, to clean their beaks (whether they needed it or not), to tend to poorlie sisters and to tolerate cuddles with humans, Greta was always the star. Miss Greta Goodchicken she became, a worthy recipient of Bunty’s legacy.

Miss Greta Goodchicken

Miss Greta Goodchicken

But Greta had other talents…secretly she was also a magpie. She coveted all things shiny. In particular, my earrings. She somehow managed to work out that if she came over to me all cuddly and cute I would bend down to stroke her, dangly earrings dangling aplenty. At this point she moved in for the kill. One of those oh so tantalising silver dangly earrings was whipped out by an expert beak and whisked off around the garden in a ‘really fun’ game. The time it took me to catch both her and the earring were naturally inversely proportional to the weather; sunny and warm meant a quick game, monsoonal rain or hurricane winds ensured a long and oh-so-fun game. You would think after the first time I would learn….it would seem not. Greta 3 – Idiot Human 0.

Secret magpie Greta

Secret magpie Greta

But Miss Garbo also had a thing for mobile phone cameras…or was it just the handsome gents operating them?? When Neil, keen photographer and husband of my lovely friend Jan, came to visit, Greta was entranced by his phone camera, inquisitively posing for shot after shot. As another infamous Rosewarne lady had had a bit of a thing for Neil (Effie who was oh so fickle in her affections had happily trotted across the garden to greet him – the girls can always tell a good egg) we assumed Greta was also smitten. But when lovely chicken friend Pete turned up and started to photograph the girls with his phone camera, Greta assumed the same diva-esque pose. Obviously she loved the camera. And it loved her right back!!

Gorgeous Greta Garbo Goodchicken

Gorgeous Greta Garbo Goodchicken

Greta’s other special talent was as an egg thief!! Not literally (although given the chance I am sure she would have tucked in) but as she had never laid an egg in her retirement I think her body was sending her eggy feelings. She used to wait outside the coop in the mornings until someone came out announcing the Great Arrival of their egg, before sneaking in, nestling atop the egg for a brief while and then rushing out to announce….Her Egg!!! No one else seemed perturbed by this egg plagiarism, so we congratulated her each day on her beautiful egg and everyone was happy.

That tummy though, swollen and red but still beautiful, was always present and caused us no end of problems. We, along with Uncle Jason, tried many many things to help her. She swelled up in the spring and slimmed down in the autumn but it wasn’t a fluid eggy mass, it was a solid one. Various vetty examinations didn’t reveal anything helpful, deducing it was scar tissue, and in the end a mixture of diuretics and occasional antibiotics seemed to keep any issues at bay. This year, we threw everything at getting her through another summer, mistakenly believing that once winter came we were safe for another year.

Gorgeous Greta Garbo and that big and beautiful red bottom

Gorgeous Greta Garbo and that big and beautiful red bottom

And by her fourth henniversary in October I hoped that she would be OK for a few more months at least. She was slim, spritely and racing round like a spring chicken so I, foolishly, stopped worrying about her. One Friday morning, I opened the coop, everyone trooped out and for once I didn’t do a headcount, lulled into a false sense of ‘all the hens are well’ security. When you have a poorlie girl, part of you always worries that you will find her dead in the morning. When everyone is well, you don’t have quite that same worry. So to open the nestbox and find my darling girl asleep forever was quite, quite horrifying. There had been absolutely no indication she was ill, in fact we had been commenting on how well she seemed. For her, naturally and for all of us, to go to sleep peacefully and surrounded by those we love is the best we can hope for. But for those she left behind it was heartbreaking. Selfishly, we had been denied our chance to say goodbye.

Greta's official four year henniversary shot

Greta’s official four year henniversary shot

Miss Greta Garbo was a legend in our garden, and in our lives, our longest resident (Flora although a year older, came to us after 2 years’ fee) and our very best girl, central to our flock’s happiness and well-being. Losing both her and Lavender in close succession has broken our hearts and shattered our spirits – not to mention those of poor Flora who has lost her two wingmen (or women) in the space of a month. I keep seeing her in the garden (as Margot could be her twin sister) and I still talk to her – to all of those that have left us – every day.

Greta Garbo was the last of the Goodchickens – a beautiful, free spirit that shall always fly free amongst us. You chose to leave us on your own terms, darling girl, so please take this as my goodbye to you.
Godspeed precious girl, fly high xxxx

Greta and Flora sunbathing in the so-called Humans' Garden

Greta and Flora sunbathing in the so-called Humans’ Garden

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My apologies for being so slow in updating the blog. Effie’s passing has left us totally devastated, with a huge Effie-shaped hole in our lives that we are struggling to come to terms with. And if I am honest it has left my chicken keeping life without its sparkle. My girl has gone and everything seems muted and grey. I still talk to her every morning, well to her little ‘Effie’ stone anyway, which is now nestling next to Miss Basket’s on our little chicken graveyard – a sight which provides a little comfort and reassurance.

But there are still nine little hens running around the garden who depend on us and are trying everything in their magical chickeny power to lift our spirits and show us how to face life without Effie.

Mathematicians out there will be thinking; “I thought they had eight hens, with no Effie, that would make seven.” Well yes … therein lies a tale!

When Eff was ill and inside the Human Coop, I had an email asking me if I would take on a little frizzle who was being picked on. I had no real intention of any more hens with such a poorlie girl to care for but as usual I couldn’t say no! When I turned up to collect the frizzle, spookily there was a second frizzle who also needed a loving home. So two new babies came home to live with us. They looked quite a sight, bald and scraggly, so I decided they needed glamorous names. As they were from the same batch of eggs as my I girls, I decided on two I names (especially as I have many fabulous M names ready for the next batch of ex-batts whenever that will be!). So Ingrid Bergman and Iris Frizzle they became. Still flighty and scared of their own shadows they are now happily settled down in Effie’s Garden and will one day be integrated with the Big Girls.

Ingrid Bergman and Iris Frizzle

Ingrid Bergman and Iris Frizzle

So much for our Humans’ Garden!

But what about Lemony I hear you cry! Last time we looked, she was in Effie’s Garden waiting for her MummyEffie to get better. Well, hens seem to have an uncanny sixth sense – clever little things – and Iona knew something was wrong, so visited her sister Lemony in Effie’s Garden on a regular basis by scrooching under the fence. When I turned up with Ingrid and Iris, I took the plunge and popped Lemony in the Big Girls’ garden. Reunited with her bantie sisters, she was far too busy and happy to notice where she was and has settled in remarkably easily. The banties sleep in their own coop still, and there is the occasional silliness, but I am amazed at how well she has settled in. So well in fact that I now feel guilty for separating the banties and leaving Lemony with Effie. But Lemony, bless her beautiful little yellow feathers, loved Effie above all else and knew that she had an important job to do in caring for her elderly friend. But now she can go back to the task of being a naughty bantie with her sisters. And strangely, or not I suppose, ever since Lemony moved in with the Big Girls, Iona has never once gone back into Effie’s Garden. She knew, bless her.

Little Lemony - officially a Big Girl now!

Little Lemony – officially a Big Girl now!

But someone else has taken it upon themselves to pop over the fence into Effie’s Garden. Miss Lavender Goodchicken has discovered she can fly onto the fence and hop into the other garden, hoover up the food, lay her egg, bang on the patio doors and then hop back again. Little madam. Actually, it is working rather well. Firstly I like seeing a little brown hen outside the patio doors (if I am not concentrating I can let myself believe it is Effie for a split second) but most importantly she has got on very well with the frizzles and it will help with their integration later in the year. Lavender is also terribly pleased with herself for performing this miraculous flying trick and you can’t help but laugh with her.

Miss Lavender Goodchicken is very proud of herself!

Miss Lavender Goodchicken is very proud of herself!

Which brings us finally, to our Henniversary Girl. On 6th October Miss Greta Garbo Goodchicken celebrated three years as a free girl. An amazing achievement for a girl who came out with such a sore, red and swollen abdomen I thought the prognosis could only be bad. But Greta is living proof how resilient and hardy exbatts really can be. After almost two years of a bare swollen bottom, miraculously the swelling subsided and her feathers grew back. Now she is sporting a magnificent pair of knickers and a black tail that shows her Colombian Black Tail heritage. She is the happiest, sweetest and kindest girl and we are so very proud of her for being the wonderful little hen that she is.

Gorgeous Henniversary Girl Greta Garbo Goodchicken

Gorgeous Henniversary Girl Greta Garbo Goodchicken

So life does go on; the girls are using their magical henny healing power and are all trying their very best to mend our broken hearts and show us there is so much more for us to do. More hens to cuddle, more hens to love and ultimately more hens to rescue.

I just wish my Effie was here to help us.

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My little girl is gone and still I cannot believe it. From the day I brought her home, a terrified little bundle of feathers, Effie’s death was something I feared every day. Now that she has left me, I simply cannot comprehend it but must somehow learn to face life without her.

Effie’s tale is much documented – in this blog, in magazines and books and in exhibitions across the world, she became something of a legend. The little hen with the twisted neck (that gave her beautiful body her unique shape) who overcame physical and emotional traumas to find love and happiness in the Cornish sunshine with her beloved Miss Basket and then, with the tragic passing of Miss Basket, she learnt the wonders of motherhood with her three bantam babies. I have many, many wonderful memories of Effie in my head, my favourite is possibly the image of her, a new ‘mother’ standing in the coop at bedtime, her leg cocked in a most unladylike fashion, awaiting the three little feathery bundles who loved to tuck themselves underneath their new mum each night. Effie had a big, brave, beautiful and loving heart.

Effie sunbathes whilst her beloved Miss Basket watches over her

Effie sunbathes whilst her beloved Miss Basket watches over her

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

Mummy Effie and her bantam babies

However, whilst my girl was enjoying every moment of her free range life, her precious body was slowly succumbing to the scars of her caged life.

She had been suffering from a suspected brain tumour for a while – the weeping ear a sign something sinister was lurking inside her beautiful head. In recent months she had increasingly been suffering from panic attacks and was generally slowing down. But about two weeks before she died, she suddenly went blind, or at least lost much of her vision. She was unable to judge distances and walked into objects. Knowing now, that the much dreaded end was in sight, we brought her inside the Human Coop – where she had been spending more and more time anyway with Lemony being broody. We adapted the Human Coop to her needs and she seemed to be coping well. The specialist vets assured me as long as her quality of life was good, then she would be fine. And Effie was happy in the Human Coop, she considered herself human anyway, and had come full circle. She started her life with us in the Human Coop almost four years ago, it seemed fitting it should be where she ended it.

Effie enjoying the comforts of the Human Coop

Effie enjoying the comforts of the Human Coop

For about ten days all was well, she ate, slept and pootled about the house, but then signs started to indicate that things were going downhill all too quickly. Always a girl who loved her food, suddenly her appetite wasted away to almost nothing and she started to be a little unsteady on her feet. You try and ignore these things, as they are indications of something too painful too comprehend, but then on the Tuesday evening she lost the ability to walk, she fell onto her face repeatedly, panicking and screaming. That all important quality of life was deteriorating rapidly. Knowing what awaited us on Wednesday I spent the night cuddled up with her on the sofa, calming her by talking to her, stroking her feathers and keeping her safe. It was the longest night, but also the shortest night. I tried to tell her how much she meant to me, to so many of us, and she heard me and replied with her gentle bwarks, but there would never be enough time to tell her how truly amazing she was. Our bond went beyond human and pet but was a meeting of spirits. She had been waiting for me and I for her. And now it was time for me to do the hardest but also the kindest thing.

An Effie cuddle was always an honour and a privilege but none more so than when I held her in my arms, as she passed away, slipping peacefully from this world. She died being told how much she was loved and that Miss Basket was waiting for her. And I find a little consolation knowing that Effie is now forever reunited with her beloved Miss Basket.

Effie and Miss Basket, flying forever free together

Effie and Miss Basket, flying forever free together

She was cremated the following evening, a garland of sweetpeas over her body and under her wings and a bouquet of sweetpeas on top of her pink shroud as her spirit soared skywards. In what was the darkest of days for us, a little ray of hope and love flickered in all the beautiful candle tributes people lit for her – not just in the UK but across Europe. We were unbelievably touched by such kindness.

Our candle tribute to Effie. Her candle is the one in the middle at the front and is in a holder with Effie's name linked to Miss Basket's with a heart

Our candle tribute to Effie. Her candle is the one in the middle at the front and is in a holder with Effie’s name linked to Miss Basket’s with a heart

No words I can write will ever do my Effie justice so I need to make her name and spirit live on to help other hens. Effie’s Garden (as it will forever be known) is already the garden for special hens that Effie had always planned it should be. People contacted me during her lifetime and more so since her death to say that she had made them view hens differently and that Effie’s story had inspired them to get their own hens. To think there are ex-battery hens enjoying a life of freedom today because of Effie, means my girl has left an amazing legacy. For myself I need to do something else for Effie’s memory, as yet I do not know exactly what, but it will come to me and she will guide me. The love and energy that was my little Effie will find a way to truly live on.

Hello gorgeous girl xx

Hello gorgeous girl xx

For anyone who has ever had, and lost, ex-batts they will understand just how much these girls mean to you. There is something undefinably vulnerable and yet invincible about them. After the abuse they have suffered, still they have the heart to forgive humans, to love us and trust us. I never fail to be humbled by their humanity. And to me, Effie was the epitome of all of those emotions and characteristics. She was more than just a special chicken, she was a symbol of hope for every commercial hen across the world, every animal who suffers abuse at the hands of humans.

And she was my world.

But still, I cannot believe she has gone. Losing her has broken my heart. But the blessing of having known her and to have been the recipient of all the love a little chicken could give to a human will somehow hold my heart together and make me strong enough to face a world without her.

Your work here is done my darling, sleep well old friend xxxx

Beautiful Effie

Beautiful Effie

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Little Lupin Chicken and her two sisters arrived to live with us last August, three little girls who had been starved in the cage and consequently were all in a dreadful physical state. Surprisingly it was the largest hen, Larkspur, who succumbed to illness the quickest, passing away after only a few weeks of freedom, while tiny Lupin and Lavender quickly feathered up and started to grow strong and healthy.

Lovely Lupin on rehoming

Lovely Lupin on rehoming

Named after the flower, Lupin also took on the more wolf-like connotations of her name, taking it upon herself to be top hen of this little trio and sleeping by the coop door each night, guarding her new sisters. It made for a touching sight, this feisty little scrap of skin and bone, fearlessly protecting her new family. She was brave as well as beautiful, a little girl with a big heart.

She was also a very hungry girl and spent much of her day filling her crop, one of the many things life in a cage had denied her. Very soon though, Loops and Lav (as they became known!) realised that life wasn’t just about survival, it is about having fun and being happy and Lupin embraced her new life with an unadulterated joy. Each day was a marvellous new adventure.

Loops, not long after rehoming, enjoying her favourite pastime. Note her beautiful quills emerging

Loops, not long after rehoming, enjoying her favourite pastime. Note her beautiful quills emerging

Merging Loops and Lav with the big girls was so easy, neither of them were interested in being top hen and avoided any fisticuffs. Life is too short to be worrying about such things. Lupin’s joy at her new life featured in a couple of magazines in an article called Through Eyes of Wonder.

“Lupin and Lavender … now have a whole garden to explore – bugs to find, holes to dig and grass to scratch, every day bringing new and exciting exploits; they are first up in the morning and last to bed at night. Their enthusiasm for life is contagious and their happiness a delight to witness.”

Look at those beautiful feathers growing!

Look at those beautiful feathers growing!

However, little Loops had the ghosts of her old life still haunting her. That crop that had been so empty in the cages, was weakened and caused her all sorts of problems. Occasionally it became impacted so we tried pineapple, oil and massage which seemed to work at first. Her crop episodes were sporadic and initially only mild but as time went on they became more severe and each time we feared we would lose her. However, Lupin was a fighter, she wasn’t going to give up on her wonderful new life without a fight, she still had too much fun to have.

Loops (right) and Lav enjoying special henniversary cake

Loops (right) and Lav enjoying special henniversary cake

What we did discover though was that she was a squiggler!! Hated being picked up, hated her medicine and squiggled away as soon as she was able. Poor baby. So when she had to go to see Uncle Jason for an implant to stop her soft eggs, I was very concerned about her in the cat carrier. I hate putting ex-batts in it as there is a wire door and I fear they will think they are back in the cage again. So I put Loops in the carrier on the front seat, we had the Abba CD playing and we sang along to Chiquitita, changing the words to Chicken Lupin which she seemed to find soothing.

But sadly soon after the implant, things quickly took a downward turn. The next day she was very under the weather and I hoped it was just the effect of the implant – but in my heart I knew it was her poor crop again. I do not know if it was the shock of the implant that triggered it, so naturally feel responsible for her subsequent illness. Within a couple of days she had developed sour crop and, although we tried everything we could to make her better, she continued to get worse and nothing that we tried to syringe into her was going through. She was losing weight rapidly and becoming very weak.

On her final morning, we found her with foul fluid pouring out of her beak and she was hardy able to stand. Knowing it was her last day, I put her in the sunshine under an apple tree. She turned her head to the sun and closed her eyes, I am sure she knew it was time, but wanted to enjoy one more moment of sunshine in the garden she loved so. On the way to the vets we sang along to ‘Chicken Lupin’ again in the hope it would comfort her and once there, she went to sleep almost immediately, her poor body exhausted from fighting her illness. She was peaceful in my arms but she took a while to pass over, it was almost as if she was hanging on to every last scrap of life.

Loops and Lav (left) enjoying life!

Loops and Lav (left) enjoying life!

She was cremated that evening with the first sweetpea of the summer under her wing as well as some lavender flowers. Her soulmate in life was Lavender and I felt she needed to take something of her darling friend with her on her journey.

And now our garden feels empty without the joyful energy of Lupin in it. Her friend and partner-in-crime Lavender, is very subdued and misses her sister almost as much as we do.

Rest in peace now my darling brave girl, eat to your crop’s content and never feel pain, hunger or fear again. You are safe now darling. Fly high little Loops xxxx

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It has been many weeks since my last blog post. I blame work myself, getting in the way of important things such as chicken cuddling! As always, it has been busy here on the hen front so here is everybody’s latest news:

Hettie has started her annual Broody Marathon and will be broody for much of this month I expect. Being a Light Sussex cross I understand this is normal! Interestingly she will only growl at me when I take her out of the coop but will peck Gary. Maybe it is a man-thing.

Greta is well, although suffering from her usual dirty knicker issue. At this time of year I am paranoid about flies so she is having regular baths. My special egg-sitter, Greta has learnt not to try and sit on an egg that is already being nestled over by a broody bantam!

Talking of which, Inca and Iona are taking it in turns to be broody. As soon as one stops the other one starts! In her non-broody times Inca is still hellbent on world (or flock) domination and bosses the big girls about with a serious case of Little Hen Syndrome.

Iona though is the sweetest girl ever and, especially when best friend Inca is broody, comes over and asks for a cuddle. She also likes to be put to bed and sung too!

Gary cuddles Iona whilst Inca enjoys some non-broody time

Gary cuddles Iona whilst Inca enjoys some non-broody time

Flora-Jayne is well after her prolapse and subsequent implant. No more eggs have emerged and she didn’t really have a moult either so has sailed through the whole episode. Remarkable for a girl who will be celebrating three-and-a-half years of freedom next week!

Little Lavender is as gorgeous as ever and lights up the garden just by being there. She has had some soft eggs which have made her poorlie and after she laid a horrible egg and lash combo, has been given an implant. She was not impressed but after some Brave Girl Eggy was back to her usual sunny self. She will also, I believe, have some very exciting news soon … watch this space!

Lavender (front) and Lupin enjoy life!

Lavender (front) and Lupin enjoy life!

Lupin has had a few re-occurences of her crop issues but magic pineapple seems to do the trick each time. I fear that one day we will not be able to pull her through but all the time she is fighting so will we. In between episodes she is full of life and as happy as Lavender and my initial aim is to ensure she enjoys a full summer of freedom.

Little Lemony came back into lay after her prolapse and implant and I am happy to say everything stayed where it should be! She is becoming so very fond of Effie, and follows her round like a little powder puff shadow. She has just started to go broody and taking her out of the coop gives me the chance of a rare cuddle – a treat indeed!

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

And then there is Miss Effie. After her third implant, Miss Effie is moulting quite a bit but is well in herself, if slowing down a little. She is still having the odd panic attack, bless her, but a cuddle with mum usually calms her down. With Lemony broody, she is dividing her time between snoozing in her coop with Lemony and snoozing in the Human Coop (where she is as I write this). Next week she too will be celebrating three-and-a-half years as a free girl, and as always, I am quite emotional about yet another milestone my special girl has reached.

With summer coming, so too are lots of lovely family and friends to visit us and Effie. Well, when I say us, I mean Effie. She is happily granting royal audiences to her army of fans and I am looking forward to taking lots of pictures to post here!

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Miss Greta Garbo Chicken has a very important announcement … she is finally wearing knickers!!!

Greta, if you remember, is the exbatt with the bootylicous bottom. Two-and-a-half years’ free, she has always had a swollen rear end that was completely featherless. Her big, knickerless bottom never really gave her any issues, she has always been a happy and active girl who loves her food. Occasionally her bottom swelled a little and felt fluidy and she was treated with furosemide and dandelion tea until things settled down. She has had regular check-ups with Uncle Jason but has never had an ill day in her free range life.

The first sign something was changing was that Greta stopped her usual trick of sitting on eggs in the coop and claiming them as her own. She showed no interest at all in Lupin’s eggs (the only girl laying at the minute)!! Then, over the winter, she started a small moult and something miraculous happened! Not only did her bottom reduce in size, literally, overnight to an almost ‘normal’ size, but she started to grow feathers on it!! They are currently at the paintbrush stage.

I have absolutely no idea how this has happened; Jason and I believed her bootylicous area was scar tissue … obviously it was just fluid and for some reason it has gone. Maybe it is linked to her eggy urges stopping, maybe it is something else. Either way, she is looking even more magnificent and beautiful than before and by spring I hope to be able to post a picture of her fully grown, fabulous frilly knickers!

Gorgeous Greta!

Gorgeous Greta!

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We are immensely proud to announce that Miss Effie Chicken of Rosewarne has been awarded The Amazing Animal of the Month Award by Good News Shared. She was nominated by the lovely people at Compassion in World Farming, who after reading Effie’s tale fell in love with her. And who wouldn’t!

Effie is an amazing ambassador for ex-battery hens and her story has inspired many lovely people to rehome their own ex-batts. She has shown what big hearts and huge personalities hens have and every person that realises this and has their own hens or stops eating chicken or only uses free range eggs is a victory in the battle against intensive farming.

This award means her story will reach a whole new audience so I would ask you to share the following link as far and wide as you can, so that Effie’s work to help her caged sisters can continue:

http://goodnewsshared.com/effie/

Thank you xx

Effie sends you all a kiss xxx

Effie sends you all a kiss xxx

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