Posts Tagged ‘IWS grooming’

If I were still showing Cooper in the conformation ring, I’d have collapsed on the floor and cried. As it is, I can’t bear to take a picture of what happened.

I had just finished cleaning and oiling my clipper blades, getting ready to give Cooper a trim. I wanted him to look nice for next weekend’s Rally Obedience trial in Salem.

I’d gotten out the grooming table, my combs and brushes, and my scissors. Cooper surprised me by jumping up on the grooming table, so after giving him a piece of homemade chicken jerky, I grabbed the clipper and started to work on his back, just over his shoulders. After a few moments, I thought to myself, “Wow. That blade is much sharper than I remembered.”

And right after that, I thought, “OMG!” and dropped the clipper.

Wrong blade. The blade I use the most, the one that cuts a nice 3/4″ length isn’t the sharpest blade. The sharp blade I actually had on my clipper was a #10. That one cuts about 1/4″. Maybe. If I’m lucky.

Normally I use that blade to clip his muzzle. And too late, I realized that it was the one that was still on my clipper when I finished cleaning and oiling them all. So here is my beautiful Pretty Boy with three clipper-blade-wide, 4″-long divots of really short coat over his whithers.

Well, there’s nothing to do for it except keep clipping him. Not with the #10. It’s still too cold around here for that. I switched to my 3/4″ blade, and clipped against the grain of the coat on his back. That leaves the coat at about 5/8″. Still a lot longer than 1/4″, but I hoped that the 5/8″ cut would make a slightly less obvious contrast with the #10 blade than a 3/4″ cut would.

Wishful thinking and denial combined, but it kept me going. And if I do say so myself, I did a really nice job on his legs — usually the hardest part for me.

But about his back? It’ll just have to grow out so I can clip it again. Hopefully with the right blade.

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I gave up trying to comb the mats out of Tooey’s legs and ears. So I just cut her coat off short.

I used a 3/4″ blade everywhere except her topknot and her front legs. Even the ears. Tooey was very patient. I’d like to think she’s more comfortable now, but who knows. I’m pretty sure she’s not unhappy. She still wags her tail at me and, suspecting she’ll be rewarded with liver, still happily hops up on the grooming table.

This cut worked out great for our Sunday training session. Tooey didn’t bring back nearly the amount of twigs and debris that Cooper caught up in his coat.

The reason for this is that Cooper (in the background) is wearing the Irish Water Spaniel show dog cut. Not that I’m going to show him any time soon. And I like the short cut on Cooper, too. It’s just that he’s just recently gone through this amazing bout of shedding. At his last bath, handfuls of coat came off. I’m afraid that if I cut his coat down, he’ll end up being naked.

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Ending score? 14 pheasants flushed, 3 pheasant shot at, 1 pheasant hit, and 3 apples retrieved to hand.

The dogs flushed up 14 pheasants. About half of those were roosters (you can’t shoot hens). The gunners shot at 3, and hit one. That one fell like a lead weight, right into the middle of some very dense, thorny bushes.

All four dogs and all four people searched, but none of us ever found anything resembling a bird. The dogs didn’t find the bird or its scent, and the people didn’t see any feathers or other evidence that a pheasant had ever been shot, much less fallen to earth.

Tooey, Rio, Cooper, and Kasen

But fortunately, the scenery and the weather at Lower Goose Lakes were absolutely beautiful. Mid-40’s, blue skies with wispy white clouds, just a bit of wind, fractured basalt cliffs, glittering blue lakes, the scent of mint and sagebrush. Perfect for hiking.

Rio, Tooey, Kasen, Cooper, Rod, Renae, and Russ

Oh, I guess we're going that way

Rio did get one scent that really excited him. He dived into some heavy cover to grab his favorite — apples. He loves apples. It was sort of funny that Rio retrieved apples on a bird hunting trip. But all of us were happy to take a break to enjoy their juicy sweetness. All you have to do is wipe off the bird doo-doo, get out the pocket knife, and cut slices for everyone. Even Cooper took a slice when he saw all the other dogs enjoying them.

Cooper and Tooey, surveying the terrain

Cooper has not yet had his hunting “lightbulb” moment this year. We really need to get him out somewhere, like a game preserve, where we can arrange for birds to be planted in identified locations. That way, we can direct Cooper to those birds so that when he flushes one, he can associate the excitement of the flush and retrieve with the birds’ scent and typical hiding places. Today, he mostly wanted to stay close to Russ, or to come find me. He’s birdy, though, so I know that with more experience, it’ll come.

I was very pleased with Tooey. We haven’t taken her out hunting before, so she doesn’t have a clue about what she’s supposed to be doing out there. But she clearly enjoyed herself. She checked in with us often, but she was also pretty adventurous, searching the rocks and bushes for whatever was out there.

And the water… Tooey loves to swim — she’ll swim just for the unadulterated joy of it. And the Lower Goose Lakes area is filled with, you guessed it, lakes. Little lakes, strung like beads along desert canyons.

string of lakes

more lakes

Whenever we couldn’t see Tooey, all we had to do was listen for the sound of splashing and paddling. If we heard that, we knew Tooey was swimming again. And loving every minute of it, even in the cold water on a cold November day.

And then, after all the day’s fun, the not-so-fun. The plants in the field provide cover for birds and are wonderful to the nose. But they also festoon the dogs with seeds, twigs, seeds, thorns, and more seeds. And every single bit has to be picked or brushed out. Especially, I’m told, the cheatgrass seeds. For some reason, cheat grass seeds love to hide between dog toes, and in the ears, eyes, and mouth. They can even work their way through the skin into body cavities such as lungs and abdomen and cause serious infections as they move though and get lodged in body tissues. Nasty.

So before dinner, before changing clothes, before even a glass of Scotch, out come the combs and brushes.

Trice brushing out the seeds and debris after a day of hunting

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The last time I wrote about Cooper’s grooming, I was very much enjoying his new short field cut. It was March, and I was looking forward to months of less debris and less grooming time. Not to mention improving Coop’s ability to see.

Well, now we’re getting ready for Cooper’s (probably) last conformation show in about 3 weeks. So we’ve been growing his coat out, with the idea of sculpting it back into dog-show condition.

It’s not sculpted yet though. Take a look:

For the show, we’ll probably clip his muzzle to get rid of the muttonchops. And we’ll shape the topknot. The ears, though, are the interesting issue. The ear fur seems to have grown a lot slower than the topknot fur, so it’s unlikely that they’ll be grown out to their full length to the show.

Which is OK. Part of me is sorely tempted to give him a modified field cut. He’s a hunting dog, after all, and I’d like people to see him in all his hunting-dog style. But I don’t know just yet.

And fortunately, I don’t have to decide right now.

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Tooey failed yesterday’s Junior retriever hunt test. The failure didn’t completely surprise me, but what did surprise me was the almost complete lack of enthusiasm.

I could see that she didn’t want to go out to get that first duck. We started at the water. She left the line, stepped into the water, swam out for about 15 yards, and then turned around to come back. I told her to go get her bird, and since she was still swimming in, I then turned my face away.

At that point, she decided to turn around and get the bird. When she got it, I gave her a happy, “Good! Here! Good job!” She brought the duck back to about two feet away from the line, dropped the duck, and wouldn’t — would not — pick it up again. Finally the judge excused us.

We’ve been working on picking up and holding wet ducks, so I knew that dropping and not fetching up the wet duck might be an issue.

But I was very surprised at her reluctance to go out. I thought that we’d been making strides in building enthusiasm. And for the past couple of weeks, we have been going out to a couple of different training fields with ponds, and she has been happy to leap into to water, fetch up the bumper, and come straight back in. She’s been so eager to go out that she’s been whining when we get close to the training field, and whining at the practice line to be sent, both on land and water. So eager that she’s even been willing to pick up icky wet ducks.

It’s as if there is something about an actual hunt test environment. It amps Cooper up so high with the desire to retrieve that he’s on the edge of control. With Tooey, it just seems to deflate her — it happened with me yesterday, I could see it at the two hunt tests I attended that Butch took her to, and I could hear it in the descriptions that Butch gave me of the tests I didn’t see.

Or maybe it’s the ducks. Hunt tests always have ducks. Our practice doesn’t always have ducks. It isn’t easy to get ducks to train with — the last two we had finally became too decrepit. I cut the wings off and will band them to a dokken until I can get some more ducks.

I don’t know what I’m going to do now. She’s scheduled for another hunt test in a couple of weeks. I have about 12 hours to scratch her from the test. I’m thinking about what to do…

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You know, there are times when I get tired, and writing posts for The Cooper Project seems to fall pretty far down the priority list. Work, sleep, meals, dog training, dog grooming, saying hello to the husband once in awhile, remember that I have friends whom I want to keep in touch with, taking a nap, even reading the occasional book all see more important from time to time.

But then I get a nice comment on the blog, or someone writes to tell me that an entry helped them, or I see that someone actually searched the web for “cooper project” to find it — I’ve even had people write to me asking to change what I’ve written or arguing with my conclusions. All of these encourage me to keep going.

And then there is that special category of encouragement — fan mail. I was so fortunate yesterday to get more fan mail today, this one from Becky. She sent a lovely card designed by Skylar and Ariel, and also a T-shirt with an IWS face designed by her sister-in-law.

card and shirt

The card is so sweet. I love my IWS, too, so I know exactly what they mean. And the shirt is perfect: lightweight with lots of coverage, and a perfect color of brown to go to hunt tests with. (Retriever hunt tests require camo or dark colors.)

Thanks, Becky. And thanks to everyone who reads my blog.

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I was so enamored when I saw the pictures of Cooper’s sisters, Darcy and Tosca. I just loved the way that Louise and Pepi have trimmed their topknots and ears. So easy to maintain. So practical for a field dog.

Darcy, photo by Louise Bailey

Tosca, photo © Pepi Barrington

So, I wanted to try it on Cooper. Colleen once again agreed to help me out. Actually, she did most all of the work. And I think it turned out pretty darn good.

Cooper with new hairdo

When I got home from Colleen’s, I asked Russ what he thought of it. Diplomat that he is, Russ just said, “Well, you’re the one who grooms him.”

Okay, I get it. Not Russ’s favorite. And I have to admit it was a shock looking at him for the first several days. It’s really different from how he looked for his birthday photo. But it’s growing on me. It’s really growing on me.

And the real test will be next Sunday, when he’s out hunting for pheasant and chukar. I’m betting it will be much easier to get out all the debris and mats out of the new ‘do. I’ll let you know what I find out.

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It’s really true. Cooper’s a champion. And this week, we got the two pictures that tell the tale.

Cooper, Best of Winners and New Champion, Rose City Classic 2011
photo by Steven Ross

proof from the AKC website

Now that it’s official that Cooper got his championship, I don’t have to maintain a show coat any more, at all, ever. Unless I want to. Which is unlikely. If you listen hard enough, I’m sure you can hear me cheering.

After the next bath, we’ll get out the clippers and the scissors and give him a nice short field clip. I’ll leave a little on the topknot and some on the ears, just so he looks like an Irish Water Spaniel.

Let’s hope the new hairdo will put Cooper in mind to succeed during this 2011 hunt test season.

Go Team Cooper!

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Tooey has been with Butch at Parkdale Kennels for (a long) 2.5 months now, and I think he must have been feeding her — she grew out so much coat!

(Also, as a side note, I really know he’s been feeding her because she’s fat. I understand that problem completely. Too bad I don’t have a kennel manager who can simply cut back my ration of kibbles.)

The night before we took her to Parkdale, we gave Tooey a very close field clip, leaving her beard and enough coat on her ears and topknot so that she looked like an Irish Water Spaniel. Last time we were there, a couple of weeks ago, I could see that cut had grown out. A lot.

So this morning, I arrived at the kennel early, armed with clippers, scissors, a comb, and a slicker brush. Boy, did she need a trim. I wanted to make sure that she wouldn’t get knots in behind her ears and in her armpits any more easily than necessary, and Butch wanted to be able to see her eyes.

Tooey didn’t particularly want to be brushed or combed or clipped. She hasn’t been on a grooming table all this time except to get brushed out before her monthly bath. She is completely out of the habit of being calm on the table, getting combed, brushed, combed, brushed, and trimmed. Pretty much, she wanted to look at me and lick my face. That was sweet for the first few minutes, and then totally not helpful.

I had only an hour before the training session started. Russ helped by holding her in place, and by brushing while I was clipping. We were pretty rushed at the end, so I don’t have any pictures of her with her new ‘do. She looks OK — about 3/4″ long all over her legs and body. Following Renae’s advice, I also shaved off most of Tooey’s beard.

And I cut the topknot must shorter, especially around her face, so Butch can see her eyes. He said he knows what the dog is thinking and whether she’s paying attention by looking in the eyes. I believe it. Glad I could help.

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This week, Cooper has been getting ready for his 3rd appearance at the Rose City Classic dog show here in Portland, Oregon. He is one win away from his AKC Championship, providing that his final win is a major competition.

So several times this week, he has been going from field training in the driving rain and mud, to the dog wash and grooming station. In order to document his clean coat and show cut, I took him into the studio for a portrait session. Afterward, of course, we stopped off for another training session on the way home and one more bath before he hits the ring tomorrow.

He is such a good dog to work with as a model, I thought that I would set up a small video camera and just record a typical photo shoot with the Coop.

Here is a sample of one of the photos that Cooper and I made together (we are a team).

If he wins a major this weekend, then this coat will get trimmed way down so he can just be a hunting dog. If this actually happens, Patrice will be making a significant blog post, as it has been over 3 years of going to dog shows, gradually accumulating enough points for this final milestone.

And if he doesn’t pull it off this weekend, then the coat stays and we look for some more dog shows — majors only. Stay tuned.

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Tomorrow is almost here. It’s a day I’ve been waiting for, for months. The day before which I really, really wanted to get Tooey’s show championship.

Tomorrow is the day Tooey leaves for three months to work with Butch Higgins of Parkdale Kennels. He will teach her the finer points of heeling and sitting politely at heel, fetching up a bumper or duck (or whatever she’s been directed to fetch), and holding it in her mouth until directed to give it to the handler.

She’ll also learn to watch for ducks or bumpers to fall out of the sky and retrieve them, to go out to find bumpers or ducks that she hasn’t seen fall, and myriad other tasks required for hunting retrievers.

In thinking about Tooey’s sojourn at “duck camp,” I long ago decided that Tooey’s show coat had to come off beforehand. Tooey’s show coat is too long, much thicker than Cooper’s, and velcro-like in the presence of burrs, brambles, stickers, seeds, twigs, thorns, and other botanical debris. Trying to maintain a long, flowing show coat in the field is a time consuming pain in the butt.

Thankfully, Tooey got her show championship a couple of weekends ago, and yesterday her breeder got to see her in all her show glory. So today, finally, there was no longer any reason to keep the show coat on.

This evening, the show coat came off. Tooey now has a short, very comfy, easier-to-care-for ‘do. Cooper approves completely.

Cooper observing, Tooey getting trimmed

And besides, concentrating on the the trimming has so far kept me from feeling sad. From realizing just how much I’m going to miss Tooey while she’s gone.

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As soon as the AKC gets to recording it, Tooey will add another title, so her name will be Ch. Stanegate Second Thoughts RN. Or spelled out: Champion Miss Tooey Rally Novice.

Tooey, Trice, and their Rally Novice prize and ribbon

Tooey earned her third qualifying score today in the Rally Novice A class at the Vancouver Kennel Club show. It was a respectable 93 out of 100. Not one of the two 99’s or the 97, but I’ll take it. All I needed for that 3rd qualifying score for the RN was at least a 70.

The trickiest station for me was my handler error with Rally Sign #25. Here’s how the rule book describes this exercise:

Rally Sign #25

“25. HALT–1, 2 and 3 Steps Forward–The handler halts and the dog sits in heel position to begin the exercise. The handler takes one step forward and halts with the dog maintaining heel position. The dog sits when the handler halts. This is followed by two steps forward – halt, and three steps forward–halt, with the dog heeling each time the handler moves forward and sitting each time the handler halts. (Stationary exercise)”

I did the first two parts just fine: I halted and Tooey sat, and then I took one step forward, with Tooey staying in heel position and sitting when I stopped. But then, I took this kind of stuttered two-step move, kind of like a 2-1/4 step thing. I stopped and Tooey sat. Now what to do? I could go back and start the station all over, or I could gamble and just keep going.

I gambled, took my three steps, with Tooey staying with me the whole time. I did my last halt, she did her last sit, and since that was our last station, we just left the ring. I only had to wait a moment or two to see my qualifying score, and breathe again.

I am so pleased — it’s been a great couple of weekends. Last weekend, Tooey’s championship and this week her Rally Novice title. Now we can get to work on retrieving ducks!

Oh, and by the way, Tooey also got Best of Opposite Sex in the conformation ring today, just behind the AKC’s #1 IWS, Keegan.

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Three stories from this weekend at the Gig Harbor Kennel Club show in Shelton, Washington (told in reverse chronological order). It’s true: Good things can happen at dog shows.

“Did something just happen?” the judge asked

In the dog show ring today were two 14-point bitches and one other bitch that has a couple of points. This show was worth 1 point, and if one of those 14-point bitches won, that bitch would have the 15 points needed to “finish.” In other words, get her Champion title.

And indeed, after showing outside, in the rain, on slippery grass, one of the 14-point bitches won it. Kassie, the older one, the one who has been trying for many, many months to get that one last point, took her finishing point.

We three handlers erupted into cheers, smiles, pats on the back, and hurrahs. The judge, perhaps not very accustomed to losers being so happy, asked, “Did something just happen?” We all chimed in at once, “She just finished!” The judge smiled, and gesturing at the pouring rain, said, “Well, this is the perfect weather for finishing an Irish Water Spaniel. Congratulations.”

What was also strange is that this morning, when I woke up, I knew Kassie was going to win. I could see the judge giving Jill, Kassie’s handler, the ribbon. I tried very hard and several times to re-visualize this, to see myself running effortlessly around the ring, Tooey floating along side me, and the judge pointing at Tooey for the win. But no matter how many times I tried this, the vision always ended with Kassie getting the nod.

So, when Kassie actually did get it, I wasn’t particularly shocked. And I was happy — I have wanted this for Jill for awhile. Of course, I was disappointed that Tooey didn’t win — I would love to be finished.

But I can hold two contradictory ideas in my head at one time. And, as I have been told many times, Tooey’s championship will come.

Falling asleep holding “hands”

Tooey and I spent Saturday night on one of Jill’s very comfortable guest beds. Out in the country, where Jill lives, there is almost no light at night, and it’s very quiet. Both of us were ready for sleep. Showing in the dog show ring, getting groomed (again!), and running around playing ball with the other dogs had tired Tooey out. I was simply tired from having gotten up at 5:30 a.m. to prepare us both for the ring, and knew I’d be getting up the next morning at 5:30 again to do it all over again.

We were both lying on our sides, bellies facing each other, when Tooey pawed gently me a couple of times. I reached out to pet her and tell her good night, when she simply placed her paw in my hand. I laid my hand down on the bed, and her paw stayed cradled in my palm. I could feel the heat and the roughness of her pads. We feel asleep like that, paw in hand.

If this had been a movie, and my sleeping partner a human instead of a dog, it would have been one of those romantic “awww…” moments. As it was, it was simply sweet. It’ll be a memory I carry with me a long time.

Now a member of the 1-point club

The Gig Harbor Kennel Club dog show, like many weekend-long dog shows, is actually two shows. Tooey had gotten her 13th point just a week prior, at the Wenatchee show, and I had a chance to finish her this weekend if Tooey could win both shows.

The past week has been hell. I was stressed, I really wanted to finish, and none of the people who frequently help me groom were available. I’m not a great groomer, but I remembered Colleen telling me (to my shock) that it’s not unusual for person who’s going to show an Irish Water Spaniel to do a little grooming every night before a show. That gives the groomer the chance to see the effect after the dog has moved around and the fur has fallen into place.

So that’s what I did. I put poor Tooey up on the table for an hour every night last week. Each time, I asked Russ to help me see where it was uneven, or not matching from side to side, or too long, or the wrong shape, or … He’s not a groomer, either, but he’s got an artistic eye, and he’s watched some great IWS groomers do their stuff many times over. He caught a lot of areas that needed work, and I appreciate it.

Finally, about an hour before I had to leave to get to Jill’s house, where I was staying the night before the show, I just had to stop. I decided that Tooey looked good enough to show without my being humiliated.

And then the gods smiled on me. When I did get to Jill’s house, I found that Jayme, the groomer who has worked on both Cooper and Tooey in the past, was also staying at Jill’s house. And yes, she said she’d take a look at Tooey.

So up on the table Tooey went. Jayme studied her for a few minutes, and then looked up, and said, “You did this?” I nodded. Hard to know where a question phrased this way is coming from.

Jayme walked around the table and surveyed Tooey a bit more. Finally, she said, “You did a great job.” I let out a breath.

And truthfully, Jayme didn’t do a lot more. She took off some more fur along the belly, where I hadn’t been brave enough with my scissors, she shaped a bit around the back of the back legs, and touched up some uneven spots on the front legs. But basically, she told me that I could have easily taken Tooey into the ring without her help.

“Wouldn’t it be funny,” Jayme asked, “if you finally got good at this just as you were finishing Tooey?”

Yeah. Funny.

Oh, and we did get the point on Saturday, bringing Tooey up to 14 points. Now she needs just 1 point, making her a member of the “1-Point Club.”

May Tooey’s membership be very short.

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Seeds too numerous to count in number and kind, thistle leaves, stems, burrs, grass tails, stickery flowers petals, blackberry brambles, etc. All of them stick to grown-out, Irish Water Spaniel show coat curls like velcro.

Did Cooper care? Nope — got to get the bumper. There are double marks to practice, and blind retrieves to work out. Plant debris in the show coat is beneath notice.

Until, that is, we get him up on the grooming table to get all the crap out. Then he pouts.

I should know what I’m getting into — it’s not like we haven’t gone through this before:

And it’ll probably happen again.

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It’s a rare day when both dogs are all groomed up at the same time. Tooey’s been going into the show ring pretty regularly over the past several months, but Cooper has been too busy working in the field. But today is that day, so Russ got a great picture to mark the event.

Cooper and Tooey, all dressed up and going tomorrow

This weekend, the Stumptown Cluster of dog shows is located in my home town. No traveling, no motels, no excuse not to show both dogs at least one of the days. Though I might have found an excuse if I’d wanted to, if I were basing my decision logically on the order of events:

  • Tuesday evening, Cooper was at flyball practice.
  • Wednesday, Cooper was in the field, retrieving in ponds.
  • Wednesday evening, Cooper got a brush-out and bath. We got a pile of seeds, twigs, burrs, and what have you.
  • Thursday morning, Colleen did some beautiful scissoring to trim him up to show standards.
  • Thursday evening, Tooey went to Rally class.
  • Friday evening, Tooey got her brush-out, bath, and trim. (Colleen had already done the scissoring on Tooey last week.)
  • This morning early, Cooper was back out in the field.
  • This afternoon, Tooey was in the show ring.
  • This evening, Cooper got another brush-out and bath, and another pile of seeds and twigs.
  • Tomorrow morning, before the show, both Cooper and Tooey will most likely get a very slight trim to take off the “sticky-outies” — any wayward hair that is sticking out from their curls.
  • Tomorrow afternoon, both dogs are going into the show ring. (If the judge has any trouble choosing, perhaps she will be beguiled by the sweet scent of Cooper’s duck breath. Or maybe not.)

Later tomorrow afternoon, after the show ring, both dogs are going back to the ponds. Finally — they’ll each be doing what they love best in life: to swim (Tooey) and practice retrieves (Cooper).

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