Lost Pets PLUS Grooming Tips

Pet Talk:
Oreo's Shattered Life
Snarled in Cruelty Questions
By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

Young pit bull Oreo suffered broken legs and other injuries after her owner threw her off the roof of a six-story Brooklyn building last June. Her story led to an outpouring of support and offers of a new home. But officials said her growing aggressiveness was too much of a danger to people and other animals, and Oreo was euthanized Friday.

She became the sweet-faced emblem of animal survival in the face of unspeakable human cruelty.

Oreo, a young brown and white pit bull, was thrown by her owner from the roof of his six-story Brooklyn apartment building last summer. Against all odds, the heap of shattered bones was still breathing when animal control arrived shortly afterward and rushed her to the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. Veterinarians tended to her smashed-up legs and fractured rib, and they medicated her heavily, stunned that as bad as the injuries were, there wasn't more damage.

The dog's owner, Fabian Henderson, 19. was arrested. And Oreo became a rallying point in New York and across the nation. Folks e-mailed her photo and story to friends, cheered her from the sidelines and monitored her recovery.

In the humid summertime nastiness of uncertain finances and job security, Oreo became something more than a survivor. She became living proof that goodness could, perhaps, actually prevail over evil.

On Friday, 147 days after her miracle survival, Oreo was euthanized.

She had recovered from her physical injuries. But she was so aggressive that the ASPCA concluded she couldn't be placed in a foster home or adopted to any of the many people who had, from a distance, begged to take her.

"Usually with aggressive dogs you have something to work with," a deflated-sounding ASPCA CEO Ed Sayres told me Friday. Maybe there's one dog those animals can tolerate, or a particular handler they seem to hate less than the others, or you can identify triggers that set them off and avoid them. Over time you can build on that, and very often have the kind of progress they've pulled off many times, he said.

But Oreo lunged and snarled at dogs and people, often growing so angry when she couldn't reach them that she'd redirect her anger at the closest person. She often raged without any clear stimulant at all, as if there was something simmering deep inside her that spilled over without warning.

She had 59 sessions of about 45 minutes each to try to dampen her reactiveness and unpredictability. Nothing worked. "We have one behaviorist who fears nothing when it comes to dogs. About once every three years she's afraid of one. She was afraid of Oreo," Sayres said.

They called in an outside veterinary behaviorist. She expressed grave concerns. It might be possible to drug Oreo every day so she'd pose less threat, the vet said, but the drugs might, as they sometimes (though rarely) do, make her worse.

Turning Oreo over to a sanctuary was discussed at length. Some offered to take her. The ASPCA consensus was that she was so rageful and unpredictable that she'd be relegated to a woefully isolated existence.

A euthanasia order was signed.

The announcement was made Thursday night, and public response was instant and harsh. By noon Friday when I interviewed him, Sayres had received 250 e-mails, uncounted numbers of phone calls and some death threats. Soon, an online petition demanding his resignation was launched; more than 1,000 people have signed.

"I had to protect public safety," he said. "But I also had to do what was in the best interest of Oreo."

Sayres said he understands and appreciates the "life at all costs" philosophy and the deep feeling among so many that, after all she'd been through, she deserved to live out her days in a sanctuary. But he's convinced the strategies required to protect people and animals would have resulted in "profound suffering" for Oreo.

If there's any comfort that at least some people might be able to take from this, it's what ASPCA animal behaviorist Stephen Zawistowski said when I spoke with him. "Oreo didn't die when she was thrown from that building — traumatically, fear-filled, when the last hand to touch her was a cruel hand. She left this world without stress or panic, in a quiet room, after she'd been sedated, with people who'd cared for her. The last hand she felt was a gentle hand."

If additional comfort could ultimately be drawn from this, that might come if Oreo were to somehow serve as the impetus for caring people to gird themselves and come to terms with some truths easier left undisturbed. In shelters across the country Friday, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dogs met Oreo's fate for the same reason she did: They were too violent — because people made them that way. At least Oreo got the benefit of months of efforts to try to make her capable of living peacefully in this world; most of the rest did not because most shelters haven't the time, resources or expertise to work with such animals.

An even bigger tragedy, if there's a lesser-greater scale in these matters (and probably there's not), is that also on Friday, thousands of perfectly friendly dogs lost their lives in shelters simply because of the numbers reality: No more animals could be crammed in, but more are always arriving because people get bored with them or don't feel like training them, or let them create litters. So discarded pets must die to make room for more discarded pets.

At some shelters, the kill rate is 90%, and the vast majority aren't too vicious or too sick to save. They're merely victims of overpopulation.

Oh, and the guy behind Oreo's ascension to the public eye, Henderson? He pleaded guilty to aggravated cruelty to an animal, and was released on his own recognizance. Sentencing will take place next month. Justice insiders say he'll likely get five years of probation and be told he can't own an animal for five years.

Choosing the Right Pet for You
By Body and Mind staff - PennLive.com

Adopting a pet shouldn't be a snap decision. A lot of thought and planning is necessary before bringing an animal into your life.

Considerations include identifying how much time and space you have for a pet, the temperament of the animal and the preferences of household members, especially if the household includes children and other pets. You'll also want to take into account any health issues such as allergies to pet saliva or dander and whether it's legal to have the kind of pet you want where you live.

It's also important to research your choices before making a final selection. Tracy Wagner decided to look at pit bulls after moving into a house with a yard in Lower Paxton Twp.

"My boyfriend had had a pit bull in the past, and when I volunteered at the Humane Society I saw how misunderstood they are," said Wagner, a community relations representative at Belco Credit Union. "Pit bulls can be just as loving as other breeds despite the stigmas and stereotypes. It's all in how the animal is raised."

When Wagner met Dominick the pit bull -- that's "Dom" for short -- and eventually adopted him from the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area Inc., she was happy to see the dog lived up to her expectations by licking her face and wanting his belly rubbed.

For other pet owners, an animal's companionship also provides a form of aid. When Linda Ekelman's husband developed dementia, she was afraid to leave the room because he needed her constantly. The couple's Labrador was "too energetic" to help. Ekelman found respite for herself as well as distraction and comfort for her husband in a cat.

Through Castaway Critters, the Perry County woman adopted a kitten who liked to climb on her husband's shoulders and put its head under his chin. "My husband was reasonably unemotional then, but he developed a real affection for the cat," Ekelman recalled. "When the cat got sick and we had to put him down, my husband kept asking for it."

Ekelman adopted two more kittens before her husband died. Both were "very therapeutic" for him.

But the search for the perfect pet can be challenging. To begin, make sure every member of your household is ready to adopt. Lillian Byers of Etters was seeking a dog who could get along well with her surrogate family: a child with hearing-impairments she cares for while his mother is at work, his mother and her dogs. Byers found and adopted Dozer, a Shih Tzu mix, from Castaway Critters. Though abused and sick before a foster parent took him in, Byers said Dozer is now "the sweetest dog in the world." Her friend's child considers the pet as his own.

"Owning a pet is a big responsibility," said Kelly Hitz of the Humane Society. "A lot of people don't think ahead. If they get a puppy, they may be looking to a 10- to 15-year commitment and that's hard, especially with busy lifestyles and with kids. They may not have the time needed to spend with a pet."

With dogs, it's important to research breeds in terms of their level of activity. Often people come to the Humane Society with firm ideas of which type of animal they want and which personality or breed they prefer. "But when they describe their circumstances, we might say the choice is not so good," Hitz said. "We try to get a handle on the animals' personalities. Dogs get a temperament test to see if they're good with men, women, kids and other dogs."

It is recommended that every human member of the household spend some time with a pet before adopting it. Of course, there still may be surprises, said Nina Mantione, a veterinarian with Good Hope Animal Hospital in Mechanicsburg. "An animal doesn't always behave in a shelter or in foster care the way he would otherwise," Mantione said. "The animal may seem more withdrawn because of the stress of being in the shelter."

It may be hard to give specific advice if you don't know the prospective pet owner's situation, but the veterinarian can offer general tips. For example:

•Have young children? Avoid large-breed dogs as they tend to be too energetic and require a lot of exercise.

•Have teenagers? Your family might benefit from having a dog with energy to burn. "You might want to avoid extremely shy or extremely aggressive dogs," Mantione added. "A very shy one can be aggressive if threatened. You probably want to look for an easygoing, friendly dog without it being 'wild and crazy.'"
Annette Reiff, a longtime volunteer with Castaway Critters (and Patriot-News columnist), urged potential adopters to think twice before choosing a specific pet. "I've seen cases of people who returned kittens to rescue groups or shelters because they were "too active," when a little research would have told them to expect this," she said. "It's great to ask a lot of questions."

But along with information you need determination. It can be stressful for an animal to be adopted and then returned, Reiff emphasized.

Unwilling to meet the demands of a dog or cat, some people may consider a smaller animal as a pet. Hitz agreed that a rabbit may be a good option to provide companionship and teach responsibility to a family who's not yet canine- or feline-ready. Prospective owners should familiarize themselves first with the requirements for caging, bedding and handling of these pets.

"With a bunny you have more husbandry," she said. "You have to clean the cage and change the water bottle, and the bunny may not be as personable as a dog or cat."

Small animals in general can be more delicate. Guinea pigs, for example, need vitamin C (through supplements or fresh vegetables) to prevent scurvy. And, "you may have to watch kids around hamsters, gerbils or guinea pigs," Mantione advised. "They're not recommended for families with kids 5 and under."

Kids and holiday time might lead to the thought of giving pets as presents. But that's not recommended, the experts noted.

"Everyone in the family should meet the pet before it comes home," Hitz said. "If someone wants to pay for the adoption fee, that's fine. But a pet shouldn't be a gift the family doesn't know about. At the very least you have to make sure the primary caregiver is compatible with it."

Caring for your pet

Make sure the pet you select is home-ready, which means it has been spayed/neutered and given all of its necessary shots. A license and an initial round of shots are offered by the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area Inc. as part of the adoption fee. The society also provides twice-a-month low-cost vaccinations, microchipping (for identification) and other pet products.

Area rescue groups offer periodic spay/neuter clinics for existing pet cats and feral ones. Vaccinations and other services are available at community events such as Woofstock.

"But we want people to know getting shots for their animals is not enough," cautioned Kelly Hitz of the Humane Society. "It doesn't take the place of an annual visit to the vet."

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Curbing Fido’s Financial Strain
By LearnVest - RecessionWire.com

Having a pet is a fine balance: We love our pooches, but we know that pet hair isn’t a fashion accessory. They burrow in our purses, poke out of our car windows, and try to lick our face masks away. We’ve compiled the best insider tips to help you scratch away at your pet’s expenses—you and Junior won’t remember how you coexisted without us!

Look For Veterinary Colleges. Money isn’t a reason not to bring your pet in for regular checkups, but vet visits are expensive. Do a quick Google search or refer to this list to see if there are any veterinary colleges in your area. If so, they are probably looking for new patients and likely offered reduced rates. Don’t worry about putting Mr. Fuzzy in the hands of students—they are supervised and accredited for treating animals!

Go To The Vet Regularly! We know that this may be hard for some money-savers to stomach, but going in for regular “tuneups and oil changes” is the first line of financial defense of your pet care bills. Failure to diagnose early will translate to much more expensive treatment bills in the future. For example, canine cataract surgery can easily cost $2,000 to $3,000, and a kidney transplant can cost $7,000 or more. Treating heartworm in a dog can cost over $700, whereas heartworm prevention ranges from about $5 to $15 per month.

Consider Pet Insurance. Pet coverage can cost $2,000 to $6,000 over the course of your pet’s life, and odds are that you probably won’t wind up paying that much for any particular treatment. All the same, if you’re one of those people who would do absolutely anything for your pet, then pet insurance might make sense…

Dogs and Cats in Las Vegas
to be Spayed or Neutered
USA Today

Hello, readers. Here's a topic we haven't talked about yet: when and if pets should be sterilized? One city has a lot to say about this subject and is taking action.

According to a story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Las Vegas city council passed a new ordinance this past week requiring most cats and dogs to be spayed or neutered by four months of age.

The ordinance takes effect April 1. It is in response to Southern Nevada's pet overpopulation problem and had support from local veterinarians and animal rescue groups. Every year The Lied Animal Shelter takes in about 50,000 animals, 86% of which are not sterilized. The shelter has seen its number of impounded d0gs increase 10% a year for the past three years. The cat intake is up 5% annually. Overall, the shelter has to euthanize about half of the animals.

Exceptions to the new ordinance are individuals with a breeder, animal handler or fancier permit, and for pets that qualify for a medical exemption. Violating the ordinance will be a misdemeanor.

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Pet Dog for Christmas?
Wait 'Til After Holidays

Potential ethical insurance shoppers who are considering getting a pet dog for the holidays may want to heed some expert advice and wait until Christmas has come and gone.

Times Courier Dog Speak columnist Katie Gammill said "reputable breeders will not release small puppies during the holidays".

She noted this is because it is a chaotic, busy time for everybody and this was not the best situation in which to welcome a pooch into the household.

Firstly, the puppy could be ignored with so much going on and Ms Gammill even suggested some families have let the animal outside to relieve itself and forgotten about it.

Secondly, this kind of environment could be quite stressful for an animal with so many sights and sounds.

And many welfare authorities including the Humane Society of the United States have reminded people that there are many preparations to be made before welcoming a new pet into the home.

This could mean it is not the type of present that should be sprung on someone or bought on an impulse.

Specialized Veterinary Care:
At What Point? And At What Price?
By Patty Khuly, Special for USA TODAY

Over the past 10 years veterinary medicine has witnessed an explosion in the number of veterinarians heading into three- and four-year residency programs after veterinary school. An estimated 40% of veterinary students now vie for postgraduate positions, up from less than 10% a decade ago.

Translation? More education means more veterinarians offering expert services in cardiology, neurology, ophthalmology, surgery, internal medicine, dermatology, anesthesiology, radiology, behavior medicine and more.

No longer is your general-practice veterinarian expected to provide you with all the services your pets need, à la James Herriot. In fact, it's gotten so that veterinarians who don't mention the services of specialists when it comes to non-routine veterinary matters risk legal action for not offering their clients an informed choice regarding their pets' care.

And that's probably a good thing, right? You (the client) get more options while your pet (the patient) gets the benefit of access to higher-quality medicine previously available only in veterinary school settings. That is … if you can afford it.

Yes, specialty practices are expensive. These multi-doctor hospitals typically charge two to three times what your regular veterinarian would for the same services. But, to be fair, they also offer much more than your regular vet ever could: round-the-clock critical care, certified veterinary technicians, CT scans, MRIs, radiation therapy and nuclear medicine … among other menu items previously labeled "for humans only."

Problem is, it's gotten so that it's not always so clear when a pet owner should see an expert. When is a general practitioner not good enough? When does a pet's condition demand the skills of a specialist?

While our leading professional organizations have issued guidelines for when veterinarians should refer to specialists (reference the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association), they're loosey-goosey at best on the particular circumstances in which a veterinarian should recognize his or her limitations and offer the services of an expert. It's still up to each individual veterinarian to decide when to refer. Failing that, it's up to pet owners to be educated enough to ask for a referral for non-routine surgeries, difficult diagnoses and complex problems if they want the best possible care for their pets.

So where does that leave pet owners who really need to know when it's best that their pet see a specialist?

Every veterinarian has their own personal philosophy on this issue, but since this is my column I'll offer you mine:

#1 Any second opinion.

Don't see another general practitioner. If it's a tough problem for your vet, it'll likely be tough for the next one. See a specialist for best results.

#2 Any lack of trust.

Should you fail to trust your veterinarian when it comes to a diagnosis or treatment option, see a specialist.

#3 Any legal matter.

If you have a legal issue with an individual, a company or even a veterinarian, you need an expert.

#4 Any orthopedic surgery or thoracic surgery.

Orthopedic and thoracic surgeries are ALWAYS best performed by a board-certified surgeon. Experience is everything in these cases.

#5 Any exploratory surgery.

Again, a board-certified surgeon should always be offered. After all, we never know whether what we'll find once we get in there will be something we can't manage as well as someone more expert than ourselves.

#6 Any time it takes more than three visits to solve a problem.

Most problems that require more than three visits to manage deserve the offer of a referral.

#7 When better equipment is needed.

Most specialists offer better equipment than regular vets do. It often makes all the difference.

#8 Heart trouble.

ANY time I hear a heart murmur or cardiac rhythm abnormality, I recommend the services of a cardiologist. (Again, reference better equipment.)

#9 X-ray or ultrasound images.

It's my take that every questionable X-ray or ultrasound image should see a radiologist.

#10 Every time critical care is required.

High, unrelenting fevers, blood transfusion cases, respiratory trouble, complicated diabetes, severe arrhythmias, non-routine post-operative patients (among others): They all do best under 24-hour watch at a specialty hospital.

Problem is, not everyone is willing or able to spend gobs of money on saving their pets. We all draw the line at a different dollar value and various treatment levels based on our philosophical beliefs with respect to pet care and animal welfare along with very practical considerations regarding the condition of our bank accounts.

It's been posited that specialty veterinary medicine represents the death of modern society in all its frivolous glory. Some observe that the choices seem overwhelming and confusing, especially given the disparity among veterinarians with respect to specialist referral policies. Still others embrace the new choices with grateful fervor, happy to spend whatever it takes … which is not as difficult as it may seem given that intensive care typically costs no more than a leather interior package on a luxury car.

In any case, specialists in veterinary medicine are here to stay. We'll doubtless have more in years to come as more students opt for specialization as a way to meet their hefty financial obligations (reference student loan debt). And if the trend toward pets in all things American continues apace as it has done for the past 20 years, we can expect demand for these services to continue to drive even more veterinarians to enter the Byzantine medical morass that is specialized veterinary medicine.

Will we miss James Herriot? I will, for sure. But that doesn't mean I'll play ostrich to the kind of sophisticated medicine I've come to expect for my patients as well as for my own pets.

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Grooming Tips to Keep
Pets Prim and Proper
By EMC News

Pet parents know there are many responsibilities that come with having a pet as a part of the family. Medical care, feeding and watering, providing exercise, and offering moderate entertainment are all par for the course. Another consideration is keeping your pet well groomed and clean.

Depending upon your pet, grooming may need to be a frequent or intermittent part of care. Birds, for example, may need nail trimming every once in a while. Cats keep themselves relatively clean, so may only require nail trimming and infrequent baths. Fish don't need grooming, per se, however you will have to keep the tank clean and at the right pH.

When it comes to grooming, most people associate the task with dog ownership. Dogs of all shapes and sizes, with various coat types, may require more grooming than other animals. Grooming may feature home involvement, professional grooming or a combination of both.

Professional groomers will offer an array of services and are the way to go if you do not have the time or the ability to bathe, dry and shape your pet's coat. Depending upon the groomer, certain services will be rendered at every grooming appointment. Here are some things to expect:

* the grooming appointment will likely last a few hours from start to finish

* your pet will be brushed and bathed

* some groomers use a dryer for your pet, others believe it is better to let the coat air-dry

* detangling and dematting will occur if the pet needs it

* ears and teeth may be cleaned

* nails are trimmed

* emptying of dog's digestive system may occur

* clipping and shaving of coat will take place

* if pet has fleas, a flea dip will be offered

* advice on routine maintenance may be given

Pets who are introduced to the grooming experience early on whether at-home brushing or visits to a groomer will become less nervous and more tolerant of the experience. While groomers expect some skittishness from certain pets, your animal may be refused if he or she is overly aggressive. You may want to consult with a veterinarian to see if a sedative is helpful or necessary to make grooming sessions less traumatic.

Grooming is not just for aesthetic purposes. Regularly cleaning and brushing a pet's coat ensures that the skin remains healthy and receives adequate air and blood circulation. Matting or other problems can cause infection or fungus to form, or hot spots that lead to irritation.

Act Fast When Pet Becomes Lost
By Gail Krueger - SavannahNow.com

A few weeks ago, my friends' dog, Maggie, dug out from under their backyard fence and disappeared into their Wilmington Island neighborhood.

Those of us who know Maggie felt our collective hearts sink; surrounded by woods, marshy ponds and next to U.S. 80, it was not a good place for a shy, scared dog to run loose.

The upside was that many caring neighbors and kids in the area kept their eyes open for Maggie. She was spotted several times as she raced around. Several of us walked the area looking for her. We knew her shyness would keep her from coming to anyone but her mom, but we wanted to keep her in sight.

In the wee hours of the morning, Maggie came to the front door and barked. Hungry, thirsty, muddy with mats and burrs in her coat, she found her way back. We were all happy and relieved, knowing that it could have been our dog and not all such stories have happy endings.

Steps to safety

HomeAgain, a pet microchip registration service, says that without proper identification, 90 percent of lost pets never get home. The American Humane Society says that one in 1 in 3 pets will become lost in their lifetime and that only 15 percent of lost dogs and 2 percent of lost cats find their way home. Almost 4 million pets are euthanized every year, according to American Humane Society; many of them lost family pets.

All of this went through my mind when the notice came to renew my dog Tipper's microchip registration. Unlike Maggie, Tipper will go up to anybody. I don't think she would ever run away; more likely she would embark on a good will tour of the region. No Walmart greeter has anything on Tipper.

Even though times are tough, I'm going to pay the $15 annual fee again.

You can get a microchip implanted at your vet's office or at clinic events run by local rescue groups like Save-a-Life. The theory is that if your missing pet is found, a vet, animal shelter or rescue group can run a scanner over the animal and find the chip. Even if their brand of scanner cannot read your pet's brand of chip, it should be detectable. That detection turns the animal into a lost pet instead of a stray.

Of course, this all depends on somebody getting their hands on your pet, running the scan and doing it correctly. And, most importantly, it depends on you sending in the registration.

Does that mean microchips aren't worth the money? Hardly. They are a great way - but not the only way - to keep your pet safe.

A well-fitted, no-slip or martingale-style collar with a prominent ID tag on it is the first line of defense. Again, reading the phone number engraved on the tag (or embroidered on the collar, or engraved on a small plate attached to the collar) depends on someone getting their hands on your pet. But they are more likely to try, as the collar lets them know this is a pet, not a stray.

Understanding a bit about animal behavior can help you recover a lost pet. The Missing Pet Partnership, a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to reuniting lost companion animals with their owners, has a great Web site (www.missingpetpartnership.org) with behavior-based tips for finding pets. The group notes that dogs run away for three common reasons: an opportunistic journey, wanderlust or blind panic.

An opportunist journey can start with a gate or door accidently left open. The dog follows her instinct and nose and ends up miles away. Wanderlust is common for intact male dogs who try every means of escape to reach a female - a good reason to neuter your dog. A panicky dog goes into flight mode if it is scared by thunder, loud noises or a traumatic incident which can be as simple as a toppled table or as extreme as a car wreck.

The panicky dog travels fastest and farthest and its behavior - shyness, slinking away from people, hiding - makes this pet the hardest to find, like Maggie would have been. When they are found, their fearful behavior often leads would-be rescuers to assume they've been abused.

Temperament also plays a role. A shy, aloof or fearful dog can be hardest to help because of its behavior. Again, well-meaning people sometimes assume they are abused. Another good reason to make sure your dog is well socialized.

Whatever your dog's reason or temperament, if it gets lost, act fast. You don't want to miss the opportunity in the early hours to run into the person who saw your dog traveling down a certain road or sniffing in a certain park.

I've included a short check list on things to do if your pet becomes lost.

Act fast, be persistent and enlist the help of friends. All of these will help your Lassie come home.

Gail Krueger writes the Savannah Weeder column and about her other passion, pets. Send her an e-mail at savannahweeder@ yahoo.com.

Do all you can to prevent your pet from getting lost in the first place. Go to www.missingpetpartnership.org for some great prevention tips.

What to do if your pet is lost:

-- Call the animal control and humane shelters. And keep calling. Visit in person. Take copies of your pet's picture. People can interpret a written description of a pet in many different ways and misidentify breeds.

-- Post a lost pet notice wherever you can: newspaper, televisions stations, petfinder and Craig's list. Most media outlets give free brief listing for lost and found pets. Don't be shy about spending the money to do a bigger listing with more detail.

-- Large signs with your pet's full-color picture and your phone number posted at intersections near your home and at major intersections are an easy and effective way of getting your pet back. Smaller notices with color pictures are good to post at vet's offices, on bulletin boards and at shelters.

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