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You think your dog is doing something adorable, so you encourage her to continue that behavior. But later you discover that it’s not so cute after all. Then what? I see this a lot with clients, but I’ve also made these kinds of mistakes with my dogs. Whoops!

I was discussing this on Twitter with Sonia Singh, a fellow pet blogger and marketing director for PawPosse.com in Phoenix, AZ. As an advocate for the large dog lifestyle, she said she’s inadvertently trained her pup Nala to “follow her bliss”– until Sonia discovered that Nala’s bliss was not what she intended! I asked Sonia to share her experiences to help assure dog owners that there are ways to turn things around! Her bio appears at the end of her post.

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Training a dog is complex. There are times we train our dog exactly what we want, then there are times we accidentally teach them something we weren’t exactly hoping for. I accidentally trained my dog Nala two things that at the time seemed cute, but ended up with not-so-cute results.

Nala, the former leash chewer

The first mistake

I trained Nala to chew her leash.

Here’s how it happened. One day, I clipped her leash on her collar to go for a walk. She picked up the handle and started walking towards the door with it. It was as if she was taking herself for a walk – very cute. I thought it would be funny to teach her to walk herself. Each time she picked up the leash in her mouth, I praised her. Then she took it a step further, and that’s where it went wrong.

I clipped the leash to her collar one evening, opened the door and, realizing it was chillier than I expected, shut the door and grabbed a jacket. By the time I got back to the door and reached for the leash, I couldn’t find it. Then I saw it – barely four inches of it dangling from her collar. The rest was missing. She had chewed it right off in under 30 seconds. Between being encouraged to pick it up and needing to release excited energy, Nala picked up her leash like I taught her – then chewed it. We went through at least three more leashes before I was able to break her of the habit. She still picks up her leash on occasion, but I haven’t been forced to buy a new leash in over a year.

The second mistake

We trained Nala to growl inappropriately. This had much worse consequences, and we’re still trying to fix it.

When Nala was a puppy, she didn’t make a sound. No growling, barking, whining, nothing. Her dad thought it would be fun to see our little puppy growl, so he started growling at her during play, hoping she would growl back. I warned him that was a bad idea, but when it started working I had to admit – it was adorable to see such a tiny ball of love act so ferocious.

Ferocious Nala

As she grew, her growl became less adorable and sounded more menacing. Her underbite grew too, making her look like she’s constantly baring her teeth. Suddenly, nobody at the dog park saw her as friendly: she would run up to a dog to play, but to the dog and its owner it looked like a dog running towards them, growling and baring its teeth. They would respond accordingly, and Nala was confused about why dogs snarled at her when all she wanted to do was play. Yes, that’s right: she growled to play but didn’t take growling as play when other dogs did it to her. She took it as an aggressive gesture from them, and that’s how they meant it.

Unlike the accidental leash chewing I taught her, the growling has had more serious effects and had a chain of consequences. Other dogs responded to Nala as if she’s acting aggressively and in turn, she developed a fear of some other dogs. That means she became reactive on a leash during walks and  was unable to play at the dog park without a scuffle.

Retraining

We stopped going to the dog park, and at home, we stop play immediately when she growls, so she now growls during play only when she’s overly excited. We’ve been working on “leave it” as we walk so she learns not to respond to every dog that walks by. It’s working: she now growls during play only when she’s really excited and is much calmer on a leash now, and for the most part walks casually by other dogs. She sometimes turns her head, but that’s it. It’s taken some work, but Nala has made huge strides.

Everybody makes training mistakes from time to time. Sometimes it’s not a serious mistake, like our leash mishap; sometimes, the consequences are more dire. The good news is, our efforts are paying off. The earlier you catch the inappropriate behavior, the easier it will be to fix.

 

Sonia Singh is the Marketing Director and a blogger for PawPosse.com. PawPosse.com specializes in large dog supplies, such as these raised dog bowls for large dogs. They also provide the education and tools that more fully involve big dogs in owners’ everyday lives. As a large dog owner, Sonia understand the questions and issues that come up with big dogs. You can read more of Sonia’s  writing on PawPosse.com’s Big Dog Blog, which features practical tips and personal stories on life with big dogs. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

OK, I admit it. I feed my dog cereal for treats. Not all the time, but sometimes when we’re all hanging out together at breakfast, a flake or two will drop, and the begging begins… which brings me to this: I am a new contributing podcaster at Animal Cafe, a great animal resource that covers broad range of topics–including animal welfare, nutrition, pet travel, pet product reviews, wildlife, and seabirds. How does cereal fit into this gig?

One of my dogs’ and my favorite cereals is Barbara’s Puffins Multi-Grain. I was reading the back of the box a few weeks ago and discovered that there was an exotic bird called a Puffin, a little penguin-like bird. And an entire product was devoted to Project Puffin. In the company’s own words:

Why name a cereal after a Puffin? Employee inspiration. A longtime employee fell in love with these adorable seabirds during an Alaskan trip. It was the “ah-hah” moment when puffins the bird met Puffins the cereal. The rest is history.
 
We became passionate fans of Project Puffin, the Audubon Society’s efforts to restore puffins to their former habitat of Eastern Egg Rock off the rugged coast of Maine. Once plentiful on this rocky island, by 1973, when Audubon launched Project Puffin, the orange-footed swimming birds had all but disappeared.

What an interesting subject for a podcast! The back of the box also gave me a contact–Dr. Stephen Kress, vice president for bird conservation for the National Audubon Society and the leader of Project Puffin. I knew I had to talk with him about these adorable, but fiesty seabirds.

In our Animal Cafe interview, Dr. Kress provides the ins and outs of how he helped bring these seabirds back to Maine, and what Project Puffin is all about. Read more about the Puffins and take a listen to Audubon Project Puffin: From Extinction to Repopulation for some interesting facts!

 

 

 

 

This post is sharing a unique challenge and advocacy solution for Blog The Change for Animals.

Laboratory Beagles looking at grass for the first time!

Something special is happening in Hollywood on Sunday, July 24. Better than celebrity sightings. A rescue adoption day. But not just any rescue. This one is The Beagle Adoption Day.

Perhaps you remember the press and viral video of several scared Beagles, rescued from an animal laboratory by Beagle Freedom Project, walked on grass for the first time after being caged all their lives?

(The original video has been removed for legal purposes–the second rescue video is at the end of this post, which includes a set of new Beagles experiencing greenery for the first time ever.)

Sure, I’d heard horrific stories about animal testing for all sorts of products, from makeup to dog food, but seeing these debarked and muscle-atrophied Beagle cuties not have a clue as to what to do when confronted with space outside their cages, I had to do find out more.

 

And they're out, loving the new smells!

Who’s making a change for animals?

Turns out, Shannon Keith, a Los Angeles Animal Rights Attorney and documentary filmmaker, got a call in December 2010 about nine Beagles who were being retired from a laboratory–and she had less than two days to pick them up. As the founder of the non-profit,  ARME (Animal Rescue, Media & Education), which rescues homeless animals and focuses on educational initiatives, Shannon decided to act–and brought the first of that lab’s Beagles to freedom.

Wanting to do more for throw-away dogs, she started Beagle Freedom Project. “Working directly with laboratories, the Beagle Freedom Project is able to remove the retired Beagles so they can be placed in loving homes. All rescues are done legally with the cooperation of the facility.” She adds that labs offer almost zero chance of freedom. “They decide whether to free the dogs at last minute and we have about 48 hours to get there.”

These Beagles were lucky. The lab had completed testing (for cosmetic, household and pharmaceutical compounds) and agreed to

Shannon (l) & volunteer Jill Ryther taking rescued Beagles for a ride in another first for the dogs

release the animals to Shannon rather than euthanize them. In general, however, when labs are done with the dogs, they’re killed. Plain and simple. The American Association For Laboratory Animal Science says that the animals “must be euthanized to obtain tissue for pathological evaluation and for use in in-vitro testing. Most often, they’re killed because they’re of no use to the laboratories.”

Shannon says that the Beagle Freedom Project is  building relationships with different facilities. It has proven extremely difficult, as most of these place do not want us to rescue the dogs–it’s easier to kill them. However, we are not giving up! We plan to save as many as we can.”

 


Testing lab’s dirty little secrets

Let’s back up a bit. Why are dogs in laboratories in the first place? They’re often used in biomedical research, testing, and education. You may have used common products, such as toothpaste, shampoo, soap, dog chow–you name it–that were tested on dogs. The Humane Society of the United States claims dogs are also commonly used as models for human diseases in cardiology, endocrinology, bone and joint studies, drugs, poisons, and other research that tends to be highly invasive. Beagles are mostly used because they’re considered gentle and easy to handle. And, these Beagles are “purpose-bred” in the U.S., which means class A breeders are licensed by the USDA to sell animals for research purposes–often at $800 per dog.

According to a recent KTLA.com article and U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, 70,000 dogs are being used in approximately 1,260 USDA-registered laboratory facilities annually, with appropriations for these laboratories somewhere in the $22,000,000 range.

But why don’t we know these facts? Shannon offers this explanation. “Companies that test keep it a secret. The facilities that test keep it as secret as they can, even though you are paying for it with your taxes. QUESTION where your money goes and what you buy and educate yourself before you buy something. Boycott products tested on animals. Write to those companies and tell them you will not purchase their products anymore until they stop the testing. The FDA does not require companies to test cosmetics or products on animals, but companies still do it to create a legal shield and because they are lazy.”

 


Cruelty-free living guides

Furthermore, Shannon says, “we are working on our own cruelty-free living guide to give to people so they can make informed choices, instead of purchasing products that might be tested on animals. We are making a comprehensive one that will be updated monthly online.” (In the meantime, here is a good guide of corporations that do test their products on animals, and those that don’t.) “This is part of a larger campaign for us. Of course, we love saving the individual dogs, yet this is about education and awareness and getting people to know and understand who their purchases impact, and to make a different choice. These companies thrive on sales. If people stop buying, then we will see fewer animals being abused.”

One of Shannon’s favorite things is getting responses from people “who hear about us, who did not know animal testing existed and throw away all of their animal-tested products.”

Are you in? That’s what I’m going to do for today’s “Be the Change”–making sure my household is entirely cruelty-free.

 

The importance of July 24th’s freedom adoption day

One of the many adoptable Beagles

Adoptions! Please come–or at least take a look at the adoptable Beagles from Beagle Freedom Project
When: Sunday, July 24th from 11am-3pm
Where: Healthy Spot in West Hollywood, 8525 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069

Shannon indicates that it’s important that these dogs be seen by the general public so we can learn from them. “It’s one thing to tell people about the horrors of animal testing, but when they see their faces, they cannot help but listen and take it in. We also want to find perfect homes for these dogs.”

And yet, even though there are multiple applications for each dog, Beagle Freedom Project has to be “extremely careful about where we place them,” Shannon emphasizes. “These dogs are not like any other. They need special attention, they need constant companionship from another dog or dogs, so that they can learn how to be dogs, and they also need constant human companionship to learn about love and trust.”

Some common post-adoption issues  in the dogs include possible housetraining setbacks, cautiousness in new environments, separation anxiety, car sickness, and the often seasonal or environmental allergies, depending on the tests to which they were subjected in the labs.

“People need to be willing to put in 100% and to deal with issues they may never have expected from a dog… They are just learning how to WALK. Their muscles are atrophied. They do not know the different between right and wrong. They cannot communicate

Pick me!

vocally because they have been de-barked.” (Many lab dogs are debarked so they won’t bother the technicians or other animals at night.)

The dogs don’t go home on adoption day. The potential adopters, after filling out an application, is rigorously screened. If all works out, the adopter signs not only pays an adoption fee and signs a tight contract, they must sign a supplement to be an ambassador for the cause.

That means adopters “must tell everyone they meet about their newly adopted Beagle, where he/she came from, and why it is so important to boycott certain products.”

Are you that special person?


The promised video!

Here’s the video I promised earlier. Get out your hankies!

Beagles running free–and look who’s up for adoption

Follow the Beagle Freedom Project

Twitter: @BeagleFreedom

Facebook: www.facebook.com/BeagleFreedomProject

Facebook causes page: www.causes.com/causes/560350

Shannon Keith lives with three dogs and one cat. Chula, her 9-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, was skin and bones and about to “pop a litter” when Shannon brought her home–the next day, Chula had 11 puppies. Amazingly, Keith found them all homes. Her Doxie/Chihuahua mix Samantha is also a pound puppy. Oliver, an American Staffordshire Terrier, had been left in a box with his umbilical cord. Grampa, the most recent rescue of the pack, is an 18-year-old black cat from a hoarding situation.


In Wednesday’s Part I of our Separation Anxiety interview series, canine behavior specialist Nicole Wilde, author of  Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety, described what separation anxiety really is, the causes, and how you can tell if your dog has it.

Yesterday’s Part II of the series described ways to manage your dog’s anxiety when you leave and how to build your dog’s confidence.

In today’s post, Nicole explores whether pharmalogical intervention is a good idea for dogs with separation anxiety, when it may be appropriate, and offers some alternative therapies that you may want to try before going down the pharma road.

 

Statistics

As an aside, I searched for statistics regarding drug intervention for dogs with separation anxiety. Several pharmaceutical industries that make the medications reported their own statistical findings, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the governing body that approves drugs for animals, found some of the clinical trials and advertising misleading. Although the companies in question have revised their numbers, the curative results of their original statements still perpetuate throughout the web and were even cited at a recent veterinary conference I attended (the companies that reported the claims did not return my calls for comment).

Thus, do your own research to see if pharmaceutical intervention is right for your pup’s separation anxiety. Let us know through the comments section after this post if you’ve tried any therapies, holistic or prescription, that works and what you are doing to help your pooch worry less and enjoy life more!

OK, on to Nicole’s interview!

 

When is pharmacological intervention appropriate?

Some behaviorists seem to prescribe drugs for just about every behavior problem, even when the issue could be solved with behavior modification alone. Others in the profession believe that drugs can be extremely dangerous to dogs, and would never suggest their use to a dog owner regardless

Luna contemplating her drug and holistic choices

of the behavior issue involved. In my opinion, the most helpful approach lies somewhere in between.

Drugs can be of great assistance in certain circumstances. When a dog’s issues are so extreme that he is injuring himself, or is in such emotional turmoil that behavior modification would be impossible without getting that “foot in the door” that medication can provide, drugs can be a kindness as well as a benefit. Using appropriate pharmacology can, in some cases, make the difference between the dog remaining in the home and being surrendered to the shelter—potentially a life or death decision. Medicating the dog allows for the stress levels of the owner to be lowered as well; this too can tip the scales in favor of the dog keeping his home.

Unfortunately, many owners turn to drugging their dogs as a replacement for dealing with the emotional distress that is causing the problematic symptoms. It’s all too tempting to simply toss pills at a problem! If the dog is calm, after all, the problem must be solved …Well, perhaps it is for the person. But using drugs as a quick fix is bound to have behavioral repercussions down the line, because it is only masking the underlying issues.

Another thing that must be considered with any drug is the potential side effects, especially with long-term use. Owners must be informed consumers so that they decide whether the potential risks are acceptable. Although I absolutely believe that drugs have their place, I prefer natural alternatives whenever possible. There are two nutraceuticals discussed in my book—alpha-casozepine and L-theanine—that have helped many of my clients’ dogs. The former is a peptide derived from a milk protein, and the latter is an amino acid. Both come in easy to administer formulations, and do not carry the worrisome side effects of manufactured drugs. Although they may not work in every case or be appropriate for every dog, in many cases these natural substances are very effective, and are certainly worth a try.

 

How about alternative therapies? Do they really work?

Buzz can attest that T-shirts often calm a dog with SA

One alternative tool I like is DAP, which is short for Dog Appeasing Pheromone. It chemically mimics the pheromones that are given off by a lactating female dog, which is comforting not only to puppies, but to adult dogs as well. It looks like a plug-in air freshener (but you won’t smell anything), and also a spray form. I know many trainers who use the spray in their training rooms before group classes, and they report that the dogs are much calmer. Used for dogs with separation issues, DAP can take the edge off, and make moderate anxiety less so. One caution, though: do not use DAP if you have birds around, as birds have very sensitive respiratory systems.

 

Another thing that can be helpful is calming music. Playing soothing, classical music can help, but there is also a product called “Through a Dog’s Ear” that has music that is psychoacoustically designed to calm dogs. I’ve seen it work well with many of my clients’ dogs. They relax, and many will actually go to sleep!

Whether it’s one of the two above-mentioned tools or one of the others discussed in the “Cool Tools” section of the book, it’s important to keep in mind that one thing will not work for every dog. But because these therapies and products won’t cause harm and may well help, they are certainly worth trying.

 

Can all dogs be treated for SA, or are there cases when SA is too severe? What do you recommend at that point?

It’s likely that the vast majority of dogs with separation issues can improve to a great extent, but there are some cases that can be an extreme challenge. The problem is not only that the dog’s emotional distress is so strong, but also that dealing with the issue and living with it 24/7 takes a huge emotional toll on the owner. It is unfortunate but understandable that people might not be willing to work with this type of issue long-term. I strongly suggest that owners work with a canine behavior specialist before they give up; it may be that something the professional comes up with is the one thing that makes all the difference. But in cases where the issue cannot be resolved and the owner can no longer deal with it, rehoming the dog with someone such as an elderly or infirm person who is at home the majority of the time can be a good option.

 

What is the one take-away that you hope people will take away from your book?

In addition to readers getting lots of helpful, specific tips and techniques to try, I hope they come away with the willingness to be patient and to remain compassionate. It can sometimes feel like a long road to rehabilitation—believe me, I know! But you will and your dog will both be much less stressed in the end—and your dog is worth it.

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Part I of this interview series: Nicole discusses the definitions, causes, how we can help the suffering dog, and clues about separation anxiety with adopting a dog.

Part II of this interview series: Nicole offers advice about how to help your dog feel safer and calmer through management techniques and protocols, discusses the crate controversy, and provides tips and suggestions for building your dog’s confidence.

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Nicole Wilde is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and internationally recognized author and lecturer. Her nine books include So You Want to be a Dog Trainer, Help for Your Fearful Dog, and Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety. In addition to working with dogs, Nicole has worked with wolves and wolfdogs for over fifteen years and is considered an expert in the field.

Nicole is on the Advisory Board of the Companion Animal Sciences Institute, the educational branch for the International Institute for Applied Companion Animal Behavior, and an Advisory Board member for the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals. Nicole writes an Ask the Expert column for Modern Dog Magazine, and blogs for Dog Star Daily, Victoria Stilwell’s Positively Expert blog, and her own site, Wilde About Dogs. You can find Nicole on Facebook at Nicole Wilde, Author and on Twitter at @NicoleWilde.

In yesterday’s Part I of our Separation Anxiety interview series, canine behavior specialist Nicole Wilde, author of  Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety, described what separation anxiety really is, the causes, and how you can tell if your dog has it.

Today’s discussion continues, as Nicole talks about innovative ways to manage your dog’s anxiety when you leave, including calming techniques, the crate controversy, and how to build your dog’s confidence. Try using these tips and tricks, and let us know of other techniques that helped you and your pooch become happier in the comments section of this post.

 

If you have a dog with SA, what are the first three things you would do to help make your dog calmer when you leave?

  1. Leave your dog with something super-enticing to chew on that will take a while to eat, such as a frozen, stuffed Kong.

    Kongs can help relieve anxiety (photo: Oakley Originals)

    [Here are some frozen Kong stuffing recipes from Doggie Stylish]

  2. Leave something with your scent on it; this can be very comforting to your dog.
  3. Practice the protocols outlined in my book. Where you start will depend on whether your dog is comfortable being separated from you physically and/or visually, or is fine with you actually leaving for very short periods. Whatever your starting point, you will proceed gradually in small increments so your dog feels comfortable.

 

Your book mentions some great SA management tips and plans. What are your favorites?

Because you can’t leave your dog alone during the behavior modification period other than when you’re working on the protocol, you’ve got to get creative with management. You can take your dog with you to do errands, and some dogs are actually fine when left in the car because they know their person always returns quickly. You could have a friend or pet sitter stay with your dog, or arrange for play dates.

If you’ve got somewhere you have to be for a few hours and are truly stuck, you can always take your dog to the groomer—obviously this is not to be used too often, but you’ll know your dog is somewhere safe and is with people. It’s a bit too detailed to go into here, but in the book I also outline sneaky ways you can make your dog think you’re still in the house when you’re not!

 

Crating for SA seems to be controversial in many dog circles, but your book recommends it in some cases. What are the determining factors?

Luna prefers her crate when she's home alone

It’s absolutely true that some dogs with separation anxiety should not be crated. This includes dogs with issues at the more severe end of the spectrum, the ones who are likely to injure themselves trying to break out of the crate, or self-mutilate. But if a dog has a mild case of SA, is accustomed to a crate, and already regards it as a safe place, it can be a good option for an Alone Zone. One benefit of crating is that it can help certain dogs who would otherwise continually pace, allowing emotional arousal to increase.

With any “controversial” subject, rather than have a knee-jerk reaction to it or, on the other hand, accept the traditional wisdom about it as truth, it is important to subjectively consider whether it will work for a particular dog. Head halters, for example, are a tool that some trainers love, while others abhor them. But the truth is that they can be wonderful tools for some dogs, while being totally inappropriate for others. Crating can be a perfectly good management solution for a dog with separation anxiety, depending on the individual dog. The important thing is crating not be overused to the point where it causes distress.

 

Many people get frustrated when their dog doesn’t “snap out of” the SA behavior quickly, and can’t fathom that SA can be ongoing. What would you recommend for these people when they can’t or won’t implement a rehabilitation plan?

Believe me, I understand the frustration! For those who can’t or are not willing to work a separation anxiety protocol, there are some “quick fixes” that can be tried. I’ve mentioned some of these in an answer below. In extreme cases of separation anxiety where medication is warranted it can be helpful, but it’s important to understand that, even then, behavior modification will be necessary. In some cases of Isolation Distress, getting another dog will solve the problem instantly—but unless you are sure, don’t get a second dog specifically for that purpose. You might just end up with two dogs with separation issues!

 

What are a few fun ways to build your dog’s confidence?

Training, especially clicker training, teaches dogs to think for themselves. Rather than simply performing behaviors by rote, the dog learns to figure out what makes you click (and therefore treat), and will begin to offer behaviors. It’s a great confidence booster! Puzzle toys that challenge your dog’s mind are quite useful in this regard as well. I particularly like the Nina Ottoson toys, as they offer varying degrees of difficulty.


Sierra playing with Tornado, a Nina Ottenson toy

 

What about dog sports?

Treibball builds confidence

Dog sports are also excellent for building canine confidence. Agility and K9 Nosework come to mind, but even something like urban mushing (where your dog pulls you on a scooter) can boost confidence.

And, of course, we now have the new sport of Treibball, where dogs “herd” giant balls into goals, like a game of soccer!

The important thing is to figure out which confidence-building activities work for your particular dog.

 

 

 

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Part I of this interview series: Nicole discusses the definitions, causes, how we can help the suffering dog, and clues about separation anxiety with adopting a dog.

 

Part III of this interview series: Nicole explores whether pharmacological intervention is a good idea, what therapies may be appropriate, and alternatives that might work instead.

—–

Nicole Wilde is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and internationally recognized author and lecturer. Her nine books include So You Want to be a Dog Trainer, Help for Your Fearful Dog, and Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety. In addition to working with dogs, Nicole has worked with wolves and wolfdogs for over fifteen years and is considered an expert in the field.

Nicole is on the Advisory Board of the Companion Animal Sciences Institute, the educational branch for the International Institute for Applied Companion Animal Behavior, and an Advisory Board member for the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals. Nicole writes an Ask the Expert column for Modern Dog Magazine, and blogs for Dog Star Daily, Victoria Stilwell’s Positively Expert blog, and her own site, Wilde About Dogs. You can find Nicole on Facebook at Nicole Wilde, Author and on Twitter at @NicoleWilde.

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