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Newbie, here. I have really appreciated reading through the threads here. I am a first time dog owner. I was naive and thought, "individual personality trumps breed, I guess" when the family I was adopting from (they had only had him for two months) reassured me he was a "great apartment dog."

 

In my previous apartment, a basement unit in a quiet residential district, he would whimper occasionally when he heard other dogs or people. My new apartment, a third story unit in a busy complex overlooking the parking lot and dog walk spot, he constantly paces and whines. We put up window film, and it helps a little.

 

I have a trainer. Day one of obedience class he went out of control and then suffered lethargy and diarrhea for days. We moved to private lessons.

 

I am pretty overwhelmed and confused. So many mixed messages--they need plenty of exercise; don't go out too long because the cortisol will never die down; lots of crate time will help him rest; too much crate time will make him stir crazy.

 

And then all the stuff about structure and boundaries. How do I create that?

 

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated. All of this has taken place over the past 4 months.

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Sorry to hear you're having so much trouble.

It's great you're doing everything you can to help him.

Your dog sounds very stressed: the incident at the dog school was a severe panic attack. Did anything happen in the class to trigger it? What was your dog focusing on at that time? Or was he simply overwhelmed by everything around him?

 

Could you tell us a bit more about him? What do you do with him on a regular day?

Does he have specific things he's afraid of or reacts to? or is he simply anxious in general?

Is he the same when you take him to quiet areas?

 

Regardless, it sounds like it's something you won't be able to solve on your own. A severely anxious dog needs proper desensitisation, and counterconditioning, and might even need medication. As a novice dog owner, you won't be able to provide this. I'd go to a good dog behaviourist (make sure she / he has real experience, run away if they say the words dominance or alpha). If you don't know where to go, go to your vet first.

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Regardless, it sounds like it's something you won't be able to solve on your own. A severely anxious dog needs proper desensitisation, and counterconditioning, and might even need medication. As a novice dog owner, you won't be able to provide this. I'd go to a good dog behaviourist (make sure she / he has real experience, run away if they say the words dominance or alpha). If you don't know where to go, go to your vet first.

Completely agree with this.

 

There are so many possibilities of causes of stress and anxiety. Some are learned some are genetically predisposed. Regardless, finding a really good veterinary behaviorist and positive reinforcement trainer will at least get you started on the right foot. Your dog may need medication to help reduce anxiety while "learning" to relax.

 

Yes, too much exercise can work against you - many dogs come to rely on it like a drug, needing more and more and more. I am not a fan of the saying "A tired dog is a happy dog." Crate training can also be an issue if a dog has not found the ability to relax and find comfort being in one.

 

Check out BAT training (Grisha Stewart) http://grishastewart.com/bat-overview/ I know many dogs who have found success with this, non punitive type of re-conditioning.

 

Best of luck!

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Hang in there! I was in your shoes about a year ago, although my dog was less intense. I am definitely still learning but can tell you some things that helped for us.

 

First and foremost was getting a trainer we really liked. The first trainer we saw was okay but not great--spending time with her seemed about equal to reading through threads on the internet. Some good ideas, but no real chemistry. The second one we hired is amazing. She is so sensitive to small changes in our dog's facial expression, posture, etc. and points out what she sees to us. She makes really clear plans for what we should work on, how often, what to look for, asks us to send her videos, etc. I know you said you already have a trainer, but if you're still feeling really confused, it might be time to interview a new one, or look into getting a behavioralist.

 

The second thing I'll point you towards is the CARE for reactive dogs site: http://careforreactivedogs.com/start-here/

I didn't know about this when I started working with our dog, but the protocol they outline more or less lines up with what we did, and it was really effective. It is designed to be a program you can work through on your own, but having a professional help you with the first few sessions could be really helpful. When it's your first time doing something like this there is a lot of learning involved for both you and the dog, and it's very useful to have someone demonstrate what you're supposed to do and notice when your timing or attention are getting wonky.

 

As for stuff like how much exercise, rest, etc., I honestly don't think anyone can tell you that without spending significant time with your dog. Ideally, you'd want to get him as much exercise as he needs, in a way that doesn't expose him to any of his triggers, but that might be easier said than done. At some point you need to weigh the ill-effects of him not getting enough exercise against the ill-effects of overexposing him to triggers, and that balance is always going to depend on the individual dog and where you are in training. You could try experimenting with walks early in the morning when the world is quiet, or, if possible, driving him out to a low-traffic area where he can unwind. If every time he leaves the house he has a full-blown reaction, it might be best to give him a few quiet days at home while you work on gentle desensitization. But if you can find a quiet time when he enjoys going on walks, that's probably a better option.

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You may not have a reactive dog as such, just a frightened one.

I agree with others that your dog had a severe panic attack at the trainer's and you need to work with him now to overcome that fear.

It is possible that going to a trainer is not the best approach for him at all at this point in time.

There are other things you can do that will be more effective.

I have some experience with frightened border collies, and will help you in whatever way I can.

Can you please tell us more about the dog?

What exercise does he get? What have you trained him to do? What is a typical day like for him? What play does he like? What are you feeding him? Anything you can tell us about him will help us to help you.

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Thank you so much, everyone! Replies may continue to lag. Limited internet access.

 

Panic Attack: I believe he was overwhelmed by everything going on around him and, particularly, all the dogs around him.

 

Routine: I am working on establishing a more predictable routine. Tuxedo sleeps in his crate. We typically go to bed around midnight and wake up around 9a. Tuxedo is crated while I am at work. I work anywhere from 3--10 hours a day, 6 days a week. New apartment is a 10 minute bike ride from my job. So, I now have the option to come home for lunch on longer days.

 

Behaviourist: The nearest CAABs are all at least an 8 hours drive away. I called and spoke with one in New Mexico, and she was helpful.

 

Fear vs Reactivity: Outdoors, he appears exuberant in his desire to approach, rather than afraid. However, my ability to read dog body language is clearly at a beginning level. The first thing the trainer did in our first private lesson was pull out a stuffed dog and allow him to approach off leash to try and determine fear vs play. He approached with calming signals (tongue flicks, etc) and made play bows. Hence, her determination of “barrier frustration.” The growls and offensive puckers don’t show up until later. Indoors, I think he very well may be afraid. When he pants, often his commissure is pulled very far back, in more of a tense grimace rather than a relaxed smile.

 

Current Training: Post panic attack, we worked private lessons for a while. Trainer thought he was ready to give working around group lessons another try. We gave that a shot Friday. I would work with him outside, and when calm enter through a back door. Back door opens to a staging room (can hear and smell, but not see, the other dogs.) We would place high value treats on the ground as long as he could approach quietly. If he began to bark, we pulled him back outside. He was able to progress over the course of the hour, and went from not being able to enter the staging room without barking to being able to pass through the staging room and enter the main training room, where he worked in a fabric-draped X-pen and perform commands for a minute or two before needing to pull out. I tried to pull him out before he began barking to leave “on a good note.” So, basically, we were doing BAT… except he was in the “moves directly toward trigger” space the nearly the entire time.

 

DutchBorderFan: Hopefully the above helps offers some more context. He specifically reacts to other dogs most strongly, including the sights and sounds of other dogs. He does not appear to react as strongly to the scents of other dogs (I had some dog scent in my backpack a couple weeks ago as part of training and he didn’t go for it. Friday, a few hours before training, he was presented with a blanket with another dog’s scent on it, and he was chill.)

 

Heartful: Thank you for the exercise and BAT information. I think this is what my trainer is trying to do, and she just doesn’t quite have various pieces to carry it out.

 

MeMeow: Making a really clear plan is what I think I am most looking for, right now. It’s good to hear that there are trainers out there that will do so! How did you find your second trainer? The CARE website looks very useful. It’s also pretty overwhelming for me right now. Perhaps I will print it off and try just reviewing one page a day.

 

D’Elle: Exercise is currently limited to one to three, fifty minute, walks per week. I use up all his kibble just managing his behavior throughout the day. I set down and did some shaping with him one day--that seemed to work well as some mind exercise. He is trained--to various degrees-- to Sit, Down, Stand, Touch, Wait, Loose Leash, Stay, Check it, Watch, Recall, Leave It, Heel. The shaping exercise I was shaping him to “down” with his entire body on a piece of carpet. He seemed to enjoy that, although he barked at me when he felt stuck/got confused. For fun, he likes to play a sort of tag/chasing game. When we have a car after dark, we’ll go to an abandoned dog park to play.

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You mention a few things that stand out to me. The one that stands out to me the most:

 

You walk him for 50 minutes, 1 to 3 times a week. Did you mean per day?

 

Because if not, that to me, sounds like wayyyy too little. You brought up that you've gotten some conflicting advice on this, and don't know what to think. In general I'm also not a fan of the phrase 'a tired dog is a happy dog' when it comes to border collies. but every single border collie I know, would never ever thrive on that schedule. When people mention moderate exercise, in border collie terms they still mean a good off leash walk a day, of at least 30-50 minutes, and then a few pee rounds a day as well. And that's the bare minimum..

 

I of course don't know your dog and his exercise needs. Is there a reason for his lack of exercise?

 

If not, do realise: pent up energy can lead to a lot stress and fixation. And then try giving him more exercise: every day for at least an hour. It will probably make a huge difference.

 

You also mention he seeks out dogs, even though he fears them:

 

I've seen many dogs that are fearful of other dogs, but still seek them out. Either because their fear comes after their initial innate response to want to meet a dog, or because to your dog it's logical to seek out what is scaring him (if you're afraid of a spider, you definitely want to know where he is, and will try to find it). Don't dismiss fear, simply because your dog runs towards other dogs.

 

Your training: It's good you're working with your trainer to desensitise. I do think that an hour is a bit too long. I'd shorten the sessions a bit.

 

Your house: Is your dog only stressed in a certain part of the house? e.g. near the window you blinded? If so, you might be able to start with counterconditioning. Check out this video:

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Tuxedo had his first-with-me vet visit today. I brought treats, we were able to schedule a visit when no other animals would be around, and he was given a clean bill of health!

 

I will try and see if I can use a stop watch thinger on my smartphone to keep track of how much time outside the high rise Tux gets each day. Maybe try reporting here to help me keep an eye to it.

 

Tuxedo and I are spending a lot of time in what I have taken to thinking as "the bunker room" the interior room of my one room apartment with no windows and less sounds to respond to. His crate is in the exterior room. He hears all the same sounds when in his crate, but remains calm.

 

Reports will continue. Advice continues to be welcome.

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Ooh, and thank you for the KikoPup video, DutchBorderCollie. I went on to browse a few other vids. The "calming" vids were most helpful.

 

On our walk the other day, I was able to find a planted road island. I used that space as somewhere to walk train and rest where any other dogs would certainly be a little bit away. Not far enough for him to not respond, but already far enough away to not rush right up on us. I also tried an abandoned former tennis court. Unfortunately, it was overgrown with burrs. Still, we're learning. Three cheers for the Urban Collie!

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All dogs need walks each day, even the most docile low energy dog is happier getting daily walks.

 

A border collie mix, especially is going to need to get out more than once per week. I kind of think it is really unfair to bring a dog like a border collie mix into ones life and expect to only walk him once per week. But maybe I read your post wrong.

 

A walk in the morning before work and a walk in the evening after work should be part of a normal schedule when owning a high energy breed. Some fetch, some trick training, and such as well. Interacting constructively with your dog doing 'dog things' is what will really help him be easy to live with.

 

We lived in a small apartment for a few years with our border collie who was 2 when we got him. My husband walked him in the morning before work, usually 30 minutes. When I got home around 3pm, I walked him for an hour or drove to abandoned parks/baseball fields/etc. and played fetch or frisbee. My favorite part of the day was coming home after work to walk the dog, great way to unwind and relax. We did some trick training at home several days per week. We took a few obedience classes. We lived near a nice creek and so spring through fall we walked down there many times per week to play fetch in the water (he loves swimming). He also had little socialization with the world so we took him to local pet stores that allowed dogs, we took him to different villages to walk around where we would see people walking (Main St.), we took him with us to get ice cream at the local stand, he came on road trips, etc. We incorporated him into our lives so that he could learn to relax in the world.

 

Keeping dogs like these requires daily commitment to keep them happy. You don't want to run them into the ground with hours of fetch per day, but they need daily activity with their owners outside.

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->->-imagine a smiley here, holding an "I'm trying really hard not to be defensive!" sign waving in a friendly manner->->-

 

I sincerely appreciate everyone's suggestions. I am afraid that in my attempt to be concise, I have offered insufficient context.

 

Right now, I am cutting walks back while we work on developing calm behaviors. Unfortunately, in the wrong circumstances (I do everything I can to control the circumstances!), Tuxedo will see a dog a block away and across the street, go stiff, lunge, bark, back up and attempt to pull out of his harness*, jump several feet in the air, spin, and at times even fall on his back. The *harness part has more or less been fixed by the combination of a martingale collar and attached freedom harness. The rest is all up for grabs. And, somehow, he manages to do all of this at once and/or within microseconds of eachother. Eyes round as dinner plates, completely dilated so no iris is visible at all. Often, he exhibits similar behavior + panting and pacing if anywhere other than his kennel and/or outside the bunker room. The bunker room still requires calm reinforcements through voice and treats--just twice an hour instead of continuously. Of course, some weeks are better than others.

 

I am learning a lot in a very short period of time. Please be patient and assume the best of me as I navigate these tricky waters.

 

At my last apartment, I was able to take late late night and early morning walks. In retrospect, even many of those were too arousing for him. At my new apartment, I live along a red-light district and it is unsafe for me to walk during the late late and early early hours. I do not own a car. I sometimes have access to a car. The only time I have successfully taken Tuxedo somewhere with zero dogs around, we drove 90 minutes away and went in the middle of the night. Tuxedo and I have been together for five months.

 

If all goes well, Tuxedo has beautiful days of multi-day backpacking treks in the mountains, suburban cycling along a bike tow leash, and cafe-side visits in the city in his future. None of this is possible at the moment. Much of it may never be possible.

 

I have left the door open that Tuxedo may need to be rehomed and I may not be able to meet his needs. I do not think we are there yet. The trainer and I continue to see progress.

 

Again, sincere thanks to everyone that has contributed to this thread specifically and the board at large. I have already learned so much from folks' contributions to this and past threads. Thank you.

 

->->-deep breath of serenity-for-all-the-animals smiley closes out the post->->-

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You definitely paint a different picture in your last post.

 

Has Tuxedo ever been allowed to mingle in a natural way (not on leash on the side of a street) with another friendly dog? Have you seen him interact loose with another dog in someone's yard (set up a meet greet with a known friendly dog)?

 

Many times a balanced, bomb proof type dog companion can help a dog like yours. There is a trainer near me who uses other dogs to help dogs like yours learn to relax, whether that's in a group setting or out on walks. Many times other dogs are better teachers/just as useful as a skilled human trainer. I don't know where you live but I would seek a trainer out who is experienced with behavioral issues such that you describe.

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I've arranged to meet with a new dog trainer on Tuesday. We'll see how this goes. We talked at length--the better part of an hour. At the very least, she is more exteriors with my particular needs and engages in continuing dog training certification and education. Just from our conversation, she appears more adept than my previous trainer. She has two neutral dogs that we will in time work with as well.

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Caesg, I just want to say how much I admire your dedication to trying so hard to help your dog. A lot of people would not be putting in that effort or getting trainers or any of it. Even if Tuxedo cannot tell you 'thanks,' it's really wonderful that you are trying to help him.

 

(I have removed additional comments that were here because it's become clear to me since then that I completely misjudged the situation. It just goes to show that one should never judge another. Blessings on both you and Tuxedo.)

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@dawnhill Let's see! I've messaged the nearest rescue to where I live to see if they're still operating. Their web page hasn't been updated in a year. However, it appears they may be operating primarily through facebook, these days. I'll take care to have a rescue in mind in case the trainer and I decide that is in Tuxedo's interest.

 

@MeMeow I really hope that my experience is similar to yours in regards to my second trainer being a better fit! ::crosses fingers until Tuesday:: My current trainer is very young and works at a facility run by a well credentialed trainer with many years of experience, but lacks experience and credentials herself. My new trainer appears to have started getting heavily involved in dog culture and training about a decade ago and throughout that time continues to update her education--including hosting a visiting expert this month! She appeared much more organized, which in and of itself is a relief!





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@DawnHill, I wanted to give more thought to the crux of your concern--that I am unable to provide a suitable environment--before responding directly. Is the concern in regards to the amount of time that Tuxedo spends crated? For now, his crate is the only place Tux is reliably calm. Once he is reliably calm in the bunker room, he will spend 4--5 hour spans of time (workday with lunch time play and visits) there, with access to an open crate. I don't view his current crating as spending time in a holey refrigerator (claustrophobic) so much as spending time in his bedroom, with access to his (safe when unattended) toys. Boring, sure, and not cruel. It would be cruel for me to leave him with the run of the apartment--where all the sounds are scarier to him and he works himself up into a tizzy. He is both less scared and unable to work himself up when safe in his bedroom/den. As he learns to tolerate the sounds without his cortisol shooting up and self-soothe, he will have more freedom.

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@Dawn Hill -- I just reviewed your comment again. Thank you for taking the time to write out such a thoughtful reply. Here are some of my thoughts on the roots of Tuxedo's anxiety:

 

+ He has moved homes three times in the past year. I am home three.

 

+ Home two, he was in the care of a twelve year old. The twelve year old appears to have had minimal care himself (I never met an adult in person. Mom was in a city an hour north, with a newborn. She stated adults were with her twelve year old son, and they may have been, but I didn't see them.)

 

+ Home one (puppyhood to age five) gave him up because as human child number four reached toddlerhood, Mom found she was unable to adequately care for Tux.

 

I suspect that Tuxedo had been anxious for years and Home One may not have even recognized the signs. Home One did the best they could until there were too many little ones and they found they were unable to provide a proper environment. Home One figured finding Tux a home was better than giving him to a shelter and put the time in to connect with Home Two. In Home Two, Tuxedo's anxiety increases.

 

So, perhaps I am the latest on a series of inappropriate environments. If with discussion with my new (more educated and experienced) trainer, that proves to be the case, I am sure that with the help of my local dog community and folks here on the forums, we will find a more appropriate environment for Tuxedo. And, my trainer is familiar with the area of town I live in and with my work schedule and with the kind of environment I am able to provide. We will all work together to evaluate what compromises are reasonable (living in a city, rather than on a farm) and what compromises are unreasonable (living in an environment where no matter what training he receives, Tux will always be over- and/or under- stimulated.)

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Happy Update! Last night, while doing house chores, I tethered Tuxedo to my belt on a 4.5 foot foot leash. A shelter worker had suggested this 5 months ago when I was first looking for pointers and I tried it... but didn't really understand. More recently, I have been reading about Dr. Sophia Yin's Learn to Earn program, and with that context the tethering started making more sense. Context is so important! SO, I tried it last night while doing chores, largely outside the bunker room. It seemed to help! The benefits were:

 

+ I noticed his reactivity more quickly than usual/earlier in the reaction. This gave me the opportunity to interrupt the anxious response with something positive (a trick to distract him, a treat, my voice, etc)

 

+ He seemed to react less often. Perhaps because he had a job/something explicit to focus on. Because he was tethered to me, he needed to pay attention to where I was walking, etc.

 

+ He didn't have the opportunity to run, pace back and forth, whine, and generally work himself up into a tizzy. So, we were able, for a night, to break that cycle and build a new one. The new cycle was: (1) I notice his body language change or whine or pulling because he is so close to me and/or movement of the leash. (2) I give him something else to do/turn his attention to. (3) He calms. Repeat as necessary! It was so great to see him go from a closed mouth whimper to an open mouthed sit!

 

I'm so excited! Something worked!

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Today is a harder day. We are playing lots of indoor games (as directed by the behaviorist.) I suppose I am mourning the loss of the dog I thought I was adopting--we would spend time outside on daily city walks and bi-monthly mountain hikes! We were going to visit (in my state, dog friendly) State Parks together! Additionally, I planned to train him to be comfortable riding public transit (such is allowed, here) so we could get around the city together. And the bike tow leash! I was excited about cycling together! I imagined he would require training. I signed up for a training class the day I adopted him. I knew there would be training, I just didn't foresee this extreme reactivity. Nor, did I imagine that a behavior problem would forestall *all* of those plans.

 

 

I have hope for tomorrow's assessment with the behaviorist. I'm just feeling the financial and emotional strain of Tuxedo's and my relationship particularly keenly, today.

 

Additionally, the rescue never got back with me. I am still not ready to throw in the towel. And, I want to be responsible and have a relationship with a quality rescue in place, if that is what it comes to. Previously, I just messaged them on Facebook. Today, I wrote an email to their intake email asking if they still function as a rescue, and also if they have recommendations for professionals or experienced community support in my area.

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Wow. This new trainer was extraordinarily helpful. She also just generally seemed more calm and had a sense about her of knowing what she would do next under various circumstances.

 

New trainer's best guess, from his looks and demeanor is that I have a dog from Hangin Tree Border Collie lines. In my region, they primarily herd sheep and are bred to work 10-12 hour days. If a rancher didn't need a dog or it doesn't quite work out, they will pass it on.

 

Her impression is that he is not anxious or scared, he just really wants to work all. the. time. She suspects that some of the reactivity to other dogs is also guarding me. And, she feels like given how attentive he is to me, and even was to her, that he will be able to learn to not be so reactive and that he doesn't have to work all the time and that he can "just be a dog." I have a long list of homework. I will see her again in a month. Let's see how this goes!

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Thanks, GentleLake. I sure hope so, too.

 

The past few days have been pretty mellow. He's topped out maybe twice when a dog came out of the apartment building while we were using the potty area. We immediately run inside and work on calming behaviors. He's calming a little faster than before. It helps that no off-leash dogs have rushed him in the past week and a half.

 

I think that the most helpful thing the trainer told me was in our first phone conversation. She said, "You don't have a traditional relationship. It's important to take time to laugh together." I really appreciate that attention to the bond between us, and I think it has helped. I will continue to post little things that seem to be working or not working. A month until the next training session feels far away.

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Some good news!

 

Industrial and Office Parks at odd hours are pretty empty of everything, including dogs. Perhaps Tuxedo and I can take walks there until his training is further along? I am borrowing a car to try this out. Today was our first day and it went well. He was slightly reactive (stiff body posture, at alert, difficult to turn his attention) to the ducks and some folks out on a smoke break. That was only probably 5 minutes of the 90 or so total we spent across two outings, today. He was probably right at threshold for those two interactions. Other than that, all was calm! May the coming days continue to go well!

 

Anyone have other ideas for where to walk a city-dog that can't handle other dogs quite yet?

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Today's successes: playing hide and go seek, continues progress on "pick up" and mat work

 

Today's challenges: People getting out of a large passenger van about 300 feet away. Running down the stairwell. Dogs in the apt parking lot that I somehow missed.

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