The Five Most Intelligent and Least Intelligent Dog Breeds

If you’re looking for a dog that learns easily, here are your best and worst choices.

Although it may be more difficult to measure intelligence in a dog than it is in a human, a rough indicator of a dog breed’s intelligence can be determined by how quickly he’s able to master a new command. On the basis of this, the Canadian and U.S. Kennel Clubs composed a list of the most intelligent and least intelligent dog breeds. Did your dog make the list?

Most Intelligent Dog Breeds

The Border Collie

The intelligence of the Border Collie is legendary. Even though they learn new commands very quickly, they can be difficult to train because their intelligence causes them to overanalyze simple commands. The same intelligence that allows them to learn new commands so effectively also enables them to learn the secrets of escaping from the yard, stealing food, and a variety of other less acceptable behaviors. Owning this intelligent dog breed can be a challenge.

The Poodle

Poodle owners say the best thing about this dog breed are its superior intelligence and great sense of humor. Poodles were used historically by gypsies to perform in traveling shows where they demonstrated their keen ability to carry out complex commands and do difficult tricks to the delight of their audience. This breed’s intelligence is still appreciated today by thousands of Poodle dog owners worldwide.

The German Shepherd

People who own this particular breed of dog say they’re almost human in their intelligence. Maybe this is why this breed has adapted so well to working with humans in such jobs as search and rescue, police work, guide dog work, and bomb sniffing. Easy to train and eager to please, this breed is a natural for engaging in challenging work. In fact, a German Shepherd can become bored and depressed if not constantly occupied and challenged.

The Golden Retriever

This breed of dog is easy to train and quite obedient. Golden Retrievers are often trained as guide dogs due to their ability to follow complex commands and their strong desire to please. The first three winners of the AKC Obedience Championships were all Golden Retriever dogs.

The Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman Pinscher is another dog breed that has been extensively used in human work due to the breed’s keen intelligence. It’s quite common to see the Doberman Pinscher performing tasks for the police and military as well as serving as private protection dogs.

Least Intelligent Dog Breeds

The Afghan Hound

This particular breed to dog is known to be quite sensitive and loving which may make up for some of their perceived lack of intelligence. They are tend to be rather difficult to train and have a propensity to be “disobedient” according to the trainers and breeders who work with them. With such a nice disposition, who’s worried about their lack of brains?

The Basenji

This dog breed is distinctive in its personality even if not known for its keen intelligence. Commonly known as the “barkless dog”, this dog breed makes a distinctive noise to alert its owner of impending trouble. It’s described as being almost like the sound a human makes when crying. They tend to be a challenge to train in some cases.

The Bulldog

Bulldogs are known to be both affectionate and fiercely protective of their family which makes them popular pets despite their reported lack of intelligence. They are trainable and most owners report their Bulldogs can carry out commands and perform simple tricks.

The Chow Dog

This dog is extremely loyal to its family, almost to a fault. Leary of strangers they will leap into action if they sense any ill intention on the part of visitors. Many Chow owners report their Chow dog is quite intelligent but a bit stubborn. It’s possible their stubborn tendency is mistaken for stupidity.

The Borzoi

This breed tends to be rather independent and aloof which may be misinterpreted as a lack of intelligence on the part of their owners. Dog intelligence tends to be rated on the basis of their ability to perform people pleasing behavior. The Borzoi is not as eager to please as most dog breeds.

There are many intelligent dogs of all breeds and much of a dog’s apparent intelligence is dependent upon how he is trained and treated by his owner. Hopefully this list will serve as a general guide to help you better interact with the dog breed you choose.

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User Comments
  1. Janice

    On November 8, 2007 at 4:28 am

    My poodle is really smart. He always manages to train people rather than the more common of people training dogs.

  2. nullValues

    On November 8, 2007 at 8:17 am

    I would be careful to equate the ability to train with intelligence – this assumes every dog should be measured as a working dog. One of the smartest dogs I’ve ever owned was a Great Pyrenees, and there’s no way on God’s Green Earth you could train that dog to fetch a stick. He was simply above such a silly game. But he would return an escaped lamb to the edge of a pen with a few gentle suggestions, and would lay with it “captive” until we came for it. He also knew to shut an open gate, and taught himself open the few that had levers he could use.

  3. smartdogs

    On February 11, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Great Pyrenees are overall not that smart.

  4. waaahhh!!!!

    On April 3, 2008 at 11:54 am

    i don’t think thats true i think it depends on how you train the dog…
    any dog can be smart as long as you train it well…

  5. waaahhh!!!!

    On April 3, 2008 at 11:57 am

    i have 2 chinese shar peis,a basset hound,and a great dane who gave birth to 14 pups… it was challenging but i was able to train the puppies to sit,stay, and to lie down when told at the age of 1 1/2 months…alot of dogs are also smart but there are alot more dos that are or can be smarter like a belgian malinois…

  6. Francis

    On July 9, 2008 at 4:47 am

    Having had an AFGHAN i have to agree withthe analysis, but they are great dogs. We now have a Dalmation and am suprised that you do not list it in your five most intelligent breeds. We chose a Dalmation on the basis of what everyone told us about intelligence, and boy they were not wrong. He only has to see you do something once and he can copy. They need a llot of love and attention though.

  7. poodlegirl

    On August 31, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    I own three poodles,and I am constantly amazed at their ability to understand language that hasn’t been repeated or taught. If you have a problem teaching them a trick, it’s because they don’t want to do the trick.

  8. akshay

    On October 17, 2008 at 9:40 am

    i own a german shepard which turned 5 yesterday…it is very useful.whenever i say”sht yaur door”,itcoses its eyes … its too good

  9. DogOwner

    On October 17, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    We have a basset and a basset/yellow lab mix. Both of them are smart in their own ways. Our bassett understands sit, lay down, roll over, and stay very good. He also knows “get your nails done”, “Get the mail”, and ‘bye bye in the car” he gets to go outside the fence and gets excited. He know to go into his crate when he sees us getting our shoes or coats on, self taught very quickly. Also at night when we tell them they are going out for the last time he goes straight to his bed when coming back in. He will not play fetch, he just stands beside you and barks. When my wife was pregnant he would lay on the couch with her and rest his head on her stomach and is very protective of all of us. He doesn’t like it when we have our son on the floor tickling him or when our other dog tries to jump on him and lick him. These do not seem like traits of an unintelligent dog, that is why these tests are so bogus. The “smart” dogs are the ones who have to be told everything and can’t figure anything out on their own?

    Our lab/basset mix has yet to learn “sit” much less lay down, roll over, etc. She does know “shake” sometimes. She pees on the sidewalk or deck rather than the grass (have had her for over a year). She is also starting to learn to go straight to bed at night or when we get our shoes on, but our basset had to teach her as he would kind of chase her into her bed. They both get treats every time they go in their bed, except when they go in on their own to take a nap. He also barks at her when she doesn’t pee in the grass. She also has yet to learn “down” when jumping on everybody, including our 4 yr old son when he is on the steps. My wife says it is the lab in her, that is why she doesn’t figure much out on her own. I think it could also be the mix breed in her. Looking in their eyes, she always has a “deer in the headlight” look while his you can see the gears going inside.

  10. Culo

    On October 21, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    My Pug (Frank) is the most intelligent dog in the whole world,his IQ is 165,the same as Einstein. He can play piano,read Shakespeare,and talk for hours and hours teaching me about his old friends Plato,Socrates,Da Vinci,etc… and he can bring me the newspaper too! Lovely dog…

  11. Kari-Anne

    On November 21, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    I’m so tired of that “intelligence” and “easily trained” in many of these so called “tests” are synonymous!
    -A human being wouldn’t be regarded particualrly intelligent if obeying any order, or??
    Just some trivial fact: A good share of aghan owners (who tend to be VERY well trained by their affie) have to have locking mechanisms on the fridge, to prevent afghan invasion… Seriously, that is quite common!

  12. R.S.

    On December 24, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    I own a border collie, she’s only 8 weeks old and already is housetrained, I have an older jack russel mix as well and that may have helped but I find myself not having to repeat myself to my Border Collie about anything, and that’s wonderful! I love her to death, she’s the sweetest thing ever and never fails to remind me of how smart she is!

  13. K

    On February 4, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Saying a dog is stupid based on breed is like saying a human is stupid based on their race.

    ALL dogs have the capacity for being intelligent or stupid– some breeds are just more stubborn than others, and stubbornness should NOT be mistaken for lack of intelligence! This site and others even admits such… so curiously, why do they insist on labeling sad dogs as being “lease intelligent”?

    Quite arrogant… :/

  14. Michael and Roxy

    On February 12, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    I would have to completely disagree with your above article.
    We own a bulldog whos 9 months old and let me tell you hes a very smart dog but very stubborn at the same time, which makes it to be that he learns when he wants.
    I have seen plenty of videos with very well trained bulldogs doing things that many other well trained dogs wouldnt ever do, and why is that ?? becuase they are very smart.
    You should be very careful on saying that a dogs intelligence is measured by how fast they get trained, as they are both different things.
    I just wonder what dog you own, wouldnt be surprised if you own one of the breeds from your most intelligent dogs list.
    Oh hang on im gonna go and put my bulldog on the top of of a list as well for being the smartest, cutest and most lovable breed there is. See you there, leaving a comment!!!!

  15. Scott

    On February 25, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    The article was as a sensitive as possible to not offend anyone who owns the “less intelligent” breeds. You all just need to calm down. They clearly stated that the only way we have to measure “intelligence” in dogs is how fast they learn commands. This may not be the most accurate test in the world, but it’s all we have for dogs.

    And for all of you arguing that your breed is also smart……… they may be, but you’d better believe that the dogs at the top of this list can also do the things you love about your preferred breed. Border Collies, GSD’s, Poodles, Golden Retrievers, and Doberman’s take a back seat to no dog in the intelligence department.

  16. joe

    On March 12, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    this article has been bantered all over the place. basically they judge intelligence on if the dog is willing to listen. so all the hounds are considered dumb by their study, and all the herding dogs are smart.

    if you really want to judge intelligence you would base it on how smart a dog is when it comes to figuring out things.. such as if he knows how to open doors and unlock things.. if he can find a treat under a cup easily etc.

    and finally each dog is different.. there are smart labs, dumb labs.. smart border collies, dumb ones.. just cause a dog is a certain breed doesn’t mean it follows every breed trait.

    this article is absolute ignorance.

  17. nate

    On March 17, 2009 at 5:23 pm


  18. nate

    On March 17, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    maby all people should get this test im just tellin ta this is real cool isnt it i just bought it IT IS AWESOME FOR MY DOG BOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. nate

    On March 17, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    woops i thought i was talking about the dog test on triond tv sorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Craig

    On May 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    I showed this list to my mom’s poodle and he circled all the grammatical errors. Hahaha, just kidding.

  21. Suzie

    On June 2, 2009 at 9:59 am

    I am very surprised that the Dalmatian did not make the most intelligent list. Being an owner of two pure-bred Dalmatians, I have had experience in training these lovely dogs. I think it is a joke that the golden retriever made the list. They are very stupid and have no expression whatsoever. They just seem to have a dumb-happy look on their face at all times; like they don’t know whats going on. I have many friends that have goldens and i have come to notice that none of the dogs are trained AT ALL. Dalmatians are quite the opposite. They might not be friendly to strangers; however, they do whatever they can to please their owners. My 2 year old can learn 1 command in about 30 minutes flat. If this list was truely judged on the abilities to perform commands, then the Dalmatian would most certainly be included; and not the golden retriever or border collie. Honestly, I think this list was created considering the popularity if the dog breed and not its intelligence; otherwise, the Dalmatian would be somewhere in that list.

  22. kristina

    On June 28, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I am very suprised at how ridiculously sensitive all if these comments are. Good god, they’re dogs. No one is insulting your intelligence. The science of breeding at training has taught us that different breeds exhibit different levels of intelligence. The border collie is not even close to one of the most popular breeds, as the person above concluded in her comments. They are by far the most capable breed in every intelligence idicator out there. And dalmations are very cute and have unsurmountable energy, but they are not an intelligent breed. They tend to get into things because they have so much energy. Dogs have been bred and developed through out time to do certain tasks and that is part of the reason some breeds exhibit more intelligence. There is no dalmation out there that can herd 1000 cattle at a time, using 180,000 hand commands that he has memorized in a few short weeks. But then again, dalmations are extremely loving and beautiful animals and their existance is no less honorable because of it’s intelligence level. Those people who responded with such sensitivity to a web site that was compiled to demonstrate the intelligence of standard breeds (as researched through out time by EXPERTS) are absolutely ridiculous. No one is insulting your intelligence and there is nothing wrong with owning a breed that is considered of lesser intelligence. And there is a PROFOUND difference between human races and dog breeds. People are not dogs. We have manipulated dog breeds through out history based on their unique instincts. Do the research; it’s all there and it is not subjective no matter how intelligent you think your dog is. I own a bull dog and a border collie and they are both equally as prized in my home and my heart. But honestly, there is no dog out there that can come close to touching the ability and intelligence of the border collie. But at the same time, the bull dog is a much much better house hold animal and I would recommend him over the border collie as a pet, anyday. The bottom line is, they are dogs and no one should take offense to their differing intelligence levels. They are not children and perhaps if your so offended by the research there is an insecurity occuring in you else where.

  23. Criz ♥

    On July 9, 2009 at 10:33 am

    I agree! Border Collies is the most intelligent dog breed and yeah next is the Poodle and the German sheperd! But Border Collies is Top 10 of the most easiest to train! Even though they are smart, they have a different way i trainings! Oh and Katrina this Most Intelligent and Least Intelligent breed! So why dont you go to the Most Popular dog Page! No hard feelings! =)

  24. Sarah!

    On August 14, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I have a border collie, and most of the times she’s as dumb as dirt, while other times she’s as smart as can be. It all just depends on her mood. She’s an awesome dog, though.

  25. Melanie

    On October 1, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    I do not understand why obedience is equated with intelligence. I suppose the same individuals believe that if a 10 year old refused to fetch or roll over readilly- then he is “dumb”. People pleasing easilly trained dogs are not synonomous with intelligent dogs.

    Think the planet of the Apes movies. The sudden atttept of the Apes to take over and to no longer allow humans to rule was not due to their LACK of intelligence. So if a dog does not roll over, fetch or beg readilly it is not because he is not bright enough to, or doesn’t get it. He may not have decided that you are worthy to command him to do anything. In time this mentality changes, and he learns to trust you. Adopted children are like this….

  26. Goodselfme

    On October 30, 2009 at 3:20 am

    THank you for this summary on each of these dog breeds. You stated some good info on each too. Glad I finally found you here.

  27. Suzie

    On December 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Well, it\’s spelled dalmatiAn, firstly. It\’s unfortunate for people who assume that this list is accurate. Intelligence should not be based on the ablility to perform commands, but problem solving. My Dalmatian does not perform commands 100% of the time. She tests boundaries constantly. She actually has a personality, though defiant at times. This is in complete contrast to what I refer to as \”robotic\” dogs, who obey commands blindly (Labs, collies, german shepards). This does not in anyway make her STUPID. And as far as Dalmatian energy levels are concerned, they are NOT hyperactive. I also have a German Shorthaired Pointer; that is an active dog. I have had the opportunity to train Goldens, Labs, Jack Russels, King Charles, BORDER COLLIES, and Dalmatians. Its unfortunate, for the people who believe that the list is correct, but my Dalmatians clearly learned faster. Dals are also great problem solvers. They are almost like a ball of clay: you can mold them to be anything you want, including herding. They would be excellent at it too. And you say they are destructive. But this is only so because this breed exhibits separation anxiety. They actually love their owners. Unlike other breeds who are indifferent to who takes care of them. Questions about Dalmtians? or any breed for that matter?

  28. Harvey

    On January 9, 2010 at 11:00 am

    My daughter owns a pomeranian seemingly dimly aware that it is a living being. The little dog, though cute in the face, is eight years old and has never over its lifetime exhibited what I would term skills indicating intelligence.

  29. doyle

    On February 8, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    wow suzie, sensitive much?

    you contradict yourself. you say just because a dog can be trained blindly doesnt mean its smart. then you say your dog is the easiest to train, and thats why it is smart.

    also, your basing this off of how many dogs? it is possible to have one individual dog of one breed be much smarter than other dogs of that same breed, correct?

    man your not going to like this comment. cause your too biased.

    get over it. your precious puppy didnt make the list. its not the end of the world. that doesnt mean she isnt awesome. just dumb. ahaha. i kid. your gonna have a heart attack after this one, im sure.

  30. LNK

    On February 24, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I have both a Shih Tzu and a Standard poodle. The Shih Tzu is 6 years old and seems to have a 16 register brain. Everytime we teach him something new, (which takes a while), he unlearns something else. The poodle on the other hand seems to know what we are trying to get her to do immediately, she is 13 weeks. Considering the small sample of each breed we have,( 1 of each), we have concluded that the poodle is smarter… Now to prove the female dogs are smarter than the males……

  31. Suzi

    On March 2, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I’m sorry to say that you have misinterpreted what I said. I did not say “trained blindly.” I said that they “perform commands blindly.” They do not learn commands faster than Dalmatians. Collies do, however, perform commands blindly. They do not seem to have ANY type of personality, except to perform any command you utter. For collies or retrievers to learn a command, you must repeat it several more times than if you were training a Dalmatian. Do you understand this differentiation?
    And I Am basing this opinion off experiences with several different interactions with collies and retrievers alike.

    An i would like to reiterate myself in saying that Dalmatians are like a ball of clay. They can be trained to do ANYTHING: herding, retrieving, flushing, field training, water retrieving, etc…You cannot train a collie, who natural instinct is to herd, to become a retriever; likewise, you cannot teach a retriever to herd. Those dogs will only know how to do what they are breed for, and nothing else. Therefore, their versatility is lacking. Dalmatians were breed to do everything. They can be taught a great deal of tricks and service training if they are in the mood to do it. They are very intelligent, so they constantly test boundaries of what they are allowed to do, and what they are not allowed to do.

    I have owned dogs other than Dalmatians. My opinion is justified and fair.

    Did that clarify anything for you? anymore questions? I will gladly answer =)

  32. Dani

    On March 6, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    My cat is smarter than your dog.

  33. Claire

    On April 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    For all of those who say that you can’t say a whole breed of dog is less intelligent than another doesn’t understand. When they say less intelligent, they are meaning that it just takes them longer to learn the same thing as another dog, even if it is taught the same way.
    I have a Labrador/Rottweiler and she is extremely intelligent, but I’m sure that the Collie, because it is a working dog, is much more intelligent. It was bred to be a herder.
    (That of course includes the rest of the top four.)

  34. Tutankhamun

    On June 30, 2010 at 8:39 am

    I have a pet earthworm that can out-wiggle any of these “intellegent” dogs. He/She doesn’t even need a mate to reproduce!

    And, by the way, Obedience is for those who can’t lead. The so-called intellegent dogs couldn’t function without the “master” telling them what to do. Just let one loose in the Congo and see how it fares compared to the all “natural” basenji and let see who can survive.

  35. Kojak

    On August 20, 2010 at 12:41 am

    I also find it ridiculous that obedience/ability to train equates to intelligence on this list. I have owned several dogs in my lifetime, German Shepards, Labs, Basset Hounds, Dobermans, Beagle mix, Chows and Basenjis. Basenjis are by far the most intelligent dogs that I have ever had the experience to be around. I think the true test of intelligence in any animal (including humans) is how adept they are at problem solving. My Basenji opened two doors to get in the house one of the doors opened towards him and the other away from him. He uses “tools” to get things he wants too. Your list was interesting but I fear not very accurate.

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  37. CJ

    On September 4, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Yeah, a dog\’s intelligence isn\’t solely determined by its ability to learn tricks. It\’s a good indicator, but not sometimes in the cases where stubbornness comes into play.

    However, if you\’ve ever owned one of the top five breeds and you own another one, you\’ll notice a marked difference. My mother\’s 15-year-old toy poodle could outsmart most dogs and the poor thing is nearly blind and deaf.

    If you tell her someone is coming over later, she knows exactly who you\’re talking about and if you tell her a general time, she\’ll figure that out too. When she was a puppy it didn\’t take her a week to figure out that \”t-r-e-a-t\” spelled \”treat\”. She can tell when you\’re sick and what\’s wrong. When my mother had surgery on her abdomen area, this dog knew exactly where to avoid touching. Poodles have an intelligence that you just can\’t really describe until you\’ve lived with it. And it\’s not just wishful thinking, either. Spend some time around one and you\’ll see.

  38. nathan the awesome

    On October 2, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    i just got a golden yesterday he is 8 weeks old and called toby he knows how to fetch a stick retrieve sit down lay down

  39. nathan the awesome

    On October 2, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    i heard goldens are #3 on bites.

  40. nathan the awesome

    On October 2, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    i heard goldens are #3 on bites. CJ youre right.

  41. Suzie

    On October 11, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Of course a Golden Retriever knows how to fetch…
    And all of those commands are simple and basic. None of which are impressive.
    My Dalmatians were potty trained by 6 weeks. And by eight, they knew how to walk on a leash and twice as many commands.

  42. Lei

    On July 18, 2011 at 3:25 am

    I have a chow….and he’s not dumb…

  43. John

    On August 31, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    I have a difficult decision and need several suggestions to weigh. A neighbor 3 houses away has a med/lrg dog that barks allot because owner is gone all day.I don’t feel comfortable approaching the owner & he isn’t around all day anyway and the property looks trashy .And if I did, he may “blow me off” , and then if I report him later he will suspect # 1 it was me.The dog appears friendly but the owner may not be so.Or should I make a report so he would’nt know which neighbor reported him ?

  44. Aly

    On December 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I agree with Suzie about the intelligence and sheer wit of Dalmatians but I feel that EVERYTHING is relative. You can’t just judge a entire breed and decide how smart the dog will be. Yes, it could give you a better chance of finding the type of intelligence you are looking for but truthfully, dogs are their own beings, and the roots of their personal intelligence and unique to each one. For example, I owned a doberman pincher and dalmatian 15 years back. The Doberman was smart and quick while my dalmatian was a little airy and always seemed to look confused (but loveable). when it came to training he was a mess, but when it came to opening the fridge and trying to sneak food, he was a pro. It was just his personality. Today i have another dalmatian who is absolutely amazing and has always been that way. I can train her to do almost any trick in less then an hour, she never uses a leash, and she seems to be on a entire different state of intelligence then most dogs i have ever met. I would love to say that every Dalmatian is like that but its simply not true. If you are going to purchase a dog solely based on intelligence your BEST bet is to look at newspaper ads, online, or shelters and pick out a dog thats at least a year old and is already showing characteristics of intelligence (that fits your personal standards) and buy that dog… because raising one from a puppy is almost a gamble.

  45. Anindit

    On April 30, 2012 at 1:33 am

    It all depends on how much you love your dog. Its an injustice to them if we rate them by intelligence. All dog are intelligent in their own way, just like humans. I never really had a dog though, i am buying one today. I will buy a yellow lab, because its the cutest thing ever. My aunt had a GSD, he was very intelligent. He used to fetch mail for her, protect her chickens, and even chase civets, foxes and wild cats from her house. The GSD was very friendly with people. It was more of a Golden than of a GSD. He even used to offer us small crumbles of bread (which was his treat) by pushing it with his snout towards us. He could read minds. Without formal training of various commands, he knew many tricks. He was surely my aunt’s best friend :)

    RIP Dustin

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