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It's been 16 months now since I lost my husband. Things are probably different now than they were to begin with. I spent pratically the first six months in shock, fear, pain and desperation, and since then it's been a roller coaster.

I'm functioning okay and outwardly I probably seem just fine. I'm sure no one suspects the pain I'm still carrying around with me. It's hard living this double life.

Christmas is soon here, and I'm trying to make an effort for our sons. They're all coming home - one with his wife. It sounds as though they're looking forward to it. This is my second Christmas without my husband - their father. Our sons are managing quite well now and I'm pleased that all four of them are moving on in life. They're excited about the future - their educations, future careers, meeting new people, getting married and having kids. All four are in their twenties and they've got their lives ahead of them. I enjoy their company and I do love them. I just wish I could share in their excitement and optimism. I wish I could look forward to one day being a grandmother. I wish I enjoyed being alive.

Unfortunately, I feel trapped. My husband and I had so many plans - things we'd do when the nest was empty. Now he's gone and those plans are gone and the thought of having to live the rest of my life - however long that is - seems almost too exhausting to bear. I don't have much money and will have to work until retirement age. That's another 14 years. Another 14 years of being alone, going to work, coming home, going to bed, getting up and starting all over again. People keep telling me to get out and socialize. I do, out of obligation, but I find that exhausting too. They want me to start dating, but I can't even stand the thought. They also tell me to get a hobby, but I don't enjoy doing anything right now, and even if I did, I'm too tired to manage anything apart from the necessary stuff.

Several people here have mentioned feeling angry. I felt angry too, and bitter that this had to happen to me when so many of our friends are still healthy and married and living normal lives. Now that anger is gone and I just feel tired and trapped.

I don't know why I'm posting this and I'm probably bringing people down. I just don't know what to do. I suppose I'll bring this to my grief counselor and see what happens.

Part of the problem, I think, is that I'm so alone. I have my kids - but they are in different parts of the world and leading their own lives. I have a few friends, but they're still living their normal lives and don't really understand. My siblings haven't been in touch since my husband's death. Neither have his siblings, apart from his youngest sister who sends e-mails now and then. I'm getting Christmas cards from various people with "Wishing you a merry christmas and happy new year". I have to laugh at that - what else can I do?

I wish I knew how to find joy again.

Melina

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Dear Metteline,

I so understand of your pain and feelings. Our entire world, life, plans have been dashed against a rock and smashed into smithereens as we also try to find a new normal, a new way to be while we feel so empty of joy. I wish I could take it all away from you and I know you feel that way about me. I would urge you never to worry about bringing people down. You mentioned that on the phone also and no one here feels that way and when you share your pain and hurt and anger, it sort of paves the way for others to do likewise. That is a part of the reason we are all here.

I do not understand people telling us to have a Merry Christmas except it is just a habit and people are not walking in our shoes. I know they do not mean to hurt us but are just not thinking. I have heard that several times also and laughing is a good response...because it is truly a joke. Christmas is empty and I can't wait for it all to end. I know I am not alone in that feeling.

Know that I am here for you anytime you need to talk. I am just finishing up another deadline...noon tomorrow...and then I can breathe again. It rolls around so fast but I do enjoy the Voice, my publication enough to keep it going and I make a few bucks which I need.

Peace

Mary

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Dear Melina,

I know and understand the pain you are going though this time of year. I just got back from one of my hospice grief support group meetings, and everyone there just wanted to jump past this time of year. So you are not alone in your feelings at all.

As far as your sons, it was their Father, not their wife, who passed, so the grief for them, is really different than it is for you. As children, we are in our parent's home for around 18-20 years, then we are out on our own. Even as children we did not have the same relationship as our mother and father had. That is why they grieve different than we do. They loved him but not the same love you had for him. He was your soul mate forever.

I try to understand the anger that everyone feels, but I cannot, because I haven't and will not. I loved Pauline to much to let the feeling or emotion of anger to come up. I just can't, I could never be angry with Pauline or the MS that took her from me. So anger no I just do not understand it. It is just the way I am made I guess. I truly wish you can find some kind of peace and comfort in your life ahead.

God Bless

Dwayne

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Hi Dwayne

I don't think people who feel angry are angry at the person who died (unless perhaps they did not take care of themselves). I think they are angry that they died, angry at the disease that took them....Bottom line they are angry they lost the person they loved. It may look like it is directed at the person who died but when push comes to shove, I doubt that is too true. I, like you, could never feel angry at Bill for dying. He certainly did not want to die until he could not think anymore. He had no control over alzheimer's. I am however, on occasion, angry that he died and how some people deal with grief....my grief. Mary

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Another thought.......yeah angry that Mike didnt care for himself until it was too late......and yet do feel so angry at the fate that put Mike........into his tail spin.. a series of events .........that he couldnt recover from......death of his mother at such a young age for him.....15, and her 45..........from Lymphoma..........and no support from others....it is so intersting to me how some can go through such adversity.....and can move forward and change the cycle and others cannot....

My father, was raised in an horrible abusive family, NEVER did this to his family, why me???????.......and yet my cousins??????? to me an interesting and deep subject guess I was the lucky one....Dave

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Anger is such an interesting emotion. When we lose something, we are frightened and when we are frightened we can frequently withdraw or strike out with anger...anger is energizing and makes us feel strong and in charge....it pushes people away. Feelings flow from love or fear and from the thoughts we have. Fear can lead to anger but look beneath the anger for the fear. We are fearful of losing people we love, our self esteem (shame) or the esteem of others (rejection). When we lose someone we love...it is huge and so our responses/reactions can be huge....and for many that is anger. I don't feel anger too often but when I do, it feels powerful (like last week). Long story short...if you are angry, look inside of it or underneath it and see what hurt you or frightened you and try to re-focus perhaps on the hurt and fear. And now I need my morning coffee.

Mary

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Dear Mary,

I understand your point now, all though I was never angry about the disease it self. At the start I got really mad at her Neurologist, who had seen Pauline wheeled into his office for the 3 visits before, and he never asked why. The reason was she had a hard time walking from the parking lot into the building, then to where his office was. And when Pauline told him that one of her other Doctors suggested she had all the signs of MS, and should go to her Neurologist, well as this man did was to start getting mad at Pauline and screaming at her, and I would not stand for that. I got up with fire in my eyes, and asked him why he never questioned, why she was in a wheel chair for her last 3 visit? That we came for help, not for you to be screaming at Pauline like she had, done something wrong. It was you that had your eyes closed. If you cannot or do not want to help her send her some where, that she will get the help. He sent her to a hospital in Boston,

Layhee Clinic, were they confirmed that yes she had MS and these were her options at that time. I can truly say that was the first and last time anger came out over Pauline health our being left alone, because I am not, just last week I got home from school, it was cold out I got on the bed and turned on the bed light to study by. This was around 3 in the afternoon. My little dog Sugar laid by my feet, and as I was studding, I could feel the warmth of Pauline's body right beside me, I could hear her breathing, It was like that for a few minutes, until I reached for her, then it all stopped. I know she is with me always, whereever I am whatever I am doing, she is always with me.

God Bless my friend

Dwayne

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I've never been angry with my husband for getting lung cancer and dying. That certainly wasn't his fault and he didn't want to leave us.

I have been very angry with myself, since I think I could have done a much better job as caretaker and wife. But I was simply in shock and denial.

And I've been bitter with life and the world for allowing this to happen. I've never been very social, never had many friends, and my childhood and teenager years were difficult.

I finally found a best friend and partner, someone I felt safe with and loved. But then he was taken away from me, while other men his age - and not very good men - are allowed to walk around in good health.

Other women are allowed to keep their husbands until they grow very old. So it's that "why me" thing.

I try not to think about all this, but it's not easy.

Melina

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I agree Melina. I could not be angry at Bill for acquiring Alzheimer's or for dying and I was/am angry at myself but far less so as I too have seen how exhausted and traumatized I was at the time. I also understand how it feels to finally find someone who speaks your language, gets you, shares everything and loves you unconditionally and then lose him...Bill was home to me and I feel homeless. We lived deeply...most of the world does not....I totally understand that. I waited a long time for Bill and we had many years together but, of course, never enough.

I hope both of us, all of us, find peace on our journey's. Glimpses of it are not enough...

Peace

Mary

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Mary, that is a good way of explaining anger, that it makes us feel more powerful and in charge, I never thought of it like that before. In our culture we tend to view anger as a negative thing, but really, it isn't, it can be negative, but it can be positive too. Anger often fuels change, and like you say, empowers us.

Melina, I share your feelings. I am happy for my kids that they have a life but theirs is just beginning and I feel mine is on the other end. It's weird to feel all that is over because I don't feel particularly old, but here I am. I'm finding that while I was always in demand (career wise), I am no longer considered a valued commodity. And while I used to have a partner to share in life with, and we did so many things together...it seemed to end abruptly 6 1/2 years ago. What do we do with the rest of our lives? And you're right, we barely have energy to do what we have to do...now that all of the household tasks fall to us alone. I think this is the hardest thing, trying to figure out where to go from here...

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I think there is such a thing as constructive anger...depending on what we do with it. I should feel angry about child abuse, war, etc. Now how can I use that constructively. I don't know about grief....feeling angry THAT Bill died, not at him, but the fact of his death....the best I can do to use that constructively is first to own it, then to get in touch with the hurt that motivates it....then honor myself....and be where I am....ultimately to develop a new life that includes grief for the loss of my soulmate.

Tonight my watercolor group cut our painting time short and went to one of the gal's houses for a gathering. There are 7 of us in the group, we are all hovering around 70....give or take. Her house was decked out with trees (3 of them), candles, even candles on the front porch...she said she went all out this year as her entire family (3 adult kids, grand kids, brother) are coming for Christmas...her husband died 18 years ago when she was 52....she raised these kids alone....the decorations and party atmosphere were tricky to navigate. I did ok with all of it and we laughed as we told stories all of us understood because we are all in the same age range....it was good but I got in my car and had not driven 30 feet before the flood gates opened, tears floweed,....sadness overwhelmed me and I came home to silence being grateful for my dog. It is all so so hard. I really hate it. In a group of caring women, I felt totally alone...individually there was ONE in the group that I can talk to and who knew I was in pain....but the majority ruled the evening...and laughter pervaded. Now I sit with tears. It gets so tiring and exhausting and most of all lonely.

Mary

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Mary

I'm so sorry you had to endure this painful scene. I feel it with you because I KNOW what it feels like.

I would rather sleep through all the happy/merry stuff coming up, that's for sure, but it's not going to happen. People in my life try to be extra cheerful around me to keep me going. I guess, they can't win whatever they try to do.

For their sake, I am geared up for making it through each festive occasion this year trying to look 'happy' and then I will expect to have the inevitable meltdown alone.

What I wish for most for 2012 is the capacity to just feel part of something again, and not to feel an outsider or an observer even when I'm with those that love me most.

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Unfortunately, I feel trapped. My husband and I had so many plans - things we'd do when the nest was empty. Now he's gone and those plans are gone and the thought of having to live the rest of my life - however long that is - seems almost too exhausting to bear. I don't have much money and will have to work until retirement age. That's another 14 years. Another 14 years of being alone, going to work, coming home, going to bed, getting up and starting all over again. People keep telling me to get out and socialize. I do, out of obligation, but I find that exhausting too. They want me to start dating, but I can't even stand the thought. They also tell me to get a hobby, but I don't enjoy doing anything right now, and even if I did, I'm too tired to manage anything apart from the necessary stuff.

I can relate to this so much, especially the having to push myself through another so many years of functioning just to support myself and my kids. The thought of having to do this over and over again every day for the next however many years is exhausting. I think the same to myself every time I have to drag myself out of bed to go to work. My brain and body are just so tired, I want to stop the planet from spinning and just not have to move again. She was only 28 years old and I just turned 30. It's not fair, we had so many plans. It's just so hard not to feel angry and cheated.

I wish I had some magical words to help heal your pain. Just know that we are here to lend an ear.

-Jeanie

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Jeanie,

Thanks for replying. I'm so sorry you lost your partner at such a young age.

Grief does affect the body. I wasn't prepared for the sheer physical exhaustion of grieving.

I'm grateful at least for the chance to exchange experiences with others in the same situation here.

Melina

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A friend of mine took care of her mom at home for two years before her mom died. Her college age daughter came home to help and took the night shift. My friend's husband helped by running their family owned businessand more. They had a full time aid and my friend tells me, "Mary, it still took 2 years before I even began to feel less exhausted"? I think we don't have a clue how much the death of our loved one and the caregiving, if we were privileged to have that time with them, has drained from our beings. Our entire world has been turned inside out, upside down and backwards. That alone is exhausting. Throw in that it all happened because the person we loved most is gone, the person we shared everything with (heart, soul, life, body, day in and day out, persons who were part of us). Now we are trying to juggle all of that, the loss (huge), the exhaustion, the life we must create! It is tiring just to think about it. and now it is Christmas!

We deserve to pat ourselves on our backs. As much as I know all this, a certain part of me (slowly becoming less and less and less) pushes me to not feel as I feel. Bill would simply embrace me these days and be with me with no judgment or pressure. He would take over every task he could, share all he could. If I can take that lesson from him and live each day as best I can, without driving myself to be where or how I am not nor wish to be....just be, it would honor his very existence. We live in a culture that does not value that and among people who fear grieving. And I wonder why I feel alone? In that group last night, I felt totally abalone, guarding what I would say if I were with bill or my inner circle people. This is exhausting. We deserve medals.

Mary

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A friend of mine took care of her mom at home for two years before her mom died. Her college age daughter came home to help and took the night shift. My friend's husband helped by running their family owned businessand more. They had a full time aid and my friend tells me, "Mary, it still took 2 years before I even began to feel less exhausted"? I think we don't have a clue how much the death of our loved one and the caregiving, if we were privileged to have that time with them, has drained from our beings. Our entire world has been turned inside out, upside down and backwards. That alone is exhausting. Throw in that it all happened because the person we loved most is gone, the person we shared everything with (heart, soul, life, body, day in and day out, persons who were part of us). Now we are trying to juggle all of that, the loss (huge), the exhaustion, the life we must create! It is tiring just to think about it. and now it is Christmas!

We deserve to pat ourselves on our backs. As much as I know all this, a certain part of me (slowly becoming less and less and less) pushes me to not feel as I feel. Bill would simply embrace me these days and be with me with no judgment or pressure. He would take over every task he could, share all he could. If I can take that lesson from him and live each day as best I can, without driving myself to be where or how I am not nor wish to be....just be, it would honor his very existence. We live in a culture that does not value that and among people who fear grieving. And I wonder why I feel alone? In that group last night, I felt totally alone, guarding what I would say if I were with bill or my inner circle people. This is exhausting. It is like being two people at the same time. Not one of those women, all caring and one a widow, acknowledged my pain...or asked me how I was doing on my second Christmas alone. By next Christmas...forget it. We deserve medals.

Mary

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Dear Melina,

I believe, that we all done the very best at the job of caretaker. This lung cancer, was not in any way, like Pauline was a very long really over 20 years we dealt with MS, what you had to take on and process was a relative short term, live end battle. That I believe is much harder on a person emotionally, than what I went trough. You had shocked, what to do next to try to save your husband, and so many emotions to process in a short time frame, is very hard to do. I do understand that. Who is to say you were not the best caretaker he could have, under the stress that was put upon you. I think that you was, Why because of the depth of the love you had for him. I know, you would have laid down your life to save his. That is true love. We all done the very best with what was given to us. Now we are let alone, to try to find a new but some how still the same life, just different. We have walked on this ground many times with our loved ones, it felt good, everything felt right. Now when we step onto that same ground, it is uneven, everything is out of focus, it is hard for us to wrap our minds around, the world that spins in front of us. It takes time and a lot of energy to get that lens focused again, so we can see, clearly again, and the ground, although the same as before, we can walk on it and see the world, with people, and yes we will even laugh again. The fist time you do, the guilt may seep in, but just for a moment. Then we can Laugh and enjoy it again. That is when you are making real progress into the land of the living.

God Bless

Dwayne

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Mary,

I took care of my MIL for nearly three years when she was bedridden with cancer. At the time I had small babies and my own house to keep up with as well as hers. It required I be there every day, not only taking care of her, but I was her link to the outside world, even while I felt I didn't have one myself. It meant I hosted other family members that came to visit from out of town. It meant countless cooking, laundry, cleaning all while trying to keep her comfortable and taking care of the less desirable elements. I was not only exhausted but my own family unit had to be put on hold. For three years. They had support groups for caretakers that the hospital, etc. told us about. I wanted to laugh! Are they kidding? I'm 50 miles from the nearest anything and no time to brush my teeth and comb my hair and they think I have time to go to support groups? When you're a caretaker, it's tough. I was exhausted all right. I remember one weekend we arranged for OTHER family members to come take care of her so we could get away, just us, our family, I felt my husband and I and our kids badly needed it. What happened? Other family members showed up at our campsite. Are they kidding me?! I wanted to scream! Did they really think we'd be happy to see them? We weren't. Of course they didn't have a clue, they hadn't been there done that. They had no idea what it was like to put their own lives on hold for someone else, let alone for that long. They only thought they knew because they'd come visit now and then, but what they didn't realize is inbetween visits they could carry on with their daily routines whereas our former daily routine was gone.

Would I do it again? You betcha! In a heartbeat. It was also a special time and the blessings from spending those last few years with this precious woman I called Mom were many. It is what family does. And she was so deserving. Yes she had a husband that could have done what I did, but he wasn't able to cope, he wasn't particularly nurturing, and he was needy himself. My FIL just passed away last Spring, I miss him. Even though his son and I eventually divorced, dad and I's relationship never severed. I went to see him every Friday night in assisted living last year. He never forgot what I did for his wife. Every year on my birthday he'd call and sing Happy Birthday to me. I doubt most ex-FILs do that. It just goes to show what a bond was created during that time when mom was bedridden with cancer...a bond that cannot be broken. And his son, my ex, even we have a special bond that even divorce cannot sever...we may have found it difficult to live with each other, but we still care about each other and those memories will always continue.

Those days of caretaking were hard...you have to take a day at a time. It is hard to appreciate and enjoy the little moments because you're so busy and yes, exhaustion is ever present.

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You are one good woman, Kay. I love how you acknowledge how hard and trying and exhausting it was and also see the good stuff that came from it. I took care of Bill for about 4 years...the last two being the toughest....I would do it over in a heartbeat...and honestly with hindsight..do it better. I was in trauma...we really had two patients in the house. Acknowledging that NOW helps me look back and know I did my best. Raising kids while doing it.....that is a whole other thing.....not sure I could do it but would give it my best....Peace, Mary

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Mary, Thanks for including the note about your friend, who lost her Mom, and the exhaustion she felt for yrs. I still cant believe how tired I get and the lack of stamina......in my situation it doesnt help that I have to work as a caretaker, for a living. I have been taking alot of extended days off, feel more energetic, then come back to work, and it quickly drains me!

This am I woke up and was so anxious, for some reason, still not sure why.....I was telling my Psychiatrist friend here at work about this.....her theory again was that I have felt soo bad for so long, and it appears that I am making some progress and am feeling more emotionally stable....it is just going to take some time for my body and mind to adjust to a new feeling....hope it is soon, not liking the anxious feeling! Will continue to try to take gentle care of myself! Dave

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Hi Dave,

I think we have no reserve....and operate on fumes and so we deplete very quickly and then anxiety or depression can creep in. It is going to take all of us a LOT of time...a lot. I used to tell clients who were "recovering" from a divorce or crisis that was serious or a loss to think in terms of 3-5 years...not 3-5 months...and it was unique to each of us. Go easy on yourself.

Got a scare today. I took Bentley to be groomed. The groomer is a dear friend who has groomed Bentley 4-6 times a year for 8 years. I gave her a gift with a letter from Bentley thanking her for always asking his mom (me) how I am doing and letting me cry there. :) I never ever felt he was unsafe there but as I drove away the thought crept in that said....something is wrong, Bentley is not safe. I ignored it ??? and went shopping. When I came back he was, as usual just fine. I got him in the car and was driving home (about 30 minute drive). I got about 5 miles away, my phone rings and my groomer friend asked me if I remembered the man that dropped off a Christmas gift while I was there....I told her yes. She said she called the house to thank his wife for the gift and she told her that her husband came home and said his radiator leaked leaving antifreeze (the green one) right where everyone (including dogs) walk to their cars and for me to come back. So back I go. I saw that probably Bentley had not walked in that spot because of where I park but was not sure so we brought him back in and thoroughly cleaned his feet. She then called the owners who picked up their dogs during that period. We Googled treatment, cleaning prevention. The green antifreeze is lethal and it does not take but 3 oz to kill a medium size dog. Her husband thoroughly cleaned up the mess (she lives on a lovely farm) and I cleaned Bentley's feet again at home. Why the man did not come back in and tell her immediately is beyond us. Scared the life out of me. Losing him would be really tough....

Second time today I heard a voice. I misplaced my driver's license and credit card and from 6am to 2pm when I left for the groomer I looked all over on and off and asked Bill to help. I pass the cemetery where Bill is buried on the way to the groomer and decided on the way home I would stop as we have had no snow yet and it is hard to get up the woodsy hill in winter. As I pass I always talk to him and asked him to help me find the items. Instantly a little voice inside said I put it in my paint box last night at paint group so I would not lose them. I would never have looked there and that particular box is not one I use a lot when I paint. I knew that was right and when I got home just now...voila there they were.

I did want to hear a friend read A Child's Christmas in Wales as he is from Wales and is an actor...ah well....next year.

Peace

Mary

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Mary, I have heard that the new antifreeze they make now is not lethal but there's no way of knowing what his was...if it was green and smelled sweet, it was probably the old kind. I wanted you to know I had a small (under 9 lbs) cat that got into antifreeze years ago and it did something to her nerves, she was totally weirded out and then couldn't move. We immediately took her in emergency (over an hour away) and they gave her three different kinds of shots (expensive but worth it) and she came out of it with no residual affects. She lived to be 15 after that! so there is hope if you seek treatment as soon as possible, but it doesn't take long for it to be too late.

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Thanks, Kay. You are right, the new antifreeze is less toxic. We checked with the owner and he had the old type...lethal. The green is the lethal one. Orange and yellow are LESS toxic but still toxic. The info said that many people put antifreeze in their toilets to keep pipes from freezing and many dogs die annually from drinking out of the toilet....partly because the green stuff has a sweet taste, ironically. So sad that people don't know all this. Save a dog's life. Bentley is just fine this morning. He was a bit uptight about having his feet washed for the third time in one day :) once in the grooming session, then the immediate clean up when I returned and when I got home my paranoia led me to wash them a third time...to make sure...but he was a trooper :).

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Dear Mary,

So sorry to hear such a scare about Bentley, but yet Bill did give you the answer you was looking for so desperately. That was a very good sign that he was watching over both of you. Most of the time if dogs get it on their paws, they really do not digest enough to be harmful. Like you said it, take 3 oz's, that is about 1/2 cup, paws really cannot soak up that much unless the puddle is really deep, around 6" or so if my math is correct and it depends on each dogs fur, but it is sure scary enough either way.

So Happy to hear he is fine this morning.

Dear Kay,

You are so right about being a care giver or care taker whatever you say. It is a 24-7 job. You really get no rest, then when you add into all the medical part that you need to learn to be able to keep the comfortable, and at home, even wound care, I now more, new advanced wound care than the instructor at the school does, because, she has not be involved with it for about 5 years now. Even in 1 year they have new treatment out that I will not even know about. People think that you just sit and watch TV all day and get them their food, bath them, and to the bathroom and back, but it goes way beyond that, other family members have no idea what it takes to keep a person as healthy and as good as a quality of life as you can provide and also keeping them in good spirits all the time is a very hard thing to do.

God Bless

Dwayne

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