Plan B

From my Chincoteague collection

I’m getting adept at Plans B of late.

Landscaping plans sit on the shelf because we just don’t feel like spending that much money this year. Maybe next. (I’ve been saying that about that third rock wall for about eleven years now).

That second memoir based on “my grandmother’s suitcase” shares the same shelf though for different reasons.

But last week a new one popped up — after dashing Plan A to smithereens, Plan Bs spring forth fully formed.

Of course having a Plan B assumes you had a Plan A. Here was mine.

Plan A: Life will be simpler as I get older.

Simpler has been a goal for a while now and the building blocks of that simpler life were to be routine, financial security, and predictability.

Routine is doing nicely, with just the right mix of planned and spontaneous activities. Or did, as I’ll get to in a bit.

The same with financial security. I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a dependable roof over my head; I’m able to buy whatever appeals to me at the food store; I have never once had to choose between food or medicine; I’m warm when it’s cold outside and when it’s unbearably hot, as it was a few weeks this summer, I have a pond I can go float in for a bit. Best of all, I am able to financially support a few causes dear to me. I live within my means, probably for the first time in my life. I am financially secure; for now.

I thoroughly enjoy all that I have and I do not yearn for anything I do not have.
This, to me, is the definition of true happiness.


It’s the predictability part where Plan A dies. I’d like my life to be predictable, to know what will unfold as I begin each day.

Or week

Or month

Hence my reliance on my digital calendar, which I share with Woody.

Apart from calendar events, we predicted that our puppy, Jackson, would grow into a second Sasha: gentle, intelligent, loyal and healthy. (Sasha did have those two TPLO surgeries and now is living with anal gland cancer. Overall though, she’s been a healthy girl over her nearly twelve years.)

For those of you not familiar with Jackson, here’s Sasha’s take on December 2, 2020 and May 12, 2021

We predicted, we assumed, we expected. And now are we ever surprised. Not in a good way, either. Disappointed to be sure; sad, of course.

Jackson is heartworm positive.

Here they are last winter.

We changed veterinarians this summer, a simple carbon footprint decision — Old Vet is over a half hour away, New Vet is right in town; with two dogs, it seemed prudent. Jackson arrived with us last November, with his negative heartworm documentation and two months of heartworm preventative. Old Vet prescribed six more months. When that was about to run out, I turned to New Vet. She required a new blood test.

So, off to the vet’s we went last Wednesday for Jackson’s first full exam by New Vet and the blood work needed to get him some more NetGuard. Jackson, still on the hyper side and quite skittish, required sedation before they could examine him, never mind take blood or give him his vaccines. No; Jackson is no Sasha.

That the test came back positive for heart worm was completely unexpected. Life can sometimes turn in a moment.

We always have the option to send him back to the Foster Mom in Illinois, no matter what. And, frankly, we’ve considered that more than once over these past ten months. But we are now committed to this handsome, quirky, very active dog who just wants to please us but often doesn’t get the how.

Unlike when we faced Sasha’s various surgeries (September 21, 2016; July 26, 2017; and June 9, 2021), we have Pet Insurance for Jackson. So, cost is not a huge factor. In fact, there really is no decision to be made. Or, we could say the choice is quite simple: there is simply no way we are NOT going ahead with treatment. We are doing what one does when faced with the unexpected: we are stepping into it.

The hardest part for us will be is keeping him content during his “confinement.”

He can’t jump, he can’t romp with Sasha, he can’t even run. Between November 8 and mid January he must be either in his crate or on a leash. Before then, as in now, he’s on a leash when he goes out. I believe Sasha is rather relieved. We’re practicing our leash walking skills.

The hardest part for Jackson is to survive.

photo credit: American Heartworm Society, with my thanks.

Preliminary medicines were begun last Thursday, something to kill the bacteria that these heart worms seem to feed off of. We’ll continue these pills twice a day for the next month. Then, we wait a month and in early November Jackson will get his first of shot of Immiticide (melarsomine), for which he’ll again need to be sedated.

He’ll get three of these injections between November 8 and December 8 and during that time and for an additional six weeks Jackson will need to be on severe (as in SEVERE) physical restriction. He will be in his crate at all times except for three walks a day on the leash. I anticipate he will need to be on a tranquilizer during all this. Or else I will.

The reason we will keep him confined is that as the heart worms die off they can wind up clogging up an artery or worse. And we all know what can happen when blood does not flow effectively.

There is no guarantee this will end well. It’s possible the treatment will not be sufficient and will need to be done again. It’s also possible the treatment itself will kill him.

Why will we subject him to this? I cannot answer that question except to say we can. And we know that to do nothing will bring his life to a quick and painful end. And I keep hearing good, positive stories of rescued dogs that have survived the treatment and gone on to lead full and active lives.


Jackson weighs 75 pounds.

For those of you who want to know more about this disease, here’s a three minute video from the American Heartworm Society (.org)


And so we move forward, into Plan B. One I was not expecting at all. One that will bring with it a wealth of new experiences, both challenging and gratifying. We’ve changed our holiday plans; we’ve canceled Woody’s birthday weekend since Jackson cannot be boarded. What I can’t tell yet is what gratitudes I’ll discover during all this. I’ll be looking though, that’s for sure.

How about you? Have you faced any major change of plans? How do you deal with them?

12 Responses

  1. Merril D Smith
    | Reply

    I’m so sorry, Janet. I hope your pup is OK.
    Merril D Smith recently posted…Do We Ever? ProseryMy Profile

  2. Joan
    | Reply

    So sorry to hear this, Janet. I always have a plan B. It’s part of life and we’re being well taught with this Covid thing we’re working through. In really nuerotic times I’ve also had plans c, d, and e, but thankfully I don’t need those any more.

    We have had one rescue dog that came to us with heart worm, but it was an easy cure. She was a small dog and not an active one. She lived a long, good life and I’m hoping Jackson will do the same. I’ll be thinking of you all and pray all will go well.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Joan. Small dogs are suddenly appealing to me these days. I think if Jackson were an “only” it’d be easier too; but the two shepherds are used to sparring for dominance. In a friendly way, if there is such a thing. And that we can’t allow Jackson to do anymore. Plus, he learned if he “rang the bell” we’d let him out. So, poor thing is now quite confused as we’re ignoring. Ah, I shall go take it down. Thanks. 🙂
      Janet Givens recently posted…Plan BMy Profile

  3. Susan
    | Reply

    Of course I hope the first treatment works. So sorry for Jackson and you guys. I don’t have any pets so have no problems in that area.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Susan. Fingers are crossed up here, to be sure. I’m trying to think of the last time I had no pets. I think it’s been forty-five years (cats count too, right?). Up until Jackson, each one was better than the one before. Sigh. I looked at him the other night and said, “You better turn out to be a great dog!” Thanks for stopping by.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Plan BMy Profile

      • Susan Jane Jackson
        | Reply

        I always had dogs, cats, horses but about 35 I became severely allergic to them all

  4. Pamela
    | Reply

    Oh, dear dog. Jackson is beyond lucky to have you and Woody. But while he’s going through this treatment, he may resent you horribly. How will he possibly understand your keeping him in a crate/leash/tranquilized during this difficult time? But then again, maybe part of his restlessness and inability to calm down is because he has heartworms. Who knows. We do know that “this too will pass,” and my hope/prayer/wish is that Jackson comes out healthy and happy at the end of the treatment. I keep my planning to a minimum these days – routine, yes, but planning, not until a week or so before I do something. Everything is so topsy turvy these days. I do “plan” to keep on blogging, and to teach my writing classes (which I suppose is part of Plan A), but to go with the flow if anything turns into a waterfall. ;-0 xo
    Pamela recently posted…A Piercing ExperienceMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You know, I had the same thought, Pam — that perhaps curing these heart worms would help him settle down. But the vet says, “no.” He should actually have no sensation of them at all. Still . . . hope springs eternal. I used to think I could control the hand was dealt. I no longer believe that. We just play the hand, as best we can. Topsy turvy; indeed. I somedays feel like I’m living in the old Twilight Zone.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Plan BMy Profile

      • Pamela
        | Reply

        Or the “new” Twilight Zone. ;-0

  5. Linda Hoenigsberg
    | Reply

    Janet. Quite a few years ago we bought a goldendoodle from a “reputable” breeder. The first two years were hard with this “guaranteed docile” puppy. But then she settled down and was a wonderful companion. She got diabetes which required two shots of insulin daily. This was expensive but we didn’t think twice. Someone asked me at the time, “Are you really going to go through all that?” YES! Then she lost her sight due to the diabetes and we spent money on artificial lenses and she was able to see again for the 5 more years she lived. She was an expensive dog, who died at 12 in 2015 and we still miss her so much. A pet is a responsibility and they have emotions. I’ll be praying for Jackson.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks for that, Linda. They do become part of the family and it is simply what we do. I’ve not before had a breed that needed so much medical care; my sons try to tell me it’s because they are purebreds but I can’t believe that. I feel very fortunate that we can make the choice, financially, to do what he needs.

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