California Man Cashing Out His 401K to Pay $45,000 for Surgery to Save His Dog's Life

"She's family," owner Jason Garrett said of his pup Lola

California Man Cashing Out His 401K to Pay $45,000 for Surgery to Save His Dog's Life
Photo: Go Fund Me

Dog owner Jason Garrett is cashing out his 401K and digging into his life savings in order to pay for surgery to save his dog’s life.

Garrett’s 12-year-old miniature Schnauzer, Lola, was diagnosed with mitral valve disease, Garrett explained in a recent YouTube video. The disease — which is common in dogs — affects her lungs and heart, and a doctor gave her about eight to nine months to live.

“We had an episode in November where she came back from a walk and she fainted … She has an enlarged heart because she has a damaged mitral valve,” Garrett told KGO-TV.

After Lola’s diagnosis, Garrett said he learned about a canine open-heart surgery procedure pioneered by Japanese doctor Masami Uechi. Because the surgery is so specialized and only Uechi and the few surgeons he’s trained know how do it, it’s expensive — $45,000, Garrett said in the video.

“The downside is it’s about $45,000,” he told KGO-TV. “I’ve already cashed out my 401K and using every penny of my savings, and I’m also looking into selling my car if need be.”

Garrett has also set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the procedure. He explained that he struggles with severe depression and bipolar disorder, and Lola has been the reason he is still able to “survive and thrive.”

“Lola has undoubtedly saved my life countless times,” he said in the YouTube video. “As you can imagine I would do absolutely anything to save her.”

“Anything for Lola,” he added to KGO-TV. “She’s family.”

Nate Estes, president of the Mighty Hearts Project, a non-profit dedicated to providing hope, education, advocacy and support to owners of dogs with Mitral Valve Disease and those wishing to seek mitral valve repair surgery, told PEOPLE that Garrett reached out to Mighty Hearts Project, “as many families often do,” about his options regarding Lola’s health and future in December.

“What was once considered only a palliative prognosis, surgical intervention to repair the mitral valve and heart chords is now possible,” Estes said of the Mighty Hearts Project. “It is important that we share this information with pet owners, vets, and researchers alike to advance the supply and demand for this amazing option and make it widely available to as many as possible throughout the world.”

According to Estes, he gave Garrett “the needed information on how to contact each clinic that’s highly successful and currently in operation with a breakdown of cost for each so that he could choose which location to begin to get his dog evaluated for candidacy.”

In Estes opinion, it would be in Garrett and Lola’s best interests to go to Japan for the surgery that Lola needs to prolong her life.

“Japan can offer the surgery by the same surgeon within six months for $17,800, plus travel so $25K roughly” Estes said.

Estes believes that Japan is a better option for Garrett and Lola because “the Florida program currently hasn’t begun its mitral valve repair surgery program, they only have the equipment in place.” Additionally, London’s Royal Veterinarian College (RVC), which has successfully performed the surgery in the past, currently isn’t offering the surgery.

“Therefore the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine hospital can only add people to a growing waitlist, which is 300 to date I’m told,” Estes added. “That list started over a year and a half ago so he must be number 150 or more. Current plans at UF are to do 1-2 surgeries to start and then 5-6 every two months”

Overall, Estes hopes that Garrett considers Japan which, based on his assessment, offers a better timeline at a cheaper price.

To learn more about the Mighty Hearts Project, and how they have helped other dogs in Lola’s situation, visit their website.

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