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U.S. man drains life savings, raises $45K for surgery to save his dog

Jason Garrett is shown with his dog, Lola.
Jason Garrett is shown with his dog, Lola. Jason Garrett/GoFundMe

What price would you pay to keep your beloved pet alive — even if that pet was already in its elder years?

“Anything,” is the answer for Jason Garrett, a California man prepared to pay US$45,000 for open-heart surgery to save his dog, Lola. Garrett says he’s drained his 401K retirement fund to pay for the surgery, and he’s raised additional money through crowdfunding to cover the full cost.

He says he simply can’t put a price on Lola, the 12-year-old miniature schnauzer and therapy dog who has helped him battle depression and bipolar disorder for over a decade.

“She’s family,” he told ABC 7. “The reason I continue to survive and even thrive with the disease is Lola.”

READ MORE: Calculate your dog’s age in human years with this new formula based on DNA

Lola was diagnosed with pre-heart failure after she fainted during a walk last November, Garrett says. Heart failure is a leading cause of death among dogs, but Garrett hopes the dog can beat the odds with a pioneering procedure out of Japan.

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“She has an enlarged heart because she has a damaged mitral valve,” Garrett told ABC 7.

Garrett is waiting for the Japanese inventor of the procedure to teach other vets in Florida so that he won’t have to fly to Japan to save his dog’s life.

READ MORE: Certain dog food brands may be linked to increased risk of heart disease: FDA

The procedure has a 90 per cent success rate, according to the University of Florida Veterinary Hospital, where staff are learning how to do it.

“It’s a very unique and very highly skilled procedure that’s a combination of different teams from around the world coming together,” said Dr. Justin Williams, Lola’s vet at the University of Florida.

“With this surgery Lola will continue to be able to lead an active, playful life for years and years without restrictions,” Garrett writes on his GoFundMe page.

Donors have already helped him raise more than $47,000 through the page, in addition to whatever savings and 401K funds he’s been able to scrape together.

The unexpected health and social perks of dog ownership
The unexpected health and social perks of dog ownership

It’s unclear whether Garrett will be able to hang onto his 401K money thanks to the GoFundMe campaign, but his immediate concern remains hanging onto Lola, who will have to survive until her scheduled procedure this summer.

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The life expectancy for a miniature schnauzer is approximately 12-15 years, according to the American Kennel Club — and Lola is already 12 years old.

Lola might only have a few years left, but hundreds of people have donated in hopes of extending her time with Garrett.

“Our schnauzers are like our kids,” one donor wrote on Garrett’s GoFundMe page. “We are praying Jason & Lola!”

Another woman contributed in honour of her own late pet. “My baby needed an expensive surgery too,” she wrote. “She was my everything.”