California man spending $45,000 on revolutionary surgery to save his dog's life

ByDion Lim via WPVI logo
Friday, February 7, 2020
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A Bay Area man is digging deep into his pockets and has cashed out his 401(k) to save his dog's life.

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- A California man is digging deep into his pockets and has cashed out his 401(k) to save his dog's life.

Judging by her abundance of vim and vigor while playing at a Bay Area park, you'd never know 12-year old mini Schnauzer, Lola, has a life-threatening condition.

"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," says her owner, Jason Garrett.

In other words, Lola has pre-heart failure. In her case, she was given a prognosis of months, if not a year or so to live. While each case differs in severity, this condition is the most common heart issue for dogs, affecting millions. Lola's dad Jason says Lola, a certified therapy dog, has saved his life countless times.

"I suffer from severe depression and bipolar disorder. The reason I continue to survive and even thrive with the disease is Lola."

After doing research and reaching out to people across the country, Jason now has hope, thanks to a type of open-heart surgery pioneered by Japanese doctor Masami Uechi. His surgeries have a 90-percent success rate, but there's a catch.

"The downside is it's about $45,000. 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," says Jason.

This surgery was only available in Japan. But now, surgeons are being trained to do the procedure in Florida by Dr. Uechi himself. This makes the surgery not only more accessible, but can eventually bring the cost down.

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Dr. Justin Williams is Lola's Veternarian Cardiologist at OakVet Animal Specialty Hospital in Oakland.

"Right now it's a very unique and very high skilled procedure that's a combination of different teams from around the world coming together. The more experience for efficiency the more available through the United States."

With surgery scheduled for this summer in Florida, Jason now has peace of mind that Lola will live at least another 4 years. And that dog owners everywhere can find that same hope too.

"Anything for Lola. She's family."

Jason is currently setting up a GoFundMe account to help offset the cost of the surgery and travel expenses.

He also wanted to include his email in this article in case anyone has questions about their own pet. You can reach him at