Julian Gothard is hoping a move isn't in the cards. He's also hoping that one of his best friends, 13-year-old Millie, will stave off the cancer that has taken part of her jaw.
On Tuesday, in the living room of his Hermosa Beach home, Gothard reflected on his spirited companion, one he hopes he's done right by, having spent more than $10,000 on treatments that have taken a toll on Milie.
"She [his wife] got Millie while we were courting," he said fondly.
Millie is spry at 13, walking around the house, standing for 20-30 minutes to lap up water in the kitchen, stopping at the sofa for some human kindness.
Gothard has spent more than $10,000 to help his beloved canine but worries that his lack of income-producing work will land the Hermosa property in foreclosure.
"There's no cash flow," he said. "I was personally free of debt before Millie's illness."
He's already eliminated medications for Millie and the couple's other dog, 16-year-old Tasha, due to their expense.
Just last weekend, he and his wife held a garage sale to raise money.
A friend who is a pet sitter suggested he take his love for animals and use it to help raise funds to pay for Millie's treatments and medications so now he's offering pet services: $20 per feeding visit; $40 for an overnight stay, your place or his, and $65 maximum for combined services.
So far, he's taken care of neighbors' cats and dogs.
On the plus side, Gothard's freelance writing has enabled him to take care of Millie, transporting her for radiation treatments and then surgery.
Fortunately, Millie's last blood and urine samples and x-rays showed that the cancer hasn't spread.
Seventy percent of dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma only live another year; the other 30% doesn't live that long.
Gothard is guardedly optimistic about Millie, particularly since her last tests indicated the cancer had not metastasized.
His work now is to keep her eating to gain the 10 pounds she lost during all of her treatments.
"We had to feed her with a syringe," he said, "liquids, baby food, steak" after surgery in March. The mandibulectomy removed one side of her jaw, which leaves her tongue mostly hanging. Gothard said she drools quite a bit, is now a messy eater and has to slurp water for 20-30 minutes to take in enough.
"Millie's travails have been grueling for all involved," Gothard said, but with just a glance her way or the mention of her name, his face lights up.
"It's been a very long road and although I love my dogs dearly, I'm often plagued by doubts as to whether I did the right thing," he wrote in an email. "Sometimes it's very hard to let go of the things that we love."
The ordeal began last August, when the couple found a tumor in Millie's mouth and took her to a local vet, who removed it.
"We thought it might be benign, so they cut it out and it grew back larger," Gothard said.
Their vet then referred Millie to the Veterinary Cancer Group of Los Angeles at the City of Angels complex in Culver City. There, Gothard and his wife were given three treatment options: palliative or definitive radiation or surgery.
They opted for definitive radiation in an attempt to get rid of the cancer, once and for all.
"We did 20 treatments over four weeks," recalled Gothard. Each treatment lasted about an hour, so Gothard, who is a freelance RV writer on examiner.com, lugged his laptop to and from the vet's office, working while Millie was being treated.
The tumor was shrinking; Millie's condition was looking brighter.
What they weren't told was that some of Millie's skin and fur would slough off as part of the normal reaction to the treatment. Gothard said, "Her face was falling off, literally." As a result, Millie's furless chest was pink but her fur eventually grew back.
Near the end of her radiation treatments, Gothard brought Tasha to help coax Millie to the entrance for treatment. "She'd kind of look at me like, 'OK, I'll do this, but I really don't like it.'"
After somewhat promising results, the tumor grew back even bigger after the radiation treatments were finished.
Fortunately, then, the couple was given the opportunity to put Millie in a clinical trials study that would cost them nearly nothing.
"The idea was that Millie would be injected over the course of a few hours with an agent" to stimulate her own natural defense system.
The tumor shrank more this time, but grew back even larger, one more time.
Gothard and his wife were crushed but not without hope.
Surgery was the next and final step.
What followed has demonstrated a kind and loving heart once again: Gothard, who works from home, is able to be there for Millie and his three other pets, making sure Millie gets enough water and that the water is changed so it's clean and free of the food that spills out of Millie's mouth due to her missing jaw quadrant.
Tuesday, he chatted enthusiastically about past RV road trips with his wife, Millie and Tasha, and talked about the social media work he's doing for a client, writing press releases for $50 and blogging for the small bit of pay it produces.
He spoke about how he first met his wife [both of them were born in England], moving here to settle down with her, the niche writing that his expertise in line dancing and RVs is.
He also continues to hope that Millie's cancer is gone for good and that they all have a few more years together.
Julian Gothard can be contacted by calling 310-374-3910 or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.