a successful business career in one of the worldís
leading consulting firms, Mark Tillinger was diagnosed
with cancer along with his best friend and companion,
Riedel, a 5-year-old Bermese Mountain Dog. The two
battled the disease side by side, clinging to each other
for strength and comfort even when things seemed
survived his bout with cancer. Riedel, unfortunately,
did not. At the same time, David Duchemin, part-owner of
the Veterinary Cancer Center in Norwalk, Conn., where
Riedel had been aggressively treated over an 18-month
period, lost his 12-year-old Rottweiler, Cody, to cancer
Tillinger and Duchemin work together leading The Riedel
& Cody Fund, a non-profit organization founded in
loving memory of their lost companions.
envisioned this organization that we built that
fundamentally was designed to help people who were going
through the same circumstance that I was going through
with Riedel," Tillinger said.
provide funding, support and resources for people whose
pets have been diagnosed with cancer."
and Codyís stories are heartbreaking, but they are by
no means uncommon.
petsí life expectancies creep ever upward alongside
humansí thanks to constant medical and health-related
advances, they become increasingly susceptible to
cancer. It is the leading cause of death in dogs older
than 10, half of whom suffer with the disease; 12
million dogs and cats die of cancer per year.
figures, disproportionately high compared to humans,
translate into expensive, painful and often tragic
experiences for those whose pets are afflicted. Thatís
where the Riedel & Cody Fund comes in.
people canít afford treatment and are forced to face
the decision of having to put their dog down or not
treat the dog because of lack of resources,"
Tillinger said, "so my idea was to create an
organization that provided funding to those people who
couldnít afford it."
Riedel & Cody Fund provides both direct,
non-repayable financial aid to low-income families whose
pets are suffering as well as dollar-for-dollar programs
that match funds that applicants raise individually. In
2011 alone, it shelled out more than $430,000 to pay for
pet cancer treatments.
money isnít everything.
think the bigger aspect of what we do is the emotional
support that our community gives each other,"
Tillinger said. "Other pet-owners who have gone
through it give more of the human side, which goes a
long way to turning the fear, sadness, and anger into
more positive emotions."
sense of community support comes in part from nationwide
events put on by the Riedel & Cody Fund. The ongoing
"12 Million Dog March" brings families,
friends and pet-lovers together in order to raise money
and awareness to combat the epidemic of cancer in dogs
march features activities like palm-readings for dogs,
pet caricatures and musical performances. Spanning a
roughly two-year period, it started in Los Angeles last
summer and has events set in Chicago and Atlanta
throughout the coming year, all of which are linked by
the online, virtual march.
for the virtual march can be found at www.riedelcody.org,
and the Blue Buffalo pet food company ó one of the
marchís sponsors ó has pledged to donate $1 to the
cause for every attendee who signs up.
you donít have to be a pet-owner to understand the
types of bonds shared between friends like Tillinger and
Riedel, Duchemin and Cody, and countless others.
Tillinger: "Riedel and Cody changed our lives and
we started The Riedel & Cody Fund so that their
legacy can change the world. And we really and truly
believe in that."