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Mark Tillinger Headshot

My Four-Legged Inspiration

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The Riedel & Cody Fund is a community offering compassion, help, and hope to all those affected by animal cancer. I was inspired to start the Riedel & Cody Fund to honor the life and spirit of my beloved Riedel, a stunningly beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog. My wonderful journey with Riedel began the day I brought her home. She was an eight-week-old puppy who stole my heart the second I saw her. She was funny, smart, loving, and boisterous, and even as a young puppy, her spirit and love of life were so evident. Over the years, as she matured into the most amazing dog I have ever known, we developed an extraordinarily close relationship. I loved her with all my heart.

Riedel was diagnosed with cancer at the age of five. I will never forget the call from her veterinarian telling me the bad news. I was scared, sad, angry and shocked. Above all, I was confused. The one thing I was sure of was that I wasn't ready to lose Riedel and I was absolutely certain that she wasn't ready to let go of life. We were going to fight.

I wanted to do everything I could to increase Riedel's chance for a longer, high quality life. Her prognosis was grim, and while I was realistic about the seriousness of her disease, I only needed to look into Riedel's eyes and see her spirit and courage to feel hope. I did a tremendous amount of research, talked to many, many people, and decided on a course of action. I decided to follow an integrative approach to treating her cancer, and put together an amazing group of world-class professionals to manage her care. Each of the practitioners on Riedel's team were extraordinary leaders in their specialties. Their love, skill and compassion, combined with Riedel's courage and will to live, allowed her to defy the odds. The conventional wisdom had predicted a three- to six-month survival rate. Riedel surprised us all by living eighteen months from her diagnosis, all with a very high quality of life. She passed on with quiet dignity in my wife's and my arms on October 4, 2009. She was six years old. She left a hole in my heart that will never be filled.

Our journey together, however, did not end on that day. In fact, in many ways, it has only just begun. Riedel's courage in her fight, and her abundant love of life, inspired me, actually required me, to do something special to honor her memory. It was out of that inspiration that I decided to retire from my 30-year business career and envision and start the Riedel & Cody Fund. Our idea for RCF is to provide knowledge, hope and funding for animals with cancer. We want to make it easier for people to fight on their pet's behalf. We envision a growing, vibrant community of animal owners, medical professionals, animal lovers, veterinary schools, companies serving animal needs, and frankly any individual, company, or institution inspired by the bond between humans and animals. This community will help each other and together, we will continue to save the lives of countless other four-legged inspirations.