“Your pet has cancer” are some of the most crushing words an owner can hear. They’re filled with panic at the thought of losing their cherished dog or cat. Then equally terrified when they hear the price tag for treatment.
The Riedel & Cody Fund (RCF), a national charity, is now celebrating ten years of helping owners devastated by their pet's cancer diagnosis, like Crystal A.
Helping Pets with Cancer
When Crystal found out her beautiful dog, Shiva, had cancer, she was shocked. "Our poor baby was diagnosed with lymphoma and possible hemangiosarcoma," she says. "Shiva was a stray that wiggled her way into our hearts when she was about four months old."
Shiva’s only treatment option was chemotherapy. While Crystal was thrilled her German Shepherd mix had options, she panicked about paying for it. Her husband was out of work due to health problems, and the couple depleted their emergency fund, but the thought of not trying to save Shiva was even more heartbreaking.
Crystal turned to Waggle.org, an organization dedicated to ending economic euthanasia that partnered with RCF to save animals' lives.
"We uploaded a Waggle campaign because we couldn't afford the cost of cancer treatment without help," Crystal says. "I joined a dog cancer Facebook group, and they mentioned creating a campaign on Waggle."
Soon Crystal got good news! Shiva’s fundraising campaign got approved for a grant from RCF. For every dollar someone donated, RCF matched that donation. Soon the $2000 lifesaving dollars Shiva needed was raised.
"When we were approved, my husband and I cried because we were so happy," Crystal says. "We were so thankful and glad we had an opportunity to save our girl."
RCF: Bringing Hope to Pets with Cancer
In 2010, dog owners Mark Tillinger and David Duchemin started RCF after cancer touched all their lives.
David lost his treasured dog, Cody, to cancer. Mark and his Bernese Mountain dog, Riedel, both battled the disease.
"I was diagnosed with cancer, and at the same time, my dog Riedel, who I had a very close relationship, had been diagnosed with cancer," Mark says. "We went through treatment at the same time. I truly felt like we were going through it together."
Mark is now cancer-free, and Riedel's advanced treatments helped her live 18 months longer than anyone ever thought she would.
"I was blessed to have the financial resources to be able to treat Riedel. She lived longer with a higher quality of life," Mark says. "I reflected about the financial resources it took, and I quickly realized many people would not be in a position to provide that for their pet and wouldn't be able to either cure their beloved animal or extend their life."
In David’s case, Cody battled three different cancers. When she finally lost her brave fight with the disease, David felt so fortunate to have been able to afford all her treatment.
“Regardless, once Cody passed, I was inconsolable,” David says. “I found solace in the fact that I could do everything possible to treat her cancer. We kept no stone unturned, and because I was in the oncology business and had the means to pay for care, money was never an issue.”
Mark and David started RCF to honor their cherished dogs. The organization helps fund pets in need of treatment and provides information and resources. If your dog or cat is one of the 12 million a year diagnosed with cancer, there’s help.
“I grew up very poor. I understand the pain associated when a person would not be able to provide proper care to someone that you love because of financial constraints,” David adds. “I knew Cody's legacy would be to help as many families as possible get the cancer treatment that their pets deserved.”
Celebrating Ten Years of RCF
Over the last decade, RCF has helped thousands of dogs and cats battle cancer and give their families the gift of precious time to spend with them.
"The journey in the last ten years has been extraordinary and life-changing," Mark says. "The experience of watching our assistance elongating a relationship between a pet and their owner is the most amazing thing. We’re privileged to be able to do that over and over again.”
As RCF grew, significant sponsors like Petco and Blue Buffalo Foundation signed on to help fund their mission. Individuals and businesses also donate.
Mark and Robin met by total coincidence and started chatting about pets, cancer, and the nonprofit group's mission.
“We were both having dinner late one night in the hotel bar. We were the only ones there. We started talking and hit it off,” Mark says. “He was amazed by RCF. It was an amazing connection.”
The timing was perfect, Robin just wrote a song called Every Dog Has Its Day and donated the proceeds from it to RCF. The band even held a charity concert to help pets with cancer.
“This was an amazing experience for us all. We were so thrilled to have their help,” Mark says.
If RCF can't assist a pet with cancer, they try to find the animal and their family other assistance. The foundation also offers a resource library to provide owners with information and experts.
“We will help that pet owner try to find other charities that might be able to help,” Mark says. “Our hearts go out to everyone trying to help their dog or cat fight cancer. We know how much these pets mean to peoples’ families.”
RCF and Waggle
Waggle's goal is to end "economic euthanasia." When pet owners, shelters, or rescue groups can't afford an animal's care, they sometimes end up having to put the pet to sleep. Waggle estimates about a half-million animals are euthanized each year because of financial constraints.
The Waggle platform allows owners to create crowdfunding campaigns to help pay for their pets’ medical bills. The money raised is only paid to the veterinarian or animal hospital, eliminating doubts about fake fundraising campaigns.
The company’s founder and CEO, Steven Mornelli, and his team created the technology and backend system to incorporate the processing of RCF applicants, donations, and payouts for pets’ bills.
“Waggle is a trustworthy means to help families who have lost hope. We provide a trusted solution,” Steven says. “We are psyched now to work with RCF and help more pets fight cancer.”
Mark says the relationship is a win-win for animals and their families.
"One of the reasons we went with our Waggle partnership was to try to extend and expand what we can do to support pets and their owners," Mark says. "The Waggle partnership allows us to extend the financial support that we give. Waggle's reach through their website and other social media outlets helps RCF get our message out even more powerfully."
David says assisting pets with cancer is what gets him up in the morning. “The amount of gratitude one gets from being able to help people and pets in need is indescribable. It is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding things one can do,” he says.
Thankful Pets and Families
It's a wonderful moment when RCF and Waggle tell a pet owner the good news that they can help.
The fund helped turn Shiva and Crystal’s life back around. Shiva had chemo, is now in remission and doing well.
“The financial help was a huge decision on getting treatment. Without it, we would not have been able to save Shiva,” Crystal says. “She plays and has a ton of energy and is back to her old self!”
Why You Should Become a Monthly Donor
RCF relies on donations to help pets with cancer, and all gifts are so appreciated, especially by families struggling to make tough decisions about their dog or cat. Treatment often gives the gift of precious time.
“One would be surprised to know just how much good can come from even the smallest donation,” David says. “Imagine what you would give to be able to spend even ten minutes with somebody you love. What would you say and do with those moments? What would it feel like to not have to carry around those regrets? Are you willing to give so that others can spend those final moments without regret?”
Please consider helping our pets in medical crisis by becoming a Monthly Donor.