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Dog Lover Softens Cancer's Bite

Ever since Heather Witt can remember, her love of animals has rivaled her love of people.

"I remember when other girls were babysitting and I was doing pet-sitting," she remembered. "I used to pretend that my friend and I owned a kennel."

Thirty years later, the mother of two has fused her passion for animals with her desire to help people through her various projects, such as the Heather Witt Canine Company and the Riedel & Cody Fund , a nonprofit that provides funding and support for dogs battling cancer.

"The idea came through a client of mine. She has a wonderful dog and when he [fathered] a puppy, we wanted to make sure the puppy did not upset the older dog, which had cancer."

By training the puppy to be aware of its father's condition, Witt was able to see how important specialized training can be, especially when sick animals are involved.

The experience left an indelible impression on the 44-year-old Easton resident, and she decided that she would help other dogs with cancer to receive the love and support that her client had shown her beloved canine. "Not everyone can pay for the kind of care their dog needs," she said. "It can get expensive."

Her own dog, Maple, is also battling cancer.

The Riedel & Cody Fund was launched in October , and Witt said that she has already helped several dogs in the Fairfield area and hopes to be a resource for pet owners who may not have the ability to provide adequate care for their pets.

"It's a great cause. Our pets become so special to us. They become part of our family."

Her first dog was a Shetland Sheep Dog named Motley that she had for 17 years. Maple, a 5-year-old Leonberger, helps Witt with reading programs for young children where Maple sits in while the children read.

"It's really helps kids with reading proficiency since dogs are a non-judgmental audience."

Witt is originally from Westport, but she has lived in Easton since she married her husband, Dennis Sullivan, 12 years ago. She studied biology and animal sciences at the University of Vermont, then worked with dog trainers before heading out on her own.

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