Little girl with spina bifida reaches goal, raises $8,000 to buy service dog

MASSILLON, OH (WOIO) - Snuggling up with her adorable new puppy Shadow.

Alayna Mendenhall and her 19-week-old German Shepherd haven't left each other's sides since the second they met.

"He came over and laid by me and we knew he was the one, so we got him," said Alayna.

Alayna's always dreamed of having a service dog that she can depend on to help her overcome the struggles she faces living with spina bifida.

"The kids are going to be staring a lot and wondering why there's a dog in school," Alayna said.

Cleveland 19 News first met Alayna and her mom, Monica Mendahall, in September.

The two were weaving potholders while trying raise $8,000 to buy Alayna a dog and put it through training.

The family thought it'd take about a year, but, once word got out, they blew past their goal in only a month.

"At first I was a little overwhelmed like, wow, this is going so fast, but I feel everything works out for a reason and he has been perfect for her," Monica said.

Once Shadow's trained, he'll never leave Alayna's side.

He'll walk with her, open doors for her and keep her safe.

Monica's stunned by the outpouring of love and support, especially because much of it came from complete strangers.

"It's overwhelming, but a good overwhelming. I never would've thought I've would've met so many great people. They don't know anything about us,"Monica said through tears.

Now Alayna has a new best friend, who'll always stick by her side.

"I chose Shadow because he will always be my shadow because he will always stay by my side, so he'll be like my shadow," said Alayna.

Shadow heads off to training next week in Akron, which isn't too far from where the Mendenhall's live, so Alayna will get to visit him all the time.

He'll be there for a few months, then he'll come back home to finish up his two year program.

The goal is to have Shadow ready to go everywhere with Alayna, including school, by next winter.

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