Topeka, Kansas11-year-old Alex White is on cloud nine today, but it’s certainly been a hard road to get to this point. Just one year ago, Alex experienced an unimaginable tragedy when his service dog, Golden Retriever Hope, was struck by a car and killed.
“I’m still wishing it never happened,” Alex tells WIBW of Hope’s heartbreaking death. “I’m still having a few flashbacks sometimes. It’s still been hard to not have a dog helping me.”
Alex lives with hereditary spastic paraplegia, a condition that causes muscle stiffness and weakness in his limbs. Hope not only helped Alex through his daily routine — she was his best friend and confidant, too. Losing her sent Alex reeling, Alex’s mom, Mari White, explains.
“There are times he wanted to be dead just with Hope because he felt so bad about it,” Mari says, describing her son’s intense grief after Hope’s passing.
When Saige Halseth, Alex’s classmate at Shawnee Heights Elementary School, heard about Hope’s death and saw Alex struggling, she knew she wanted to help her friend any way she could. Saige reached out to the Topeka community and ultimately raised an amazing $33,000 to get Alex a new service dog.
“He’s just my friend and I wanted to help him because I knew he would need it for the future,” Saige explains.
Thanks to Saige and the citizens of Topeka, Alex had the necessary funds for a new service dog, but he still had to find a dog with whom he felt a connection. After months of working with the Kansas Specialty Dog Service, a nonprofit organization that helps pair assistance dogs with humans who need them, something finally clicked — Alex found his perfect match.
“So far, he is really helpful,” Alex says of his new Golden Retriever buddy, trained service dog Redondo.
Alex’s father, Ray White, says his son and Redondo make a great pair.
“I was shocked to see how well they match,” Ray says. “They just go together so well. We’re pretty ecstatic.”
Next Monday, Alex and Redondo will officially start the next phase of their life together as Redondo joins Alex at school for the very first time.
“So we can have happy times now. He is pretty much a part of the family,” Alex says of Redondo.
Inspired by their own experience and fueled by their memories of Hope, the White family has started a special fund in Hope’s name. The Hope Scholarship Fund will help other children living with hereditary spastic paraplegia get service dogs of their own.