Amy Jamieson
October 21, 2016 02:25 PM

Maddie needs a new best friend — one who will help keep the 5-year-old safe 24 hours a day.

That’s why her family, the Hawkins of Lebanon, Tennessee, are raising money for a service dog for their daughter, who was born with Down Syndrome.

“I am loved so very much and if I had a dog to stay with me all the time to keep me safe everyone would be so happy especially me!” says a message on the 4 Paws for Maddie Facebook page, which explains why the young girl needs a service dog.

Her family is currently trying to raise $15,000 to purchase a dog from 4 Paws for Ability, an organization that provides trained service dogs to children in need.

“I am fearless and love to explore wherever I am but I don’t understand danger and that worries mommy and daddy,” says the Facebook message, written in Maddie’s voice. “My parents have had to make our house a fortress cause I have figured out how to unlock the doors. One time I got out of the house and made it all the way down the street, can you believe that!!??”

Nighttime can also be a frightening time due to Maddie’s obstructive sleep apnea; additionally, she has an autoimmune disorder called Graves disease, which required thyroid removal.

“I stop breathing while I am sleeping,” the message reads. “I have stopped breathing up to 20 times per hour! I had my 1st surgery when I was 9 months old, then as I got older I had 3 more surgeries to help open up my airway so that I can get a good night’s sleep.”

The dog, who will cost $22,000 total including training, will give Maddie more independence in public, as the pup will be tethered to Maddie, who will have her own leash to hold, in addition to the leash of the handler, the page said.

“The dog will also anchor, or hold Maddie in place, should she act on the impulse to run away,” the message explains. “With more extensive training the dog will also be able to track Maddie should she actually get away from us.”

More than $1,500 has been raised so far via a Razoo.com page for Maddie’s dog (to donate to the fund, click here). But their efforts haven’t stopped there: Maddie’s mother Amber shared a Facebook video from a community yard sale on Friday, also benefiting the fund.

“We are thrilled at the thought of welcoming a service dog into our home for Maddie,” the Hawkins said in their message. “Socially, Maddie’s new best friend will help bring her acceptance into a community where she is already loved so much.”

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