Honey is a sweetheart, but there is more to the pooch’s name than her adorable demeanor.
The diabetic-alert-dog-in-training is named after her future place of employment, the Honig Vineyard and Winery in Rutherford, California.
“Honig in German means ‘honey,’ ” Stephanie Honig tells PEOPLE.
She and her husband own and operate the winery, where they live on the grounds with their four children and three other dogs.
Honey is the newest addition to their family and was brought in to be a companion to 10-year-old Sophia, even though all the Honigs adore the pup.
Sophia, the oldest child, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in June 2012. She is now insulin dependent and has a insulin pump and glucose monitor with her at all times. Even though these devices have helped Sophia adjust to monitoring her blood sugar levels, there are still challenges for her and her family.
“It’s a lot of management chasing a number,” Honig explains. “We get up a couple times a night to monitor Sophia’s blood sugar levels.”
This kind of vigilance is necessary to keep Sophia healthy and prevent a life-threatening shift in her blood sugar levels, so when the family heard there was someone who could lend a helping hand, or paw, they were intrigued.
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After talking to friends, the Honigs researched diabetic alert dogs and decided a service dog for Sophia would be an amazing addition to the family. That’s where Honey comes in. She is currently living with her trainer, where she is mastering over 60 commands, so she can communicate clearly with Sophia and her parents.
Once Honey is trained, she will be Sophia’s constant companion, staying by her side 24/7, where she will be able to detect a change in the girl’s blood sugar levels 15 minutes before her glucose monitor. When Honey detects this change, she will nudge Sophia to notify her and her parents so they can take action.
“People say they are life savers,” Honig says about what encouraged her to bring Honey in to the family. Also, “Sophia is super excited and loves playing with Honey.”
Honey, who is already detecting changes in Sophia’s levels, will soon move in with the Honigs and start the second part of her training, which is focused on keeping the vineyard healthy.
“It’s never been done, to dually train a dog like this,” Honig says about Honey’s future blend of special skills.
After completing her diabetic alert training, Honey will learn how to sniff out the female mealybug pheromone. Mealybugs are devastating to the vine of wine grapes and are nearly invisible to the human eye. Sniffer dogs are able to detect the mealybugs before they spread, allowing vineyards to remove a few vines, instead of a whole crop, and avoid pesticides.
Honey, who loves treats and her new family, seems more than up to the task.