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Honey’s Garden for Medical Alert Dogs was founded to help South Africans with medical conditions access well-trained service dogs.


South Africa (03 November 2021) – Lucy Breytenbach founded Honey’s Garden for Medical Alert Dogs in 2014 after a plea from a family with a diabetic son approached her for help. Lucy researched and found that there were no service dogs available in South Africa, and she decided to change that.

Lucy is a qualified Canine Behaviour Practitioner with a BSc (Hons) in Animal Science, Behaviour and Welfare from the University of Plymouth, United Kingdom. With a Practitioners level qualification in Canine Behaviour from The Ethology Academy and over 10 years of experience training dogs, Lucy started one of Cape Town’s top canine behaviour companies, “Just Dogs Behaviour Pty”, in 2013.

It was through this company she met young Duncan Smuts. The Smuts needed a Diabetic Alert Dog for Duncan. A diabetic alert dog is trained to detect a drop in blood sugar and to raise the alert. It’s thought that organic compounds in exhaled breath change at low or high blood sugar levels. Meaning a trained dog would be able to sniff out this change.

Lucy trained overseas and came back, establishing the training programme in South Africa. She trained Honey for Duncan. It was a success, and she became inspired to learn about other special needs and support opportunities. Honey also inspired the naming of Lucy’s non-profit company.

“Wherever possible, Honey’s Garden uses rescue dogs from a variety of re-homing organisations. We love giving dogs a second chance at life! We also accept donated puppies from breeders who have dogs who would suit and thrive in our program. The qualities needed to be a service dog are strict and although we do not harp on what breed the dog is, they need to have the correct character and work ethic in order to have a future career as a service dog. As a full time occupation, it is not an easy career path for a dog, so we need to know that they will reliably assist their future families, and enjoy the work that they do.” – Honey’s Garden for Medical Alert Dogs

“Since 2017, we have trained 23 working medical service dogs, 7 Therapets, and have 17 more dogs currently in training for their families. These dogs, who were mostly selected from rescue organizations will be ready to graduate throughout 2021.”

Honey’s Garden for Medical Alert Dogs trains Diabetic Alert Dogs, Seizure Response Dogs, Psychiatric Service Dogs, Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, Multi-Purpose Assistance Dogs and Emotional Support Dogs.

Una* shared her experience with the organisation. Her daughter needed an emotional support dog.

“My daughter had been suffering from anxiety and depression for nearly a year when she suggested to her therapist that an emotional support dog would be helpful. Her therapist leaped at the idea, seeing how well Ivy* responded to the calming influence of our pet. Ivy suddenly had a light in her eyes as she started researching the different forms of therapy dogs available in South Africa.

Before long we were going through the application process, meeting Lucy, the founder of Honey’s Garden and main animal behaviourist and trainer. We visited them in Cape Town and my daughter, Ivy was matched with a dog who they thought would help with her anxiety and lift her mood. We decided on a list of ‘tasks’ the dog would be trained to do and gave them as many details as possible about what India behaved like when she was anxious or feeling depressed.

Sadly and almost simultaneously, they failed Ivy’s first match (in the very thorough training process it’s not unheard of for a dog to NOT meet the standards they require) and Ivy’s condition started deteriorating. She developed verbal tics and involuntary body jerks, she experienced dizziness and hallucinations. We didn’t really know what was going on. We finally got a diagnosis of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and she started on a range of medical tests and medication to improve the situation.

Then Lizzy* came into our lives. She’s a Swiss Shepherd dog who had been trained as a psychiatric service dog and was nearing her graduation date. We added a few tasks to her repertoire and suddenly we had an ideal match. Ivy and I travelled down to Cape Town to meet her in June, in August, and then for our two-week workshop and graduation in September. It’s a match made in heaven”

“Lizzy is a calm and reassuring presence for Ivy, yet Ivy has to be a leader for Lizzy or else this clever dog will take control. Although Lizzy is a seizure response dog, she’s started alerting Ivy to a seizure before Ivy knows they are coming. She jumps up at Ivy, placing her paws on her chest, insisting that Ivy sits down. This is the cue that a seizure is on the way. She’s with her all the time and in all places. We’ve been impressed by how accommodating her school has been and most public places we visit allow her unlimited access.” – Una

Lucy and her team work with the dogs every day. While the training can be costly, they are a registered charity and work to raise funds for people unable to cover the entire cost. The most exciting thing for the organisation was being included in the Netflix called A Dog For Life. They found Bamboo, a dog now nearing his graduation date who has been matched to a fortunate person.

You can find out more about the organisation and the work they do via the Facebook page here or the website here. They are currently without a premises due to Covid-19, however, they are hoping to raise funds for one so if you are willing to get involved, they would love to hear from you.

*Names have been changed to preserve privacy.

Sources: Reader Supplied
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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