7 min read

Dog Who Was Only Supposed To Live Six Months Celebrates Her FIRST Birthday

“She’s a miracle. It just shows what love can do.”

Erica Mahnken never expected to adopt a puppy — and she certainly didn’t think she’d choose one who only had six months to live.

But when Mahnken visited her friend Lorraine Healy, founder of Husky House, a dog rescue group in New Jersey, Mahnken fell in love with Honey — a sweet-faced, but terminally ill German shepherd puppy.

German shepherd puppy
Erica Mahnken

“My friend had said, “Go and look at her — she’s so little and so cute,” Mahnken told The Dodo. “And I said, ‘I don’t really want to go see her because I’m going to feel bad for her.’”

But Mahnken ended up taking a peek at 2-month-old Honey, who was living in Healy’s laundry room with her sister, Sasha. Honey was the smaller of the two dogs — she only weighed about 7 pounds, while her sibling weighed 20, according to Mahnken.

Woman holding German shepherd puppy
Erica Mahnken

But weight gain was the least of Honey’s problems — she also had a congenital heart disease that narrows the aortic valves leading to the heart.

Dr. Merrick Fultz, a veterinarian at Blue Pearl Veterinary Clinic in Tampa, Florida, told The Dodo that the disease, called subaortic stenosis, is like "holding your thumb over a garden hose.” He said the pressure will build up and damage the heart — and eventually kill the dog.

German shepherd puppy at vet
Erica Mahnken

Mahnken hated the idea that Honey wouldn’t get to experience the world, so she and her fiance Michael Favor got busy checking things off of Honey’s bucket list.

“[Healy] was just going to have her live her short life at Husky House,” Mahnken said. “But I felt bad, so I thought I’d just take her home and make a bucket list for her, and let her do everything that puppies love to do.”

German shepherd puppy in car
Erica Mahnken

Honey went to the playground …

German shepherd puppy at playground
Erica Mahnken

… visited the beach …

… spent a day training with the New York Police Department (NYPD) canine unit …

German shepherd puppy with NYPD canine unit
Erica Mahnken

… met Polly the goat from Goats of Anarchy, a local sanctuary …
 

Puppy and goat
Erica Mahnken

… rode in a fire truck …

Puppy in fire truck
Erica Mahnken

… sat on Santa’s lap …

Dog on Santa's lap
Erica Mahnken

… and played in the snow.

Dog playing snow
Erica Mahnken

When Honey reached the age of 6 months, she was still alive.

German shepherd puppy
Erica Mahnken

Mahnken took Honey to the vet for regular check-ups, and the vet team was stunned at Honey’s improvement.

“The first time she came in, they didn’t think she was going to make it out of the hospital — she was so sick,’” Mahnken said. “But now they’re amazed. At our last appointment, the vet said, ‘I have no explanation why except love.”

German shepherd at vet clinic
Erica Mahnken

“She’s a miracle,” Mahnken added. “It just shows what love can do.”

This week, Honey celebrated her first birthday. To commemorate this huge milestone, Mahnken threw a big party for her.

German shepherd dog's birthday party
Erin Cynthia Photography

“She loved her birthday cake and she loved her party, but she gets tired very quickly, so she slept all night long,” Mahnken said. “But she had a great day.”

Dog eating birthday cake
Erin Cynthia Photography

Mahnken doesn’t know how much longer Honey will be in her life, but she’s making the most of every day. There are also plenty more things Mahnken wants to check off of Honey’s bucket list — paddle boarding, a visit to Central Park in New York City and getting her service dog certification.

Dog eating birthday cake
Erin Cynthia Photography

“I do want to make her into a service dog, so she can go into children’s hospitals and meet children who are also terminal, and show them there could be hope,” Mahnken said.

Mahnken also hopes Honey will inspire other people to adopt sick dogs.

German shepherd dog
Erin Cynthia Photography

“People said, ‘You’re crazy. Your hearts are going to break, but I just feel so good about it,” Mahnken said. “Don’t walk past a dog just because it’s sick. If I had done that, she may not have been here still today.”

Woman cuddling German shepherd
Erica Mahnken
To follow Honey’s adventures as she checks off experiences on her bucket list, follow her Instagram page.
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