HAGERSTOWN, Md. – At the Stone House Urban Winery, wines may be the main attraction, but it’s Soda that’s the star.
“People will usually say hello to him before they say anything to us,” said the winery’s co-owner Lori Yata.
Soda is an 11-year-old boxer who is a mainstay at the Hagerstown, Maryland, winery. He’s a real people’s pup, said Yata, who is also his owner.
“He's a happy dog,” she said. “So, when they shut everything down and we couldn't have his guests coming in, I was sitting with my daughter-in-law and I said, ‘you know, Soda seems really sad.’”
So, they came up with an idea.
If people couldn’t come to Soda, then Soda would go to the people. With his specially made vest and minimal training, a new form of wine delivery was born.
“I just open the door and off he goes,” Yata said. “Luckily, the very first customer was one of our regulars. She loves Soda and she was at the top of the walk. He did whack the doorframe, a little bit, with the bottles and we've taken care of that.”
“He’s becoming quite the celebrity,” said Heather Kandrick, who stopped by with her daughter to buy some wine.
Soda’s sweet face is now drawing customers from as far away as Virginia and Pennsylvania, who now have the option of coming in for pick-up or having Soda bring out their bottles of wine.
“When she was like, ‘do you want to do it?’ I was like, ‘yeah, I’ll do it!’” Kandrick said. “He’s so cute. I love him.”
Occasionally, Soda can get distracted, as it happened one time, as he brought wine out to a customer.
“He spun around to see what was making the noise,” Yata said, adding with a smile. “And she kind of had to chase her wine down a little bit, but she did get it.”
For top-notch service, customers can reward Soda with a tip, courtesy of dog treats located inside his vest.
“They love to work. That's what Boxers were bred for,” Yata said. “And he loves it.”
Soda won’t work forever, though.
“He's a very healthy 11-year-old, but, you know, we all get old. So, maybe I'll get another pup in training,” she said. “It just it makes people smile.”
In the meantime, everyone stopping by for wine there, gets to enjoy a bit of Soda, too.