Therapy Animals of San Antonio

Bringing People and Animals Together for Healing

Ginny Flanders and EmmaGinny Flanders and Emma

September 2018 -Spreading cheers and smiles at The Lewis Ronald McDonald House

Ginny, Emma, Sandra, Maddie and girl
Ginny, Emma, Sandra, Maddie and girl

July 2018 - After a 9 month health hiatus, Ginny and Emma are back visiting.Emma and girl

July 2017 - The hospital isn't too bad when Emma is there!

Ginny, Emma, and boy
Ginny, Emma, and boy

March 2017 - Visiting with friends.Ginny, Emma, Michelle, Latte

Ginny, Emma, boy
Ginny, Emma, Latte, boy

February 2017 - Sharing some love on Valentine's Day at Children's Hospital of San Antonio.

Ginny, Emma, Sandra, and Maddie
Maddie and Emma

November 2016 - He has made a lot of progress! Emma knows to wait until she's released from her "settle" command.

Emma, Ginny and Boy
Emma, Ginny, and boy

July 2016 - Emma and Bailey, with her handler Donna Schweitzer, earned their Amerian Kennel Club Therapy Dog Distinguished (AKC THDD) titles. This title requires 400 visits.

Emma and Bailey

June 2016 - Reading is fun!Emma and girl

Emma and girl
Emma and girl

June 2016 - When Emma isn’t working at the San Antonio Ronald McDonald Houses, she loves being StoryTails guest dog, especially at La Vernia Primary ISD reading fairs.Emma

April 2016 - Meet the Team

When did you and Emma become a team? - Emma and I became a team on May 18, 2013 with TASA. We re-evaluated with a complex rating February 21, 2015 with Pet Partners.

What other partners have you had? - Emma is the first pet that I’ve used in therapy visits.

In what type of facility are you visiting? - Currently we visit regularly in two facilities.
1. Bexar Country Family Justice Center - We have been visiting there since July 2013.
2. Ronald McDonald Charity Houses of San Antonio (RMH) - First the Lewis Street House was added to the TASA facilities, followed quickly by the Medical Center RMH in late 2014. In early 2015 I was asked to assume the role as TASA Coordinator to the RMHs. As of today there are 8 TASA teams who have been vetted to visit the facilities. Other teams, who have since relocated, also shared many hours with us. Currently there is a third RMH on the verge of opening under the roof of Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, and also a smaller version at Methodist Hospital. Yet another facility has broken ground in the Medical Center with estimated opening in 2 years.

In what other Therapy Animals activities do you and your partner participate? - Emma and I are StoryTails qualified and love reading with the children. Periodically we visit at the La Vernia Schools with Donna Schweitzer and Bailey. One day, when my time is not so consumed with the RMH facilities, I would love to establish a StoryTails program at a school near my home. We are also Red Cross Volunteers and have enjoyed serving at Christmas Base Events for the past 2 years and a few other Red Cross service events. We have enjoyed doing numerous presentations, doggy parades at multiple nursing facilities, college destressors, and school presentations.

Tell us something about your partner that we may not know. - Emma was born on 1/11/11 and I brought her home from her breeder when she was 12 weeks old. Emma came from a Show breeder, and she was the 5th pup in her litter. I was so fortunate to have her released into my care.

What Therapy Animals leadership position(s) do you currently have? - I am the TASA Coordinator for the Ronald McDonald Houses.

What other leadership positions have you had? - None.

Tell us something about yourself that we may not know. - I have had more than a dozen dogs in my life and as the birthdays roll on, I am realizing that I will not live long enough to have all the dogs that I’d love to own. Before my dog ownership days are over, I would love to have a large dog, probably a standard poodle as a pet and perhaps as a therapy dog.

March 2016 - Visiting with some friends.

Emma, Ginny and man
Emma and man
Emma, Ginny boys
Emma, Dixie, Whitneys, Ginny

February 2016 - Ginny brushed up on her CPR registration as she and Emma enjoyed an outdoor Red Cross Celebration of 100 Years of Service in San Antonio.Ginny and Emma

February 2016 - Visiting with Ronald and Sparky.

Bailey, Donna, Emma, Ginny
Emma, Bailey, Dooley

August 2015 - Emma recently earned her THDX (Therapy Dog Excellent) title from the American Kennel Club.  This recognition required 200 visits.  Congratulations Emma and Ginny!Emma with THDX badge

August 2015 - These little ones, who didn't think they could walk a dog, are so thrilled to hold the big leash whether from a walker or a wheelchair.

Emma and boy
Emma and boy

Emma and girlMay 2015 - The young mom stopped me as I stepped out of my car at The Ronald McDonald House (RMH) parking lot, excited to tell me that they had their baby "home" for the first time in a year since her birth, and did I remember talking to her a few times before in the living room? Words and a simple request tumbled rapidly from her mouth, framing her beaming face. Could you please bring your Emma to our room so our baby can see a real puppy? She’s never seen a real puppy before. Making no immediate promise, I responded that I would be thrilled to meet her need if I was allowed to do so. Inside the RMH I presented the director with this request and a rapid response of "Yes, Yes, Yes" poured from her lips, sealing my approval.

The following minutes were spent in the young couple's private room at RMH, (“their home away from home” for the past year) which resembled an intensive care hospital facility, complete with a pediatric nurse in attendance. The baby was taken off her support systems and placed in a little baby seat on their bed while we all watched wide eyed as this little one made eye contact with and gently touched and felt her first real puppy. Interlaced with ”ooohs" and "aaahs" and "look at thats,” a spate of images and videos were captured on the parents’ cell phones. The child interacting with Emma was one beautiful scene, but the ultimate thrill for me was watching the young parents’ faces as they adoringly witnessed their little girl interacting with the dog. The nurse and I locked eyes for a moment and just shook our heads in unison, trying to swallow away the lump in our throats as tears dripped silently down our cheeks, knowing that this young couple had been aching to see their daughter have a "normal" experience. All too soon, it seemed, we were instructed that the child needed to return to her crib and be reattached to medical equipment. Before I took Emma away, the parents and I sat on the bed, joined hands and prayed briefly with grateful hearts for the precious moments we had shared. I left the room with Emma, knowing that something very special had just occurred. Something beautiful and sacred and intimate. Something that therapy teams are afforded: the opportunity to bring people and animals together for healing.

October 1, 2013 - Therapy Team of the Third Quarter - Ginny and Emma are a great addition to our therapy teams. They are a new team with us that just tested in June of 2013 and they are already visiting 2 facilities, volunteering for evals and attending some board meetings!

Emma 'got through' to an Alzheimer patient yesterday. The lady has been at the facility 2 1/2 years, and her husband (of 55 yrs) comes every day to sit with her and talk to her and care for her. She is largely unresponsive and is in a wheel chair in a nearly fetal position. When she does lift up her head a bit to look out at you, or the room, she has a totally EMPTY countenance. She is totally void of any animation or any sign of reaction, etc. Her husband had told me how she had loved, loved, loved dogs. So, I sat and talked with her hubby and to her as well, using her name, animating my voice, and of course getting nothing in response which is what I expected. I would hold Emma up and hold her paw to 'pat' the lady's leg or arm. The husband told me "I know she's still in there; I just know it." Before I left, I held Emma up to her lap level, and spoke again to her, telling her it was nice to meet her and that I knew she loved dogs. Meanwhile, I was stroking her arm with Emma's ears, and just kept rubbing her silky soft ears on the lady's arm. Finally, I told her Emma had to go and we would come back soon. The lady picked up her head and looked at me, blank at first, then her face came alive for about 15 seconds. She smiled a beautiful smile, and her entire face was smiling. Her eyes came alive like a child on Christmas morning. I nearly shouted with joy, and I looked at her husband. He was grinning ear to ear, and his eyes were full of tears with pure joy. "There's my girl." he said. And Emma just pressed her little face against the lady's arm until as suddenly as the smile connection had appeared, it melted away. The light went out in her eyes, and she resumed her head down and nearly fetal position. What a blessing and a joy. The husband was teary, and still smiling. I promised him I'd see him and his wife again. I wouldn't trade that experience for the world. Yay, TASA!!!!!