Therapy Animals of San Antonio

Bringing People and Animals Together for Healing

Bev Oakes and JuniorBev Oakes and Junior

March 2016 - Junior was honored on March 30 at a retirement party given by University Health System who put together a video about Junior. KSAT 12, FOX 29, and NEWS 4 San Antonio were there for this newsworthy event.

February 2016 - I wanted to share with you that my therapy cat, Junior, was recently diagnosed with Melanoma. The end of December, he had his left eye removed and the pathology report came back as such. Within in a week, there was a lesion forming in the other eye and an ultrasound at ophthalmologist showed the same sort of tumor forming and also a mass in the cavity below the eye. I was told there was nothing more really I could do. He is still hanging in there. He has lost ALOT of weight, but continues to be alert and does not seem to be in any pain or discomfort. I am SO glad for that. He sleeps alot and eats and drinks a little. He is such a sweetheart. He is 16 1/2 years old and has been a therapy cat since April 2000.

On Friday (1/22) and Monday (1/25) I took him to the hospital for his last visits. He made 'happy paws' as we entered the hospital. He has always enjoyed visiting. We visited over 100 staff members in those 2 days and shed ALOT of tears. He has been visiting University Hospital for 12 years - most in Pediatrics, but more recently visiting some adult patients, too. He has touched thousands of lives and it has really hit me the impact this very special cat has had.

The hospital considers him the one that brought Pet therapy there to what it is today - their own Paws Up program with 12 other therapy teams and aiming for many more. We even get prescriptions from physicians now for animal therapy. A painting of him and a patient still hangs in the elevator lobby of one of the floors there. In the last year or so, the hospital has been aggressively encouraging pet therapy visits to all the staff, too - especially in areas of the hospital where there are no patients. The availability of Pet Therapy is a draw even in the hiring process.

It has truly been a privilege to go through this whole experience. I appreciate TASA's and Pet Partner's parts in making it possible. My gratefulness for having such a wonderful cat in my life is beyond words. He has received numerous awards in his time of service. I suspect he is the longest-serving therapy cat in the history of Pet Partners.

For now, Tessa (therapy dog) and I will continue our work and hopefully before too long I will have another cat to 'join the force'.

January 2016 - Meet the Team

When did you and Junior become a team? - In 2000

What other partners have you had? - Cassie (sheltie mix, 3-legged) 2000 - 2009, Tessa (rat terrier) 2009 - present, Sheba (cat) 2011-2013

In what type of facility are you visiting? - Hospital and occasional nursing home

In what other Therapy Animals activities do you and your partner participate? - We visit 2 libraries with StoryTails. We also participate in presentations, college de-stressors, and parades.

Tell us something about your partner that we may not know. - Junior broke his hip at 2 years old - femoral head was removed. He can not jump up to a counter on his own.

What Therapy Animals leadership position(s) do you currently have? - I am the Treasurer, volunteer system support chair, and University Hospital coordinator for our volunteers.

What other leadership positions have you had? - Secretary

Tell us something about yourself that we may not know. - I worked for The Prudential for 13 years and then farmed cotton, grain and corn with my husband on a family farm for 15 years in the Rio Grande Valley (where Junior comes from). I grew up in Upstate NY and while working for Prudential, lived there, CA, MA, NJ and TX. In my baby book, my Mom wrote that my first 2 syllables were "Kit-tee" and my first word was "cat."

March 1, 2015 - Bev and Junior were recognized as University Health System's Volunteer of the Year for 2014 at an awards banquet on February 26.

August 12, 2014 - Today University Health System (UHS) had a 15th birthday party for Junior. There was an announcement in the UHS employees newsletter. Junior was featured in several news reports.

pet therapy board

Paws Up pet therapy board created by UHS volunteer

patient with Junior

Junior with patient

Junior laid in the bed with most of the patients today. Several family members interacted with him too. We were called into the playroom by therapists working with a young boy sitting in a wagon. They were trying to get him to let them take him out of the wagon so they could get him to walk a little. They lifted him out and I laid Junior in the wagon, and they got him to walk around the wagon so he could see Junior's face. Then I let the patient hold part of Junior's leash, and they were able to get the patient to walk out into the hall and part way down it. He smiled a lot! At first Junior just laid there as we dragged him by the harness-totally relaxed, even licking his paws. Then I would crinkle Junior's treat bag and he stood up and walked along with us. The therapist and other staff remarked how that was the most they had gotten the patient to walk in awhile! In another room a nurse asked me to bring Junior in to see a little boy while she took his blood pressure. Apparently she had been trying all day but he would get so upset his blood pressure would soar. Junior laid in the crib and after they took the blood pressure, the nurse remarked, "it worked! Thank goodness for pet therapy!" I even took the blood pressure cuff and put it around Junior's paw pretending to take his blood pressure. The little boy, who had just started fussing, quieted and looked on with interest.

March 9, 2011 - See the video of Bev, Junior and Tessa on Fox 29 News.

October 10, 2009 - Bev won first place for her essay in a contest at the Pet Fest held in San Marcos! She also won 2nd place for her picture with Junior and the young girl shown below.

Fall 2009 - Bev wrote an article that was featured in the Fall, 2009 Therapy Animals national magazine, Interactions. There was a picture of Junior with the little boy below. Junior and the little girl below were featured on the envelope enclosed in the magazine. Congratulations again to Bev and Junior!

Young boy and JuniorJuly 2009 - We visited this little 4 year old a couple of months ago and Junior was instrumental in getting him to take his first steps after a serious head injury. We even managed to get him to 'walk' (really more 'drag') Junior half way down the hall. Junior was totally unconcerned, grooming himself while being dragged. :) When I got to the hospital this past Tuesday, I found out the little boy was back in with some complications. I cannot really describe all that transpired during our visit with him, but it was one of those times you are reminded SO strongly why we do what we do. Junior laid with him in the wagon and the little boy hugged and petted him. After awhile, the little boy reached out and put his hand on my arm and just left it there, and I covered it with my own hand. When we first walked in, the mom said to the dad, "This is the cat that got him to walk again". Even though I know our part is such a tiny part in the whole scheme of things, it is a privilege.

March 2009 - Therapy Animals has a famous kitty as a Therapy Team! University Hospital contracted with an artist to paint pictures for them as part of their redecorating. They gave a 'stack' of photos to the artist and one of the ones he picked was of Junior on the bed with a little girl. It is hanging among a group of about 6 other paintings on the wall that you are facing as you exit the elevators onto the 9th floor (Pediatrics). Bev and Junior feel honored and VERY grateful to have the opportunity of working with the children at this facility. They are so supportive of the concept of the therapeutic benefit of the animals. One of the VP's said to Bev, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have a special room where there were therapy animals all the time, and people could come and go to spend time with the animals. They are so therapeutic."

wall of paintings Bev and Junior with painting Junior with girl

Bev and JuniorOctober 31, 2008 - This is the Halloween Parade at University Hospital. This is 'Nick' who I have shared other pictures of in the past. Nick is the patient depicted in the painting (wearing red cap) that hangs just below 'Junior and Patient' in the Wall of Paintings shown above. His story and his phenomenal recovery would touch the heart of all of you. I visited him many times during his long hospital stay. He is especially fond of Junior.

Also see Bev Oakes and Tessa.