Therapy Animals of San Antonio

Bringing People and Animals Together for Healing

Charlotte Wenger and LukaCharlotte Wenger and Luka

February 2016 - Meet the Team

When did you and Luka become a team? - In February 2014.  We needed more work after our June 2012 evaluation when Luka was 19 months old.  I really wanted us to be a team so we attended some training classes and worked hard.  It paid off!

What other partners have you had? - Luka is my first pet partner.  In fact she is my first dog since my family's dog (also a black and tan dachshund but bigger than Luka) died when I was in junior school.

In what type of facility are you visiting? - We visit at a long term care facility on the skilled nursing and assisted living floors.

In what other Therapy Animals activities do you and your partner participate? - We attend Board meetings, Annual meetings, Animal Crackers Picnics, and Pucks and Paws and Hoops and Hounds games; participate in holiday parades at Pat Storlie's facility, and help with and walk in the Pooch Parade. I have also helped with a few team evaluations.

Tell us something about your partner that we may not know. - Luka was born in Luckenbach, which is how I came up with her name. She was the runt in a litter of 4. She looks just like her mother, but her father has a long hair, black and tan dapple coat.

What Therapy Animals leadership position(s) do you currently have? - I am the webmaster.

What other leadership positions have you had? - None.

Tell us something about yourself that we may not know. - I ran a marathon (26.2 miles) in 1988 and completed a one day, 100 mile bicycle tour in 2002.

LukaDecember 2015 - When this 8 week old puppy and I began our life together on December 18, 2010, I already had plans for us to be a therapy team. Fortunately Luka was born sweet, learned good manners and was well suited for the work, and we passed our team evaluation in February 2014. Since that time we've been visiting on the skilled nursing and assisted living floors of a long term care facility for a couple of hours every Thursday.

I think people often want to read about a “miracle” visit, but for me, the routine visit is just as special. One nurse always greets us with a “Good morning Luka,” and when another staff member sees us he says, “It's Luka day!”. One resident likes the softness of Luka's ears and always strokes them. Another one gives her a neck massage. Some tell me they were just thinking about us and wondering when we would get there. A couple of others had bad experiences with dogs in the past and were initially a bit hesitant to pet Luka, but now they're as enthusiastic as life long dog lovers. Unfortunately, in the age group we visit death is not uncommon. In August, the woman we spent the most time with died. For the next 3 weeks, when we got to her door Luka would sit, look at me, and refuse to budge until we went inside so she could see that her friend wasn't there. Luka shows this same loyalty to all those we visit.

July 2014 - Last week a man who Luka and I visited died. He was usually lying in bed when we visited, and the best way for him to interact with Luka was to put her beside him on the bed (with a towel under her of course). They would both lie there quietly with his hand on Luka's back looking content. Some of his family members were often there and I visited with them. Because of that I thought it appropriate for Luka and me to attend his memorial service at the facility today. I talked to his family and his son referred to Luka as "the wonder dog." He told me that other dogs would sometimes visit, but Luka was the only dog his father liked and who he talked about with his family. I gathered he didn't talk much. I think we spent a total of about 45 minutes of this man's 92 years with him, but I'm sure we made a difference in his life.