The Labrador-mastiff mix was a starving nomad who roamed the streets and — with heartworms, no hair and a broken leg — ended up at the city pound, destined for euthanasia.
He was rescued by the Spay-Neuter-Inject-Project of San Antonio, or SNIPSA, an animal advocacy group, and adopted in 2005 by Fairmount owner Robert “Dick” Tips and his now-wife, Kristin.
The couple had no children when they adopted Luke and “he was like a son to us,” Kristin Tips said. When they married, Luke walked Kristin down the aisle.
“Luke was very special to all of San Antonio,” she said.
A memorial service is planned for 5:30 p.m. June 19 at the hotel. Luke will be buried in the Mission Park Pet Cemetery.
As director of pet relations, Luke helped create awareness for pet travel facts and raised money for animal rescue services with a “tip jar.” All tips were matched by his owners and donated to SNIPSA, the Humane Society and other organizations that run no-kill shelters.
It added up to thousands of dollars over the years, Kristin Tips said.
“He welcomed all dogs that stayed at the Fairmount,” and guests could take him on walks or let him stay in their rooms overnight, she said.
Luke was also featured in several international advertisements and appeared on CNN for Anderson Cooper’s New Years Eve show in 2006.
Downtown tour guides included Luke as a point of interest, one of the Fairmont’s claims to fame, along with the hotel’s 1985 relocation from several blocks away.
When news of Luke’s illness reached friends, they would stop to check on him, said concierge Ron Rodriguez. There’s a void at the hotel without him, he said.
“It’s like we’re a family, so he’s one of our own,” Rodriguez said.
The dog, who weighed 140 pounds when healthy, was just 110 pounds when he died.
Chef Matt Hanck of Tre Trattoria, the hotel restaurant, made Luke a “farewell meal” of meatballs and cheese. “It was pretty horrible,” Hanck said. “I cried. I wasn’t expecting to.”
And though Luke is irreplaceable, Hanck hopes the Tips adopt again.
“He definitely added something different,” he said. “People would come in off of the street just because of the dog.”
Dick Tips’ sister, Maggie Houston, said Luke kept travelers from being homesick when they were on the road. It wouldn’t surprise her if her brother brought another to stay at the hotel.
“Life is fast,” Houston said. “And in dog years, it goes by quickly.”