Thank you to American Airlines for allowing me to share about the therapy dog programs at many airports across the United States. Is your experience PAWSitive at the airport?
Airports want to make traveling more humane again and in order to do so have brought in man’s best friend. There are now 54 airports that have established canine assistance programs in order to provide stress relief and comfort to passengers. Chicago airport opened their project just in time for Christmas 2017. At Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) Airport look for the Canine Crew which began in 2015. The DFW K9 Crew began in October 2016. You are invited to pet the dogs, collect trading cards and have your picture taken with them. The handlers give directions and look for passengers in need of extra assistance especially screaming children who are often calmed immediately by the therapy dogs.
At LAX, Heidi Huebner explained that the “Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program’s 74 therapy dogs and handlers roam the departures levels in the gate areas of each terminal, visiting passengers awaiting flights and providing comfort, as well as airport information. The program educates and informs passengers about the LAX projects and construction related traffic impacts.”
At all the airports, the dogs have a uniform often a “Pet Me” vest and at LAX the handlers wear red shirts with the PUP logo and are available as an addition to the customer service team.
Australian Cattle Dog
Los Angeles International Airport
“An arriving passenger was on his way to see his son in the hospital who was on life support,” says handler Jill Morse of Los Angeles’ Pets Unstressing Passengers program, which boasts 74 therapy dogs and led the way for other airports to create similar programs. “After seeing ‘Pet Me’ on Oliver’s vest, the man got down on his knees, Oliver came over and put his head in the man’s lap. For a long time, they simply hugged.”
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
“An elderly woman in a wheelchair was traveling with her adult grandson,” says handler Victoria Cowper of the Navigator Buddies program. “She just had foot surgery and was concerned about missing her flight. She saw Nana out of the corner of her eyes and immediately wanted to get out of her wheelchair to pet Nana.” The traveler’s tears of anxiety turned into ones of joy as she spent quality time with Nana.
Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport
“When a 3-year-old girl’s mother and three siblings were unable to console her, the little girl called out for ‘doggie’ and stopped crying immediately while she pet Max’s fur and played with his ears and tail,” says Stephen Burn of the K9 Crew, which boasts 37 handler teams ready to bring smiles and laughter to the airport terminals. “The smiles and laughter filled the gate area from all the passengers as the mother and father mouthed the words ‘thank you.’”
Charlotte Douglas International Airport
“When a mother-of-the-groom was trying to fly to Italy for her only son’s wedding, her flights were delayed and she ended up missing the wedding,” says Kim TKTKTK, one of the 23 handlers in the Canine Crew program. “She found Kovu and asked to sit with him. Kovu cuddled with her and she felt calmer.”
There are programs at more than 50 airports all with quirky names for example:
*San Diego Airport: “Ready, Pet, Go”
*Niagara International Airport: Paws for Love (started 2005, over 300 volunteers)
*Denver International Airport’s therapy dog program: Canine Airport Therapy Squad program code name CATS—now has cats as well as dogs
Two of the newest programs are at:
*Vancouver International Airport
*Rochester International Airport “Caring Tails”
And now there are miniature pigs:
Bacon Bits can be found at the Albany Airport on the Canine Ambassador team
Lilou is available for petting at San Francisco International Airport as part of the Wag Brigade.