By Lavanya Sunkara
"Air travel can be an unnerving experience. Whether you're boarding a plane for the first time, or a frequent flyer, there's always stress involved, especially at large, international airports. Now, there is a program at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) called Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP), which uses therapy dogs to help travelers de-stress and take their minds far from the sky.
Dressed in bright red "Pet Me" vests with the PUP logo, these adorable canines and their handlers roam the departure gates, greeting and cheering up passengers awaiting flights. While the dogs entertain kids and comfort frazzled adults dealing with anxiety, delays, or long layovers, their handlers offer helpful information about flights, LAX projects, and construction-related traffic.
There are currently 52 privately owned dogs of all breeds enrolled in the program. They are registered with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a national organization that insures and supports members involved in volunteer animal-assisted activities. Many of these dogs also visit hospitals, special needs centers, schools, and nursing homes.
PUP participants undergo LAX classroom and in-terminal training to learn about the airport and how to assist passengers. Handlers are fingerprinted and badged, so you know you're dealing with an official volunteer of the airport.
If you are thinking of getting your dog enrolled, rest assured that the work is light. Each dog and handler only work once a week, on a shift of one or two hours at an assigned terminal.
LAX isn't the only airport with therapy dogs. About 20 airports across North America, including Miami International, San Francisco, Silicon Valley Mineta San Jose International, and Edmonton International Airports proudly offer cute canine companions for your comfort.
The next time you're at one of these airports, feeling frustrated, cranky, or just plain groggy, look for these cuddly dogs who are sure to brighten your day."
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