Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Airport therapy animals take stress out of travel

By Mary Jo Dilonardo
Mother Nature Network

A member of the Canine Airport Therapy Squad greets a visitor at the Denver International Airport.

"Whether you hate to fly or just dread the security lines, airports can be stressful places. There's the race for the gates, the lugging of luggage and the general anxiety of going from one place to another and getting there safe and sound.

To make the road to the friendly skies more soothing, dozens of airports have called upon therapy dogs to stroll the concourses. These waggy-tailed ambassadors often wear brightly colored vests emblazoned with "Pet me!" inviting weary travelers to let their anxieties fade with some simple canine counseling.

The idea was launched after Sept. 11, 2011, when a volunteer at the Mineta San Jose International Airport brought her certified therapy dog, a boxer/great Dane mix named Orion, to the airport hoping it would calm passengers' fears about flying, reports USA Today. San Jose now has more than a dozen teams of dogs and handlers and has been used as a model for many airports around the country.

"We've had many very touching encounters with airport employees and travelers," said Kyra Hubis, who visited the airport with her golden retriever, Henry James. "It's especially poignant to see soldiers being deployed hugging Henry James and telling him to 'take care of the house' while they're gone."

Now, airports from Miami to San Francisco to Oklahoma City to Charlotte, employ these furry diplomats. The pets are all sizes and breeds. The only requirements are that they love lots of petting and hugging and have to be certified by a national agency.

And surprisingly, they're not all dogs. The latest member of the airline ambassadors is a tutu-wearing pig! Take a look at our roundup below."

Lucy the terrier is ready to greet passengers in Charlotte.

Therapy dog Gracie walks through San Jose International Airport, which piloted the airport therapy dog program.

Toby is a member of the Wag Brigade at the San Francisco International Airport.

Annie is part of the Canine Airport Therapy Squad at the Denver International Airport.

Vegas is a member of the Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program at LAX.

LiLou the pig is the newest member of the Wag Brigade at San Francisco's airport.

Bosco takes a break during a long day of greeting travelers at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.

Casey the golden retriever strolls the concourses at Miami International Airport. Some pet therapy dogs have their own baseball-type cards for the people they meet.

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