Therapy Dogs at Airports for Stressed Travelers in the US and India

Don’t get scared if you come across two Labradors at Mumbai International Airport’s departure terminal. Usually international travelers miss a heartbeat when airport dogs follow them or bark at them or sniff their bags. However, unlike sniffer dogs the Mumbai airport dogs are there for a humanitarian purpose, and that is helping international fliers feel better by relieving stress.

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The Labradors at Mumbai International Airport are trained therapy dogs. Since last week, these traveler-friendly animals have been acting like anti-stress agents to cheer fliers at the departure terminal so that the fliers can have a happy flight. Named Goldie and Pepe, the Labradors are strong enough to sense anyone’s mood by sniffing them. This unusual initiative has got an overwhelming response from people.

A Chicago-bound traveler was the first person to be cheered by the therapy dogs at Mumbai International Airport. He was frustrated because of his day-long wait at the airport after he missed the flight to Chicago. Goldie and Pepe uplifted his mood and brought a smile to his weary face. According to therapeutic animal trainers, people feel relaxed when they meet therapy dogs.

The soothing charm of therapy dogs at airports is a new concept in India, but 28 airports in the United States have been offering this service since 2013. The US got therapy dogs at airports to soothe the frayed nerves of those who were afraid of flying under the trauma of the 9/11 attacks.

Mineta San Jose International Airport is widely believed to be the first American airport to offer dog therapy for traumatized travelers after the September attacks in 2001. Many therapeutic dog owners like Kyra Hubis offer volunteer service by bringing their dogs to San Jose International Airport. Kyra Hubis’ 5-year-old dog, named Henry James, spends a few hours weekly with travelers at the airport. His job is to be touched and get stroked by travelers, shake hands with them, and make them feel good.

therapy dogs in USA, airport therapy dogs, US airports

Orion is another volunteer therapy dog at work at San Jose airport. On seeing a positive difference in anxious children and adults, the San Jose airport authority has officially got nine such dogs. There are as many as 30 therapy dogs at Los Angeles International Airport. Miami International Airport has initiated the animal therapy program with one dog onboard.

Casey, a golden retriever, is Miami Airport’s only therapy dog. She has got a dedicated website and an email ID. Casey has business cards too. Many frequent travelers fondly refer to her as a “love magnet”. Of 30 therapy dogs at Los Angeles Airport are a long-haired Dalmatian, a field Spaniel, a Lab-pointer mix, a Doberman, an Irish wolfhound, and three Australian Labradoodles.

San Francisco International Airport officially introduced its Wag Brigade program with a roster of five dogs in December 2013. Today the airport owns 20 therapy dogs. A few volunteer dogs including a 115-pound Swiss Mountain dog and a 9-pound Havanese are there too.

Tucker, owned by Tamil Piper, is one of the eight therapy dogs at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, the United States. The group of eight dogs and their handlers works at the airport from 10 am till 2pm on a rotating basis. These non-barking dogs are easily identifiable because of their blue and yellow “Pet Me” vests.

The eight dogs at Charlotte Douglas airport are Winston Churchill, A Yorkshire Terrier; Lucy, a West Highland White Terrier; Sweetpea, a racing Greyhound; Rosco, an American Foxhound; Tucker, an Old Australian Labradoodle; Elle, a Greyhound; Kitty, an Australian Cattle Dog, and Li’l Rocky Balboa, a Brussels Griffon. Some of them are rescue animals.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport is the 28th airport in the United States to offer feel-good dog therapy to travelers. Therapy dogs at airports are not only for stressed travelers but people in general. People click pictures of the dogs, take selfies with them, stretch out their hands to be touched, pat them on the back, rub their furry body, and smile.

Mumbai International Airport will get a few more therapy dogs like Goldie and Pepe if more and more travelers feel happy about it.

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