A new program went into effect at LAX on Monday – no, not more invasive, full-body scanners – therapy dogs. The benefits of having man’s best friend around are becoming more recognized, and the Los Angeles International Airport is the latest of many institutions to utilize therapy dogs.
“This is such an exciting day for all of us in customer service at LAX,” said Heidi Huebner, Director of Volunteers at LAX, who oversees the program. “We love our volunteers and are thrilled to now have dogs as part of our team, bringing joy to everyone at the airport.”
Flying can be very stressful and panic-inducing to many, and dogs are known to help reduce stress. Thus was born PUP, Pets Unstressing Passengers, a program that will be bringing trained dogs around busy areas in the airport to help travelers relax. Passengers at boarding gates, baggage claim and ticket lobbies have the opportunity to mingle with a variety of dogs.
“When you walk in with the dogs, you feel the stress level drop immediately,” said Huebner. “People start smiling, people start talking to each other, they’re taking pictures, they’re hugging the dogs.
The dogs, certified with Therapy Dogs Inc., will be roaming LAX with their handlers, who are equipped with information about them and the airport. About 30 handlers have already volunteered for the two-hour shifts in time for National Volunteer Week, April 21-27. Perhaps it would be a good time to spend a few hours helping at a local shelter.