The Edmonton International Airport is using friendly and furry four -footers to make two-legged flyers feel more comfortable before boarding their flights.
Pet therapy dogs, animals that have been specially trained to relieve passengers' anxiety and calm travellers before their flights, make their rounds at the EIA several days a week.
“Travel really can be a stressful experience,” said Heather Hamilton, EIA’s director of communications.
“I think the more ways we can inject a little fun and relaxation into it is definitely something our passengers appreciate."
The EIA and the Pet Therapy Society of Northern Alberta teamed up to offer the project in Spring 2014.
The dogs' owners volunteer their time, walking their pets through the airport, letting them interact with passengers and staff. The pet therapy society also uses dogs and other trained animals including cats and rabbits in hospitals, schools and correctional facilities.
Huge hit with passengers
“Who doesn’t love a good looking puppy or dog coming through the airport, so it’s definitely been a good addition to our repertoire,” Hamilton said.
Thousands of travellers pass through the airport’s terminals daily, many who are nervous about flying or anxious about missing their flight.
“I'm always stressed because I'm always scared I'm going to be late and miss my flight so, yeah it's nice to see them,” said Stephanie Smith, a Vancouver-bound passenger.
“After walking a hundred feet away I had to come back, being a dog owner, it reminded me of home,” Damian McGookin said while reaching down to give Remy, a golden retriever, a pat on the head before boarding his flight to Fort McMurray.
“It relieves the stress to see the dog. I hope to see them everywhere."
Travellers are encouraged to approach the animals, pet and talk to them.
“I've had people cry. Hug the dog,” said Lori Goodwin, the volunteer director of the Pet Therapy Society.
“The smiles and tears, really make the day, it really does."
The EIA is currently the only Canadian airport to give travellers a chance to spend some time with a dog. Pet therapy programs are already in place in many airports in the United States.