I have recently meet and fallen in love with the airport therapy dogs at LAX airport.
Despite having done considerable research and reporting on airport therapy dog programs, the truth is I have never once encountered a therapy dog at the airport! There are over 30 airports in the US and 7 in Canada that have airport therapy dog programs. All with the goal of making our layover less ruff.
Last Wednesday I stopped by LAX Airport and meet with Heidi Huebner, Director of PUPS (Pets Unstressing Passengers) Heidi and her dog Choswie (who sadly is no longer with us) help set up the program.
LAX Airport has the largest airport therapy dog program in North America, having launched in April 2013 and the third to launch after Mineta San Jose and Miami Airport.
Each handler is a volunteer and the respective owner of each dog in the program. The dogs and handlers go through an interview process to ensure they are the right fit with the program. Not every one makes the cut to join this team.
Also, each dog has his/her own baseball-card style ID, which is given to passengers as a keepsake. I collected 3 from each of the dogs I meet this past Wednesday at LAX airport.
Besides the dogs roaming around all terminals you may encounter one while waiting in a long TSA line. The teams head over to “high stress” spots at the airport to help take some anxiety away.
You can’t help but smile interacting with the dogs. Get a bunch of people happy and you get instant human connections. It brings people closer and encourages strangers to bond even if it is for a few minutes.
Here is some helpful information about the airport therapy dog program at LAX airport:
- The dogs wear a Red Vest “Pet me.”
- The program has over 55 variety of dogs.
- Where to find the dogs: Any of the 8 terminals and/or where there is high stress (extra long TSA line). They usually have 4 dogs daily at LAX, past security in the gated areas.
- Hours: Doggy love is provided to passengers daily for 1-2 hours.