With cancellations and delays continuing to plague airports around the country and the world, some new hires at the Redmond Municipal Airport are hoping to make a — pawsitive change.
Therapy dogs Lily the terrier, Gunner the poodle and Murphy the golden retriever made the rounds at Redmond Airport on Thursday afternoon. A new ritual, as of a few weeks ago.
Smiles were quick to follow.
“Travel is stressful. It creates a lot of anxiety. Some people don’t like to fly,” said Airport Director Zach Bass. “Offering another option during that process that might relieve that anxiety is always helpful, so it’s been a great fit for us.”
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Four teams from Alliance of Therapy Dogs started appearing last month through a new program modeled after those in larger airports around the country.
Trainer observer Sue Dolezil with Alliance, who owns Gunner, said the airport reached out to them initially through Compassionate Canines of Central Oregon, which oversees therapy dog training organizations in the area.
Here’s a view of life from therapy dog Lily after we put a GoPro on her back
They’ve taken dogs to schools, libraries, nursing homes and even the Deschutes County 911 office. The airport is a first.
“Coming here to the airport is really an easy spot for us to go, as you can see Gunner loves it,” she said. “Gunner thinks it is the best thing, it’s like Disneyland for Gunner.”
The poodle eagerly approached passengers in the flight waiting areas, eliciting smiles and laughter as he went.
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The effects of a furry friend, and a snuggle after TSA, can’t be denied.
“I think the right dog gives a lot of calming signals to people,” Dolezil said. “It’s just something you can do with your hands, you can scrunch up his hair, you can play with his ears.”
“A lot of times when people travel they have to leave their dogs and pets at home and that also creates some anxiety,” Bass added. “So seeing one here that they can interact with and touch and pet, it seems like it’s been a great interaction.”
The teams currently visit the airport for a few hours every Thursday and they hope to eventually increase to 12 teams on a rotating basis.
“We look for well-trained dogs, that’s the big deal,” Dolezil said. “From the small dogs like Lily the border terrier, little kids just love her and she’s just the right size for them to get on the ground. All dogs should be represented.”
The next time you’re feeling on edge when you’re passing through the terminal…
“Just sit down, ask one of us to come over and sit with you, and maybe we can help you feel a little bit better,” Dolezil said.
For more information about how to get therapy dog training for your pooch, or getting canine therapy for yourself or your business, visit the Compassionate Canines of Central Oregon website.