Typically when you see a dog wearing an official-looking vest at an airport, you’re on high alert. You don’t run up to the dog requesting kisses. You don’t kneel before the animal and say, “WHO’S A WIDDLE BOY?” You don’t scratch the dog in that “sweet spot” near the tail, right there in front of TCBY.
Well, you still don’t want to do those things to an airport security dog, because you might be arrested. But you do want to do those things to the therapy dogs patrolling LAX, because that’s their job.
Launched this week, the Pets Unstressing Passengers program — PUP for short (hah!) — is sending wagging tails throughout the terminals to create a less stressful environment for travelers.
“It’s a great opportunity to spread happiness to millions of travelers from all over the world,” said Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey in a statement. “Expect to see the PUPs on a regular basis in Terminals at LAX.”
The dogs come in a variety of breeds — mutts, Dobermans, Bichons, and others — and wear red vests that say — what else? — “Pet me.” And people are taking them up on it, as you might well expect.
“When you walk in with the dogs, you feel the stress level drop immediately,” Heidi Huebner, director of volunteers at LAX, told CBSLA.com. “People start smiling, people start talking to each other, they’re taking pictures, they’re hugging the dogs.”
You can find the dogs at boarding gates, baggage claim, ticketing lobbies, and other areas throughout LAX. The dogs are trained, registered, and certified by Therapy Dogs Inc. Currently, LAX has about 30 volunteers working with the dogs, and about two or three dogs are on the job at any one time.
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