While flying may seem like a breeze to you and I, for some it's far from a calming experience. Whether it's the dreaded security walk that gets your heart racing or the thought of being up in the air with no escape for hours on end, airports around across the globe are attempting to make your experience a little less stressful with the help of a few furry friends - and YVR Airport in Vancouver is the latest to do so.
The Less Airport Stress Initiative (LASI) first implemented its pilot program last December, and there are now seven therapy dogs who work Monday to Friday on a rotation basis between 11 am and 1 pm - the airport's busiest time of day.
Just like any other airport employee, these four legged companions are trained to interact with crowds and required to pass through security. "They learn how to handle a crowded environment and lots of people at once," said Reg Reg Krake, Director of Customer Care at YVR.
“Since some people get more nervous before security, and some get more nervous in the period after security, the dogs are spread out.
"Just last week one of our green coat volunteers noticed a woman waiting for her flight who looked in distress. The volunteer was trained in human therapy herself and talked to the woman before bringing a therapy dog over to comfort her. After that, she was sobbing for about 30 or 40 minutes, but eventually managed to get on the flight." he said.
Reg says the program has made a huge difference to both anxious passengers and other passengers who just need a little cheering up. “We want to see how the program will evolve over time and add more dogs in the future,” he said.
The therapy dogs are distinguished with bandanas and YVR leashes. Keep reading and get to know a few of them below:
Norman is a five-year-old Newfoundland and has been part of the Therapy Dog Program for two years. If you saw the size of him back in 2012, you wouldn't believe he was the same pup. When his owner, Lisa took him home, he was no bigger than the size of his head now. As you can see, he's quite the stud - so much so that he's featured in TV commercials for the likes of Telus and Shark Vacuum.
The oldest of all the YVR dogs, Mira is an Australian Shepard who loves attention, being petted and rolling over for belly rubs, making her the perfect therapy dog. Mira's owner Jacqueline says the pair first volunteered under the Therapy Dog Program 10 months ago after a neighbor with a child on the autism spectrum recommended her for being such a gentle pup.
If there's one thing Kermode loves doing it's making friends. He loves meeting both new people and new dogs, and his owner Anthony says he brings smiles to people's faces - young and old. Although some people mistake him for a labrador, Kermode is a Great Pyrenees - a North American breed - many of which are working dogs. Despite being just 6-years-old, Kermode likes to take his time when exercising, with a short walk taking up to one and a half hours.
The smallest dog in the bunch, Bailey is also one of the oldest at 8-years-old. Whether or not this Japanese Chin - Shitzu cross realizes he's a dog is the real question - his favorite hobby is playing with cats (and people of course). He doesn't have a favorite food but will eat pretty much anything and everything. His owner Gerry says he's the only dog she knows that gains weight while on diet dog food - pretty impressive, Bailey.
Molly is always happy to smile for the camera and regularly brings joy to seniors, students, children and adults at YVR Airport when she's working as a therapy dog. Like many other Golden Retrievers, Molly loves being active, with her favorite activities including hiking and swimming. Her owner Karen also tells us she has a special talent for fleshing out grouse. Not that you find many of those walking around the Airport.
Grover is a black lab of many talents. As well as being one of YVR's longest-serving therapy dogs, he is also a breeding stud dog for the BC and Alberta Guide Dogs Association, as well as receiving certification for the Paws 4 Stores Program and visiting the Ronald McDonald House regularly. When he's not busy doing good deeds, Grover loves eating ice cubes.
Soda the yellow lab is more than just a therapy dog - she's a bilingual genius. Yep - despite being only 5-years-old, this pup can understand commands in both English and French. When she's not practicing her language skills, you'll find Soda sleeping in between meals of carrots and raw potatoes. As you can see from this photo, she also has a whole lot of love to give.
Rather take a road trip than a flight? Check out the video below.