WINNIPEG, Canada — Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport is the newest airport in Canada to launch a therapy dog program to help reduce the stress with anxious passengers.
The new partnership between the St. John Ambulance and the Winnipeg Airports Authority will see therapy dogs in the airport as early as this Friday — just in time for the holiday season.
“We’re trying to create a really good customer experience for passengers traveling in and out of Winnipeg airport, and therapy dogs meet that need. It helps create a calming and more relaxed environment,” said Teresa Toutant, director of community services for St. John Ambulance Saint-Jean, to the Winnipeg Free Press.
Lisa Patterson, the airport authority’s manager of customer experience, echoed Toutant’s sentiment, “For travelers a little anxious or nervous about flying, visiting a trained dog may be just what is needed to calm and ease those fears.”
Petting and interacting with a dog has proven to reduce stress and anxiety in people as well as lifting their self-esteem.
“They’re trained so they can sense when people are a little bit anxious and nervous. So a handler will approach someone who looks a little bit like they need some guidance and… talk to them, have them pet the dogs and hopefully they will be up and on their way,” Patterson explained to the CBC.
The program will begin slowly with the introduction of one dog at the airport at one time. From there, volunteers will cover numerous shifts until a more solid schedule is formed. There have been 38 volunteers for the program thus far.
Deborah Pethrick thought it was a wonderful opportunity for her dog Clark.
“I love meeting new people, so what better place to (do that) than at the airport?” she told Metro News. “Frustrated flyers, anxious flyers, for them it’s been a long day, bags are lost, it will be like ‘ah, there’s a dog, I’ll pet the dog.’ ”
Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport joins Halifax, Thunder Bay, Regina and Saskatoon in the incorporation of therapy dogs.
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