San Jose airport experiments with therapy dogs to ease passengers' anxiety

Discussion in 'SFO/OAK/SMF/SJC | San Francisco Area Airports' started by sobore, Feb 8, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. sobore
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    Henry James weaves between legs and roller bags at Mineta San Jose International Airport, but he's in no rush. Around him, people scurry to their gates, but for the 41/2-year-old golden retriever, being calm is his job.

    "Do you want to see him?" his owner, Kyra Hubis, asked two passengers waiting to board a plane back home to Atlanta. "This is Henry James. He's a therapy dog."

    Elliot Willard was at the airport with his sister-in-law, Ashley Willard, because his grandfather, who lived in San Jose, recently passed away. As they tussled Henry James' long, shaggy fur, smiles spread across their faces. It was exactly the result hoped for. Every Monday, Henry James and Hubis walk the terminals to comfort passengers who may be stressed, grieving or feeling the jitters of flying.
    Hubis, a retired critical care nurse for 30 years, runs the therapy dog program as a volunteer. She finds that many passengers are in need of a dog's wagging tail, wet nose and unconditional love.
    "Traveling is a stressful experience," said Rosemary Barnes, the airport's public information manager. "You may be going to a job interview. You may have lost a loved one. There are so many reasons that people come to airports."

    The program began after 9/11, when an airport pastor brought in her own dog to help soothe stressed and frightened passengers. The effort has since grown to include 11 volunteers who walk their therapy dogs -- including a German

    shepherd, miniature schnauzer and Bordeaux mastiff -- up and down the terminals a few hours a week. The program runs on donations, which pay for the uniforms of the furry counselors: red vests covered in patches embroidered with slogans like "Pet me I'm friendly."

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