A 3-year-old therapy dog, Lugnut, performs a trick for members of the Michigan Army National Guard. Photo via wikimedia.org
Ford airport has introduced a new program that’s sure to bring some smiles to harried travelers: therapy dogs.
The airport said that it hopes the program — known as GFIA: Gentle Fur in Action — will help to ease emotions associated with travel.
The airport is working with West Michigan Therapy Dogs on the volunteer program.
Gentle Fur in Action will place therapy dogs and their owner or trainer at airport areas such as the grand hall waiting area, baggage claim, concourses and gates, where passengers are arriving and departing.
The dogs are intended to take the stress and anxiety out of travel.
Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are meant to be approached and offer passengers the chance to rub a belly or shake a paw.
The therapy dogs will begin roaming at the airport once a week and are clearly labeled with a vest that says, “Pet Me.”
The dogs have worked in other environments such as hospitals and nursing homes and lend comfort, support and put a smile on people’s faces.
“I was at the airport last week, and my dog Gunner approached a woman,” said Amy Meinecke, director of programs at West Michigan Therapy Dogs. “Gunner went up and nudged her hand. She saw him and immediately started sobbing and wrapped her arms around him. She had a family member in the military that was leaving, and my dog offered some support.”
GFIA’s Executive Director Brian Ryks added, “We want all of our passengers to have a positive experience when flying.”
“Having therapy dogs in terminal areas will help ease our passengers’ tensions, stress and create a warm and welcoming travel experience in our airport with these newest ambassadors,” Ryks said.