Whether you're a seasoned traveler, or it's your first time flying, getting on a plane can be a nerve-rattling experience.
The Vancouver International Airport is the latest facility to give its guests the opportunity to ease their nerves by spending time with a sweet and calming animal. In this case, there are eight, well-trained dogs, courtesy of the St. John Ambulance (SJA) Therapy Dog Program.
It's a responsibility that those at SJA take seriously. "All our therapy dogs are tested and must pass the therapy evaluation for temperament and therapeutic qualities," said Sandy Gerber, the director of marketing for St. John Ambulance, in an interview with petMD. "They must be regularly certified by the vet as being up-to-date on all required vaccinations and health."
She also notes that the dogs' handlers must go through extensive background checks. Once the dogs pass their testing, they can do their part to help people who need assistance.
So far, the partnership with the Vancouver International Airport has been a positive one, Gerber said. Since travel isn't always a leisure activity—for example, "traveling to a stressful situation like a family funeral"—and others suffer from anxiety, petting one of the therapy dogs can bring welcome relief, she pointed out.
"When our therapy dog teams visit and engage with people, we have witnessed direct health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, calming agitation, and easing feelings of loneliness and depression," Gerber said. "The dogs give them comfort before getting on the plane." The program was launched in order to give travelers a "moment of joy" on their journey, she added.
The SJA therapy dogs are available at the airport from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday to Friday.
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