Four-legged pas­sen­gers

Hol­ly­wood stu­dio teaches dogs how to fly on planes.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PETS - By SUE MAN­NING

FOR US$349 (RM1,130), your dog can learn to fly. One Hol­ly­wood film stu­dio now pre­pares dogs for a safe and calm flight.

The Air Hol­ly­wood class in­cludes a real fuse­lage on a sound stage with a sim­u­la­tor that mim­ics take-off, tur­bu­lence and land­ing. Hol­ly­wood ex­tras cre­ate crowds and the chaos that come with air­port ter­mi­nals.

Talaat Cap­tan, pres­i­dent and CEO of Air Hol­ly­wood, the world’s largest avi­a­tion-themed film stu­dio, had the idea af­ter notic­ing a dog owner hav­ing a rough time get­ting the dog through air­port se­cu­rity.

“The owner was stressed out, and the dog was freaking out,” Cap­tan said. “I fig­ured, ‘Why don’t I train those peo­ple?’”

He hired his friend and for­mer ac­tress, Me­gan Blake, to write a pro­gramme and teach the class with three other in­struc­tors and her dog Su­per Smi­ley.

An an­i­mal trainer and life­style coach, Blake also has a psy­chol­ogy de­gree. With more dogs on planes th­ese days, it makes sense to take obe­di­ence school to a new level, said Heidi Heub­ner, who di­rects vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing air­port ther­apy dogs, at Los An­ge­les World Air­ports.

Dogs have be­come an es­sen­tial part of a grow­ing num­ber of fam­i­lies, and trav­el­ling with them is be­com­ing more com­mon, said Kim Cun­ning­ham, a spokesman for the In­ter­na­tional Pet and An­i­mal Trans­porta­tion As­so­ci­a­tion in Texas.

It will vary by air­line, but there’s al­ways a fee for pets in the cabin. Work­ing dogs or trained ser­vice an­i­mals fly free, but own­ers must give the air­line doc­u­men­ta­tion and ad­vance no­tice. Last year, Air Hol­ly­wood con­ducted a test class with 60 pup­pies from Guide Dogs for the Blind.

“Some of the han­dlers were more ner­vous than the dogs be­cause they don’t like to fly,” said Rick Wilcox, who over­sees puppy-train­ing in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

Cap­tan opened his stu­dio about six months be­fore the Sept 11, 2001 ter­ror at­tacks on the US. On Sept 12, the phone started ring­ing be­cause air­ports were locked down and movie and tele­vi­sion stu­dios couldn’t shoot the scenes they needed. The stu­dio has grown to in­clude ev­ery­thing from a pri­vate jet to a 747, as well as props and sup­plies. The dogs sit at their han­dlers’ feet in the cabin dur­ing the sim­u­lated flight, which come with en­gine sounds, the cap­tain speak­ing, cabin lights be­ing dimmed, over­head bins be­ing shut and warmup vi­bra­tions, Wilcox said.

When a dog gets ner­vous, it might clamp its jaw, lick its lips or get wide-eyed, Blake said. With the dogs in the test class, pet­ting was enough to re­as­sure them, she said. “If a dog gets ner­vous, don’t cod­dle them. That’s the same thing we use to raise con­fi­dent, well-bal­anced dogs,” Wilcox said. – AP

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