Therapy dogs make their airport debut
The Saskatoon International Airport has opened its doors to therapy dogs to help calm down stressed-out flyers.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Debbie Lucas, whose flight from Saskatoon to Winnipeg was delayed for an hour on Friday afternoon. She spent part of her extended airport wait playing with and taking photos of Nikki, a chihuahua-Jack Russell cross who works with Saskatchewan’s St. John Ambulance therapy dog program.
“I could sit here and pout about it, but then the dog will make me think, ‘Really, does it really matter in the big picture?’ ” she said.
Celine Ward, a University of Saskatchewan student waiting for a flight to Nicaragua, agreed the dogs are “awesome.”
“There’s a lot of anxiety associated with flying, with people going away, and dogs have a pretty cool ability to calm people down,” she said between slobbery kisses from Subie, an affectionate boxer.
The St. John Ambulance therapy dog program has operated in the province since 2007. More than 100 teams of dogs and their owners regularly visit hospitals, care homes and summer camps. Now they’re adding the Saskatoon airport to the list.
Ashley Balysky, community services co-ordinator for Saskatchewan’s St. John Ambulance, said it makes sense to bring therapy dogs to airports where “emotions run high.”
“People come here typically two hours before their flight, if they’re going on a long trip; sometimes they have to put their own pets in kennels, maybe there are delays, maybe they have to leave loved ones, so they’re going to be upset,” she said.
“What we’ve seen with dogs is that people just relax, they get to sit there and pet a dog, you don’t have to make conversation.”
The dogs made their debut at the airport Friday afternoon. Balysky said she hopes teams can continue to visit twice a week.
Mona Etcheverry, Nikki’s owner, said her dog would love to come back. While the duo usually visits residents at long-term homes, Etcheverry said Nikki “loves the attention” and is unfazed by the airport environment, security and all.