Trained dogs and their volunteer handlers provide stress relief and comfort to passengers at the departures levels in the gate areas of each terminal.
Since the PUP program launched on April 15th 2013, both passengers and employees have enjoyed petting, hugging and getting kisses from the PUPs dogs. Heidi Huebner, Director of Volunteers/PUPs explains, "The dogs bring the stress level down, and people start smiling and talking to each other. Sometimes people are traveling for sad reasons, and the dogs really cheer them up and provide comfort. The volunteers also play a big part in having conversations with people. Sometimes people have had long lay overs, so having a nice person to talk to along with petting a dog is all it takes make them feel better."
The dogs and their handlers are easily identifiable in red vests with the PUP logo and they are at LAX 7 days a week, as early as 7 am and as late as 11 pm. LAX partnered with Therapy Dogs, Inc. (TD, Inc.), a national organization that registers, insures and supports members who are involved in volunteer animal-assisted activities. These activities include visits to hospitals, special needs centers, schools, nursing homes, and for the first time for TD, Inc. – airports.
In addition to training with TD, Inc., each volunteer is required to go through six hours of LAX classroom and in-terminal training to learn about the airport, passenger assistance and customer service. In addition, handlers are fingerprinted and badged.
Roles of PUP Handlers
Relieve passenger stress and anxiety.
Inform and assist passengers with questions and wayfinding (helping other find their way)
Promote the PUP/VIP programs by handing out trading cards and information.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, I'm going to make it a point to seek out a PUPS doggie. This is one of the best services in an airport that is bound to improve the "customer experience!"