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Need Stress Relief While Flying? Go to the Nearest Therapy Dog

Update Date: Jul 01, 2013 01:45 PM EDT

Flying can be a stressful and tiresome yet inevitable task. With summer underway, more people are packing their bags for a well-deserved vacation. Despite the end destination, getting there can be a hassle, with increased crowdedness, longer lines, and flight delays. Due to these stress factors, airports have implemented different ways of helping their customers relax. In the latest venture into airport stress relief, some airports within the United States have decided to start a therapy dog program.

Now, right after flyers have gone through the gruesome and often long process of checking in at the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) center, which involves placing belongings into bins and passing a metal detector test, they are greeted by therapy-certified dogs. Therapy dogs are specifically trained to help people relieve stress. They are often used for people who have depression or people who have just gone through a traumatic experience. Therapy dogs are often brought into hospitals where they work to boost the spirits of patients of all ages.

The therapy dog programs that have started in San Jose, CA and Miami, FL's international airports aim to soothe travelers as they go through the airport. After these two airports have adopted this program, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which is considered the second-most stressful airport, also started the program as well. LAX was ranked second after Chicago's O'Hare Airport in a survey conducted by Concur, a travel and expense management company last year. At LAX, the new volunteer program known as Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUPS) has started, where people can pet and greet dogs that work in shifts, two at a time.

"When I hear passengers say, 'You made my day, took all the stress away, thank you very much for doing this' - can't ask for anything else. It's wonderful," Lou Friedman, owner of therapy dog, Hazel who volunteers his time at LAX with PUPS, said according to NPR.

"You can just see the reactions of people. That's anybody - passengers employees here, TSA agents, everybody smiles." The director of the volunteer programs, Heidi Huebner said. Huebner added that the programs train pet owners to keep an eye out for people who might be fearful of dogs and would not necessarily enjoy a random dog coming up to them.

Although this program is very new and still relatively experimental, several studies have found that dogs can help improve quality of life. Dogs have been tied to improving mental health and lowering stress, which could also lead to lowering risks of health issues, tied to stress. 

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