A little doggie therapy is helping weary travelers at Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport.
Passengers irritated by weather delays or security lines started getting some relief Friday provided by canine and human volunteers with Human Animal Link of Oklahoma (HALO), a nonprofit that promotes the use of trained pets for health and wellness.
“Pets offer us moments of joy and peace,” said Terri Smith, the organization’s executive director. “The experience of quality interaction with a nonjudgmental team can be of benefit to the many visitors at Will Rogers. People in the airport setting may be stressed from traveling; others may be experiencing anxiety for totally different reasons. Either way, our teams provide an opportunity to brighten spirits for those of all ages.”
Two-member dog and owner teams will work in all areas of the Will Rogers terminal. Mark Kranenburg, airports director, said the pet teams are an exciting addition.
“There is a lot of stress involved in air travel, even when everything goes smoothly,” Kranenburg said. “I know HALO teams will be very popular here at Will Rogers, not just among travelers but visitors and airport employees as well.”
Because some people are not comfortable around animals, the dog-handler teams will not approach people without invitation, Smith said. The dogs wear yellow vests with patches that say, “Ask to pet me; I’m friendly!”
However, not all dogs in the terminal are there for petting. Officials said working dogs used by the Transportation Security Administration for explosives detection should not be approached, nor should service animals assisting people with disabilities unless permission is granted by an owner or handler.