COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–John Glenn Columbus International Airport launched a new pet therapy program called “Paw Force One.”
Ten teams of dogs and their volunteer handlers were sworn into service at the airport concourse Thursday morning.
“We are so excited to introduce this new program for our passengers. These certified therapy dogs can really help to bring some joy and some relaxation to the travel experience,” said Angie Tabor, Senior Manager of Customer Experience for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority. “So whether, maybe, they’re stressed because of their traveling or maybe they’re stressed because of the reason they’re traveling. Maybe they’re visiting an ill loved one and these dogs can really help to center a passenger and help them relax.”
Amy Lewis and her dog “Griffin” are part of the program.
“Griffin” is named for Ohio State Buckeyes’ football legend Archie Griffin, and could be seen wearing his “signature” G ball cap.
“He’s very excited about the season so far, with the exception of one week,” Lewis said jokingly. “I know, lately, things have been a little crazy at the airport with people traveling and I think covid as well has increased people’s anxiety in an enclosed space. So if you can relieve some of that stress and anxiety, I think it’s going to help everyone with their traveling.”
Lewis knows firsthand the comfort a dog can bring.
“I got him when my son left for college, having a little empty nest syndrome. So a friend of ours asked us to get him certified as a therapy dog… He works at some hospitals and schools and now, adding in the airport,” she said.
Every dog is certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, and like Griffin, has experience providing comfort in settings like emergency rooms, hospice centers, schools, and nursing homes.
“We are grateful to our wonderful teams of dogs and volunteers for being a part of this exciting initiative,” said Tabor. “In addition to their training, these dogs bring something that can’t be taught—they love being around people.”
Each dog received a Paw Force One bandana as they were sworn in, something passengers can use to help identify participating dogs.
“Passengers are encouraged to come up and pet and interact with these dogs and so I hope they do as they’re traveling for the holiday season,” Tabor said. “The dogs are trained to provide comfort and relaxation and entertainment for our passengers and it just helps them to relax in what might be a stressful airport environment.”
Tabor said the dogs will be located behind security gates, where passengers spend most of their time waiting.
While they’re not on any specific schedule, Tabor said the busier the airport is, the more likely it is you’ll see one of the dogs.