Therapy dog program lands at Saskatoon airport

Watch above: For those who fear flying or have a hang-up of another sort, therapy dogs have landed in Saskatoon. Aaron Streck finds out how this pilot program at the Saskatoon airport works.

SASKATOON – Subie, a five-year-old Boxer, is used to helping ease seniors’ minds during the holidays and calming students’ nerves during final exams but Friday was a first for the therapy dog. He was helping reduce the tension of air travellers.

“When you’re stressed, whether you’re in a hospital or in prison or travelling and your flight’s been delayed, you’re going to be late for a meeting, whatever it is, it’s a time of stress and we know that petting a dog can help you feel better,” said Subie’s handler and University of Saskatchewan substance abuse research chair Dr. Colleen Dell.

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Edmonton’s airport was the first in the country to roll out the therapy dog program last year. The Saskatoon airport got on board Friday.

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“We’re entering our peak time for air travel so the idea here in our partnership with St. John Ambulance is to bring something at the very least to put a smile on people’s faces and at the very most when those stress levels are elevated maybe assist in lowering them and making a better experience here,” said Saskatoon Airport Authority President Stephen Maybury.

Friday’s are generally a busy travel day, however launching the program on Friday the 13th was fitting, a day considered to be bad luck possibly heightening travellers anxiety.

“Dogs aren’t superstitious, dogs live in the moment,” said Dell.

READ MORE: Therapy dogs relieve stress among University of Saskatchewan students

Subie was one of two dogs who provided a furry distraction.

While Friday was the first day of the program, once a schedule is set, therapy dog’s are expected to make more frequent airport visits.

“There’s a random roaming aspect to it, there’s also a target so our peak times is ideally when you would see them here, so any types of lines that you may experience, security lines, etc. are sort of ideal locations,” said Maybury.

While the therapy dog program at the John G. Diefenbaker International Airport is the first in the province, St. John Ambulance hopes a similar program will land in Regina.


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