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Paws and relax: Halifax airport launches therapy dog program for busy travellers

HALIFAX – Passengers travelling through the Halifax Stanfield International Airport are being invited to take the time to paws …and relax.

The airport authority and St. John Ambulance have partnered to launch a therapy dog program, that will see teams of dogs and their handlers mingling with travellers.

“We know that airports are a very stressful place, so this is a great opportunity for us to ease that stress,” said Kelly Martin, the customer relations manager with the airport.

“We’re hoping to put a smile on [the passenger’s] face, distract them a for a little bit if they want to cuddle or pet the dogs. If we can do that [it will] make our day for certain.”

Two-year-old Lila and her mother, Britny Andrews, were among the first passengers to meet the therapy dogs at the program’s launch on Friday.

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Andrews says she’s lucky Lila is a patient traveller but admits it can get tricky flying with a toddler.

“We started out about an hour and a half ago and we have about six hours of flight and three more hours to drive home after that, so this is a good way to start the day,” Andrews said after Lila gave one of the therapy dogs a pat on the head.

Lila, 2, and her mother are among the first to meet the therapy dogs. Mike Trenchard/ Global News
Chance, an 8-year-old Border Collie mix is one of seven dogs chosen to be part of the program. Mike Trenchard/ Global News
The therapy dog program at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport will run each Tuesday and Friday beginning at 1 p.m. Mike Trenchard/ Global News
The therapy dog program at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport will run each Tuesday and Friday beginning at 1 p.m. Mike Trenchard/ Global News

All of the dogs have passed the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog evaluation and have received special training to work in the airport environment.

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Their human handlers are all volunteering their time.

Marie Perron, one of those human handlers, has been with her dog Chance for five years now.

She says the 8-year-old Border Collie and Australian Shepherd mix has the perfect demeanour for the job.

“He’s just very calm and interested in people,” she said.

“He’s quiet, he’s soft, he’s got a soft soul. He’s the quietest dog I’ve ever had and he loves everything all creatures great and small.”

The program will run every Tuesday and Friday at the airport with two dogs each day.

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