Connecticut airport introduces therapy dogs for holidays - InfoNews

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Connecticut airport introduces therapy dogs for holidays

December 04, 2017 - 1:03 PM

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. - Stressed travellers at Bradley International Airport in need of a calming touch will now have furry friends at their aid.

A therapy dog program, which started as a pilot program in August, has officially been rolled out at the airport in partnership with Bright Spot Therapy Dogs.

Twice a week, Simsbury resident Karyn Cordner and her black German shepherd, Raven, and Granby resident Sally King and her white and brown Australian shepherd, James, traverse the airport terminal with the simple goal of interacting with airport travellers and employees.

The interactions are often short, but they elicit smiles.

Ashton Edwards was at the airport on Thursday for a flight to Chicago. Edwards travels often for work and the sight of Raven and James as he walked through the airport's doors was a nice diversion from the stress, he said.

"This airport is awesome for having these dogs here," Edwards said. "Travelling is a stressful thing, especially when you travel a lot like I do. You're always running around. I was rushing today. But this is great. This airport keeps getting better."

Cordner and King have brought their dogs to a variety of places across the state in their time as Bright Spot certified therapy dogs. They've been at senior living facilities, schools and elsewhere.

But the airport, they said, presents them and their dogs a different kind of opportunity.

"They love this," King said. "The dogs took to this like ducks to water. They don't mind the hustle and bustle of this. He'll go right up to people here."

A lot of the time, petting the dogs also turns into a chance for Cordner and King to get to know the travellers, who sometimes aren't travelling to a relaxing vacation. Sometimes it's a flight you don't want to take and the dogs can be a great help with that, King said.

"Last week, somebody was petting him and I noticed they were crying," King said. "I asked what the matter was, and they said they were on their way to visit their niece who is dying. She said it was so good that she could pet the dog."

"People tell us things they wouldn't normally tell us because they know they won't see us again," Cordner said. "I hear tales of why they are travelling. They range from celebrations to things that are sad. Raven can make them feel better. There are always smiles. For me to be able to share such a big heart as Raven makes me feel good too."

Kevin Dillon, the executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, said adding the program is another amenity they can offer passengers.

"For people that are first-time flyers , or who don't fly frequently, we've found that these canines really have a calming effect on the passengers," Dillon said.

Right now, Cordner and King visit on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 a.m., a busy travel time. They're going to add Sunday afternoons soon. Dillon said he'd like to see the program expand to every day of the week as they add more handlers and dogs to the program.

"It's amazing to me to see the reactions of the passengers," Dillon said. "This is a very important program for us, especially now in the holiday period. I personally witness as I go through the terminal building passengers interacting with the dogs. It's been a very positive reaction."

Cynthia Hinckley, the founder and executive director of Bright Spot Therapy Dogs, said they signed a partnership with the Connecticut Airport Authority to have dogs they've certified in the airport.

"We are thrilled to do this," Hinckley said. "The simple act of petting a dog makes people feel relaxed and feel happy. That's why we have such a demand for these dogs."

As Cordner and King stood in the terminal on Thursday with their dogs, they could hardly go a minute without a passenger stopping to say hello to Raven and James. Stories about travelling or other dogs are told quickly before the passengers go on their way. And that simple interaction is why Cordner and King are happy to share their dogs with others.

"In training, we were told to pick a volunteer spot that makes us happy, because that will make the dogs happy," Cordner said. "We enjoy interacting with people. Everybody we meet is friendly and needs to see the dog. I think I get more out of it than I give. That's the way it works."

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Online: http://cour.at/2j5dOcW

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Information from: Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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