Aberdeen Airport has introduced the UK’s first ever therapy dog team who’ll be helping to soothe nervous fliers during the airport’s busiest periods on a weekly basis (at least to start with). The Canine Crew—who will mingle with passengers and staff throughout the terminal—will be easy to spot in their high vis jackets and bandanas, and they’ll be accompanied by their handlers who’ll wear blue vests.
The 14 therapy dogs, who include three golden retrievers, two German shepherds, two beagles, a Leonberger and a pug are all registered Therapets, provided by Canine Concern Scotland Trust, an organisation that has been training therapy dogs and their volunteer owners across the country for over three decades.
The dogs have been specially trained to provide comfort in stressful situations and environments, and have already visited hospitals, care homes, hospices, schools and even prisons. They are all experts at remaining calm, and have been trained not to react to loud noises, bark or jump up on people.
Crew leader and area representative for Canine Concern Scotland, Diane Wood explained: “All our dogs – and their owners – have undergone rigorous training and assessment to work in a variety of environments and the dogs are used to being stroked and petted and generally made a fuss of so they will lap up the attention and thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to interact with passengers and staff.”
And the initiative seems to have gotten off to a flying start already. Wood commented: “You see people’s faces light up when we come through the door…The mere action of stroking a dog slows down the heartbeat and reduces blood pressure so they will be a great help to anyone feeling nervous about their journey.”
Fraser Bain, Aberdeen Airport’s duty manager who grew up with West Highland terriers, was inspired by similar schemes operating across North America, as well as the work that therapy dogs undertake with children with autism.
He explained: “More than 20,000 people request assistance with travel through Aberdeen airport every year, but there are also many more who want to travel independently but may have a hidden disability, additional support needs, autism or dementia. A lot of people are anxious about flying to some degree, and we wanted to give those people the same opportunities to travel.”
He went on to describe the popularity of the project so far: “People are now saying they want to fly from Aberdeen because it’s the only airport in the UK to do this. The only danger is that people miss their flights because they are so well distracted by the dogs.”
The Canine Crew will initially work in two-hour shifts and their schedule for the first six weeks has already been posted here online so that passengers can find out in advance which dogs will be present when they are flying and read their bios.
If you see a member of the Canine Crew at the airport you can share your pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #caninecrewabz, and they’ll share the best ones!
Featured image: Aberdeen Airport