You can’t find a parking space. There’s a line at the ticket counter and an even longer wait to get through security. As you pull off your shoes and jacket, you anxiously check your watch to be sure you won’t miss your flight. Flying can be stressful but on Wednesday, Nov. 22, Charlotte, Bosley, Lulu and 21 of their fur friends will visit Charleston International Airport in hopes of making your day before Thanksgiving travel a bit easier.
The Medical University of South Carolina therapy dogs will be meeting and greeting passengers from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday from ticketing to baggage claim.
“Dogs are not uncommon at the airport. Passengers frequently travel with their canine friends and our TSA has a great team of dogs working daily to keep our passengers safe,” said Paul G. Campbell Jr., executive director and CEO of the Charleston County Aviation Authority.
“Everyone knows you cannot pet the TSA dogs or support animals," Campbell said, "but the therapy dogs are different. Their job is to share lots of puppy love.”
More than 50 airports across the nation allow therapy dogs or have their own therapy dog programs. Albany and San Francisco International airports each have therapy pigs while Denver International Airport has Xeli the therapy cat on its canine team.
Experience has shown that therapy dogs can relieve stress, help people relax and make people smile, said Kelly Hedges, volunteer services manager at MUSC.
As a pet therapy volunteer and MUSC employee, Cathy Bennett is a firm believer that the best therapists have fur and four legs. Bringing the MUSC therapy dogs to the airport on the busiest travel day of the year will truly be a day of thanks and giving,she said.
This will be the first time therapy dogs have worked at Charleston International. The MUSC therapy dogs work primarily with MUSC hospital patients. Bennett said MUSC believes in changing what’s possible, and Community Outreach efforts are part of their plans.
On Wednesday the therapy dogs will work in shifts. During each two-hour shift four dogs will greet passengers. The therapy dogs and their volunteer parents tend to remain stationary and wait for people to approach them. This allows those who are afraid or wary of dogs the chance to avoid contact.