LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - While flying can sometimes be an anxious or lonely experience, the Clinton National Airport in Little Rock is making your travel a little more welcoming.
“I got a long way to go and it’s good to see a dog,” said Mary Jane Rebick. She was petting one of the new therapy dogs at the airport while getting ready for her flight to Spain. “I think it just kind of calms people right before they get on the plane.
Bow Wow Buddies are trained and certified therapy dogs who walk through the airport to be pet by anyone, especially those anxious for their flights. The experience calms sometimes passengers or those who just need a furry friend to play with.
“We have trouble getting up and down the concourse because so many people want to pet the dogs, which is exactly why we’re here,” said Georgann Freasier with her white lab retriever, Yeti.
The program launched at the airport in July. Right now there are 20 teams, all of volunteer pets and trainers. The airport is partnered with ABLEPaws, a local pet therapy program that’s an affiliate of the national program, Pet Partners.
The pets and their owners must first go through a skills and engagement test to earn national pet therapy certification. Handlers go through an all-day course that includes how to manage their animals. The pets pass an exam every two years. They also go through an airport security orientation.
The pets will walk all throughout the airport -- from the baggage claim to the terminal. Shane Carter, spokesperson for the airport explains the idea came after seeing success at other airports.
“Everyone just gets a big smile on their face and that really helps to start their journey on a positive note,” said Carter.
Bow Wow Buddies work two-hour shifts, a minimum of once a month, but most work more. They’ll volunteer any time of day, from the earliest flight to the last flight. Right now, the airport does not have a public schedule for when the dogs will be present. Aside from regular duties, they try to attend special sendoffs or returns home like Make a Wish, Special Olympics or military deployments.
“We get as much from it as hopefully, we're giving to other people,” said Freasier