Airline passengers cope with the stress of flying in different ways. Some zone out to music, some read a book or magazine or scroll through their social media feeds, and others might buy an alcoholic beverage to calm their nerves.
However, Hollywood Burbank Airport recently launched a new program called Traveler’s Tails, in which service dogs and their owners walk up and down the terminals and allow passengers to de-stress with the furry companions.
On the clock Dec. 19 were two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Zoe and Miss Sherman Oaks, who were immediately bombarded by members of the Yawn family from Moorpark.
Melinda Yawn said she and her family were going to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to board a cruise ship to the Bahamas for their holiday vacation. While waiting at their gate, she and her children couldn’t help but give Zoe and Miss Sherman Oaks some scratches behind their ears.
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Kaylyn Yawn, Melinda’s 21-year-old daughter, said she does have some anxiety before she boards a plane and she sometimes has an adult beverage or just takes deep breaths to calm down before and during her flight.
“But this is a way better alternative than just freaking out and dealing with yourself,” said Kaylyn Yawn as she continued to scratch Zoe’s head. “She’s so soft and calm, and her energy makes me happy. She’s so sweet.”
Michael Johnston, the airport’s business development specialist, said airfield officials had been looking to have a pet therapy program at its terminals for some time and finally had the opportunity to partner with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a nonprofit group that works with volunteers who have registered and certified service dogs and schedules them to spend time at different locations, including airports, hospitals and schools.
Johnston added that about 15 volunteers will spend time at Hollywood Burbank, but he hopes to have 40 to 50 volunteers over the coming months.
Though there are currently 15 people and their service dogs signed up for Traveler’s Tails at the airport, there will be at most three volunteers during a shift.
It was the first shift for Linda Barnfather, Zoe’s owner, and Candy Malatesta, Miss Sherman Oaks’ owner, and both said it was heartwarming to see passengers’ faces light up whenever they approached the dogs.
Barnfather, who has been volunteering with service animals for 18 years, said she loves talking with passengers and hearing about their trips, but also likes to help people when they are in need.
Earlier that day, Barnfather said, she talked to a passenger who told her she had to fly back home to put down her elderly dog. The woman found comfort after talking with Barnfather and petting Zoe, Barnfather said.
“We come up to them as strangers, but I feel we leave as friends,” Barnfather said.