Those flying from Aberdeen were in for a pawsome surprise today as they were greeted by a gaggle of wagging tails.
Aberdeen International Airport has brought back its “canine crew” – a group of therapets who can help ease the anxiety of passengers about to fly.
The service was withdrawn due to Covid, but today the dogs and their handlers were back in force and it was smiles all round.
Staff believe the service will be all the more important post-Covid, with many people worried about flying for the first time in so long.
Helps people to relax
Aberdeen first launched the scheme in 2019, becoming the first airport in the UK to take such a step to reduce the stress and anxiety of those travelling.
Airport duty manager Fraser Bain was responsible for implementing the scheme in Aberdeen after seeing it work in North America.
He is delighted to welcome the animals back in the airport.
Mr Bain said: “When dogs come in for the first time you look at people’s faces, they’re always smiling and pleased to see them.
“It’s great, you get people randomly coming up and it often sparks a conversation whether people know each other or it’s random strangers coming through Aberdeen for the first time seeing this.”
“You can just see them relax and enjoy themselves.”
‘Phenomenal to be back’
Travelling can be a stressful thing for many but Covid has not helped the situation.
“Post-Covid people haven’t been through an airport for a while,” Mr Bain added. “Maybe they’re excited to get away but they’re also anxious and so that’s where the therapy dogs come into their own.”
He said other airports had also shown an interest in piloting the idea and will hopefully be able to get similar schemes back up and running.
Canine Concern Scotland Trust helps to provide the volunteers and pets to roll out the scheme.
First founded in 1988 to help dogs and owners, the organisation has since expanded with their Therapets visiting schools, care homes and prisons.
Chairwoman Diane Wood said: “It is phenomenal to be back. The reaction of the staff and passengers is just amazing and it’s great to see the smiles on their faces when they’re coming through and met by a sea of dogs.”
It is not just the people who are pleased the dogs have returned.
Carole Ledingham, an Aberdeen area rep and trustee director from the organisation, said the dogs were “thrilled”.
She said having the Therapets actually helps people open up, with many reaching for their phones to share pictures of their own beloved ooches.
“People say ‘I’ve got a lovely dog too’ and show you pictures, it’s just really sociable,” she said.
“I think lockdown has made people feel a lot more isolated so now for people to come over and smile at you and chat is huge. It’s just a big, big difference socially.”
The Therapets will be visiting the airport one to two times a week. Running on a voluntary basis, the dogs will be greeting people for a few hours during busier periods of the week.
To find out more about the Canine Crew click here.