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"The Pup Patrol Comforts Travelers At Pensacola Airport"
Monday, January 23, 2017
The Pup Patrol Comforts Travelers At Pensacola Airport
By Bob Barrett
WUWF AM Radio 88.1 (NPR), Northwest Florida
Do you find air travel stressful? Travelers at Pensacola International Airport
have been getting a little stress relief from some four legged volunteers.
"These [dogs] are the Pensacola Pup Patrol, they are airport ambassadors." said
Connie Flemming, one of a trio of dog owners who were volunteering their time
last week at Pensacola International Airport. The Pup Patrol has been visiting
the airport two days a week since last May. "We come here to the airport to
provide comfort to passengers coming and going. So we greet people coming off
flights and welcome them to Pensacola, and the folks that are sitting around
waiting to go out, we spend time with them. We let the dogs to tricks for them.
We let folks pet the dogs, they are here to be petted. [And] sometimes just
walking through the concourse people look up and when they see the dogs they
Plans for The Pup Patrol began a little over a year ago according to City of
Pensacola Public Information Officer Vernon Stewart. "Other airports throughout
the country started offering different types of therapy dog programs as part of
their customer service efforts and we wanted a way for our airport to be able
to participate and offer this service as well."
The dogs belong to the handlers who bring them to the airport. Connie Flemming
says each member of the Pup Patrol has gone through some training. "Each one of
the dogs in the program has been required to have at least a year with a
therapy group, and they have several tests that they have to pass that shows
they are able to function properly in an environment such as the airport with
all the noise and the carts and the gates and the sliding doors and elevators
and stairs and all that. They are our pets, they go home with us every night
and do 'dog things' at home, but here in the airport they know how to behave
themselves and they are here to greet people."
The dogs and their handlers are given full run of the airport both before and
after security, so they can interact with passengers who are waiting for their
flights at the gate. Sarah Joy Leak, who was there with her dog Dexter, says
she has been flying since she was 9 years old but her husband has a tough time
getting on a plane. "I figured that a lot of people are probably nervous [when
it comes to] flying so I figured that this would be a great opportunity to help
And the public, nervous or not, seems to like getting to know the pups. Vernon
Stewart said "Our pups have their own trading card with an email address for
people to reach out and let us know about their recent visit with the dogs.
Since the program started we've gotten several emails from travelers giving
their praises about the program and expressing their gratitude for the
"We just love being able to offer this kind of comfort to the people that are
here in an environment that can be very stressful" said Connie Flemming. She
says there are 10 dogs and nine handlers in the Pup Patrol. Usually there are
two or three pups at the airport, though at times there are as many as six or
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