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Want to relax before your next LAX flight? Cuddle up with a dog

April 16, 2013|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Gabriella Ortiz and her son, Osvaldo, greet CC at Los Angeles International Airport.
Gabriella Ortiz and her son, Osvaldo, greet CC at Los Angeles International… (Brad Graverson / Los Angeles…)

The explosions in Boston on Monday jangled nerves and created some flight arrival and departure issues at Logan International Airport. What worried fliers may need to calm themselves is a golden kiss -- a golden retriever kiss, that is.

Therapy dogs will be spreading the love at boarding gates, baggage claim and ticketing areas at Los Angeles International Airport to put fliers at ease with a cuddle and wag of the tail. It's part of a new program called PUPs, Pets Unstressing Passengers.

"Being able to see a dog makes everybody feel good and takes their stress level down," said Heidi Huebner, director of airport volunteers who oversees PUPs. Mixed mutts, Dobermans, bijon frises and other types of dogs wearing red "Pet Me!" vests will visit all airport terminals.

Pets are mood enhancers, according to WebMD's pets website. Interact with a dog and it suppresses a stress-making hormone called cortisol and lowers your blood pressure too. And that's exactly the point, Huebner said.

The program started Monday and is modeled on a similar program at Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport. Miami International Airport also has a therapy dog that interacts with passengers.

In the L.A. program, volunteers and their pets must undergo training and be registered and certified by Therapy Dogs Inc. After that, volunteers undergo four hours of training with Huebner to learn about the airport and the program. Currently there are 30 volunteers in PUPs. The program costs the airport about $5,000 for vests (for dogs and their owners) as well as training.

What about those who don't like dogs or are allergic? Huebner says owners are trained to make sure passengers want to play with their dog, and to steer clear of anyone who indicates that they aren't interested.

To volunteer or find out more about the program, go to LAX's volunteer page, www.lawa.org/vip, or call (424) 646-8471.

Mary.Forgione@latimes.com
Follow us on Twitter @latimestravel, like us on Facebook @Los Angeles Times Travel.

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