You Can Pet Llamas, Dogs, Kittens, and Other Adorable Therapy Animals at These Airports
Snuggle up with these animals to relieve the stress of holiday travel.
Travel can be incredibly stressful, especially this time of year. Which is why many airports are bringing in emotional support animals for travelers to bond with on their journeys. This holiday season at Portland International Airport, you’ll find a team of therapy llamas to delivery instant support to weary travelers. And at SFO in San Francisco, they’ve been enlisting a team of trained emotional support dogs called the Wag Brigade since 2013, adding their first cat—the esteemed Duke Ellington Morris—to the team this year.
All of this, of course, is great news for those of us who tend to be temped to pet the working K9 units at the airport. The addition of llamas seems all too fitting for the always-quirky PDX. There, travelers are welcome to give snuggles and head scratches to the the 400-pound fluff balls named Beni and Prince, who are currently dressed up in festive attire with red bows and poinsettias around their necks and a pair of antlers atop their heads. The llamas have been brought in via the non-profit Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas & Alpacas based in Ridgefield, Washington to calm the masses amid the chaos of holiday travel.
Thankfully, SFO and PDX are not the only airports adopting these oxytocin-inducing programs in the West. Los Angeles International Airport has the Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program, where therapy dogs and handlers roam the departures levels in the gate areas of each terminal, visiting passengers awaiting flights and providing comfort as well as information regarding things like LAX projects and construction-related traffic impacts. And at Sacramento International Airport, you’ll find 33 therapy dogs—who have passed a no-barking-at-garlic-fries-test to be admitted to the crew—roaming around from Lend a Heart. Denver Airport has a squad of 97 dogs and one cat in rotation, making it the largest therapy animal program in America.
The benefits of animal-assisted therapy have been well-documented, and for many travelers who don’t have their animals certified as support animals, the simple sight of a dog is a relief. Science stands behind it too. According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, “Positive human-animal interaction appears to be related to changes in physiological variables both in humans and animals, particularly dogs. HAI has been shown to influence levels of blood pressure, heart rate, and hormones correlated with well-being including cortisol, oxytocin, b-endorphin, prolactin, phenylacetic acid, and dopamine.”
So make sure you keep an eye out for these furry friends on your upcoming flights, and give them lots of scratchies from the team at Sunset.