You’re at an airport and you see a dog. Nine times out of 10, the pooch is tethered to a stern-looking TSA agent, and you don’t have to ask to know that you can’t give the dog a pat. That dog is working.
But these days, there are other working dogs at airports who would say, if they could talk, “pet me!”
At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, you’re likely to run into Max, or Lucy, or best friends Atticus and Angel. The K9 Crew program was launched here in 2016, with the aim of providing travelers with stress relief and comfort. The same stress relief and comfort that Max usually provides to hospitals and hospices, for both patients and care providers.
“I used to travel almost weekly for work and I just thought, you know, it’s so hectic, I’d love to see a dog,” said Steve Burn, Max’s handler. “And I think, as you’ve seen, very few people walk by without petting him. You know all the research about lowering blood pressure … it does all those things, and it’s just a blast making people smile.”
As airports and airlines compete for customers, every amenity counts — restaurants, shopping, day spas. But the value of a wagging tail is not lost on Ken Buchanan, executive vice president of revenue management at DFW.
“They’re like magnets, like rock stars! People love them,” Buchanan said, noting that you can see passengers’ moods and tensions ease. “And sometimes they forget about the stressful environment they find themselves in.”
That’s even more important as the crowds grow. Earlier this week, DFW predicted travel this summer will be 3.5 percent higher than last year, which would set a record.
Watching the faces of tired kids waiting in line as they see Angel roll up in his custom stroller, or Atticus turned out in his boater and glasses, and it’s easy to see why airports — and flyers — are embracing these furry, four-footed ambassadors.