Sky Harbor launches therapy dog program for lonely, stressed fliers
PHOENIX — Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has a new program of the fuzzy kind for stressed out or lonely travelers.
Navigator Buddies provides therapy dogs at no charge for travelers to pet, play with or talk to. They’re all around Terminal Four, wearing purple vests that say, “Pet me.”
“I know the joy that they can bring to people,” says Phoenix Councilwoman Thelda Williams. “They make a difference.”
The Navigator Buddies come in all sizes and breeds, from a small black poodle to an English sheepdog.
Airport officials said Navigator Buddies will interact with passengers both before and after security and, because they’re part of the Navigator volunteer program, the dogs’ handlers will be ready to answer questions and provide directions.
Neighbor Buddies will be staffed by volunteers. One volunteer said her dog, Bula, seemed to be a smash hit with fliers.
“People seem to think that she’s pretty and she thinks she’s pretty and I just really wanted to share her with people,” the volunteer said.
The program has only debuted in Terminal Four so far but the airport hoped to expand it as more volunteers signed on.
To be accepted in the Navigator Buddies program, dogs must be in good standing with a qualified pet therapy organization. They must be vaccinated, have current health records, be outgoing with a good temperament and must have experience in a busy environment.
Navigator Buddies are expected to be well-behaved and friendly and not approach other traveling dogs or working animals, such as police K-9 units.
The dogs’ handlers must be able to qualify for an airport security badge and be mobile.