Everyone needs a little Sunshin at the Airport!


As narrated to Goldie by Comfort Dog SUNSHINE

Did you know that humans can fly? Surprised? Yes, even I was amazed when I heard my human colleagues talk about stress and anxiety people experience when they fly! I have lived 4 years of my life surrounded by all types of humans but I have never seen anyone fly. I thought maybe my colleagues have gone crazy. I perked up my ears and started listening more carefully. After an hour or so of eves dropping and following them around the house I concluded that my humans are not crazy! They were talking about a new project at the at humans can fly? Surprised? Yes, even I was amazed when I heard my human colleagues talk about stress and anxiety people experience when they fly! I have lived 4 years of my life surrounded by all types of humans but I have never seen anyone fly. I thought maybe my colleagues have gone crazy. I perked up my ears and started listening more carefully. After an hour or so of eves dropping and following them around the house I concluded that my humans are not crazy! They were talking about a new project at the airport!


Have you ever been to an airport? It’s a very busy place, just like a bus stand or railway station but much bigger. Airplanes are nothing like normal vehicles. Airplanes fly in the air, far above the roads and cities, up above the clouds. Humans fly in these things from one place to another. This flying business can get very stressful for some humans. There are many travelers who fly 3-4 times a week or more. There are many who have never seen an airport and have never set a foot inside an airplane. They get very nervous and anxious when it’s their first experience of flying. Some are afraid of flying and it can be a very dreadful experience for them. Some humans come here from different countries; some are leaving here to visit other countries. They have to leave their families and friends at home sometimes. They become homesick. I can totally understand there situations. Ones my human parents had to keep me with a pet sitter for a few days. I completely freaked out at first. I could not stop missing them. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I didn’t even feel like playing fetch and that’s the most favorite game of mine. So Yea, I can understands how humans must feel. There is stress and anxiety, nervousness, tiredness, helplessness, exhaustion and all those not-so-healthy emotions.

This is where I enter the scene. You must be thinking what can a dog do about it? Well, I am not just any dog; I am a trained therapy dog. I help humans relieve stress by comforting them. Petting, hugging or playing with me can calm your nerves, decrease blood pressure and give a sense of happiness and well-being. That’s all a stressed out and anxious passenger needs; a wagging tail and warm hug from a therapy dog.


Pepe, Pearl and I just started working on airport as Comforting Angels along with our human therapists. We were mentored by our senior most Therapy dog Goldie, who showed us how to make people smile by wagging our tails. She also taught us how to sense if something is bothering them. Pepe being senior to me in age as well as experience, shared her wisdom with me and Pearl. And I am sure she will guide me on the airport job too. Pearl is new kid on the block. She is young and mischievous. But she has all the qualities of a good therapy dog. Today was our first day at the airport and what a day it was! So many new experiences in just one day! After a nice drive and a few minutes of waiting in the queue we finally got our entry passes and headed for the lobby. We were waiting to be allowed to enter the airport. I was observing my surroundings. It was a crowded place. There were so many cars and trolleys and bags and humans. Everyone was in hurry to go somewhere. I noticed that people were looking at us with all sort of different emotions; interest, curiosity, affection and even fear. Some wanted to approach us but they were hesitant. Kids were looking at us with fascination. Some were smiling and some were scared. There were all sorts of reactions from passengers. Pearl and I looked at Pepe for guidance. She was calm and at ease. So we decided to follow her lead.

I was about to sit down on the floor when I felt flow of cold air on my face. The doors opened and they let us inside. I had to stop a moment to take in everything. Few pairs of eyes turned towards us. Those eyes followed us as we walked forward. We found a nice place to sit and relax for a bit. Our human partners Aakash and Malvika gave us some water and let us sniff around. Now that we were comfortable we were ready to comfort others. 

I started walking around with my partner Malvika. I saw a child pulling his mother and pointing at us. I knew that he wanted to pet me. His mother picked him up and walked towards us. She asked if I was police dog. Malvika explained to her that I was a therapy dog named Sunshine and I work at the airport as Comforting Angel. The lady asked if it was okay for the boy to pet me. I wagged my tail and walked slowly towards the boy. I nudged him with my nose and encouraged him to touch my fur. He smiled and started petting me. He
played with me for a few minutes. His mother was telling Malvika that their family was going on vacation and had left their pet dog with the boy’s grandparents. He was missing his dog. Because I looked just like his dog he wanted to play with me. The boy and his mother went back smiling. I felt so wonderful.

Malvika and I roamed around for a while, meeting new people. We met an old couple whose flight got delayed, a businessman who had been flying for 20 hours straight, a lady who was flying alone with a toddler and a two year old and a college student who missed his flight. I knew that I couldn’t change their situation but I tried my best to create a distraction from their worries and comfort them to the best of my abilities. I gave them an extra dose of energy and enthusiasm that they needed to deal with their problems.

Malvika and I met with the rest of our team for lunch. I was so eager to listen to their stories. Pepe and Pearl also had a few interesting things to share. They met a family with 2-3 kids. The kids wanted to meet Pearl and Pepe but the elders were so busy finding direction to gate no. 83 that they rushed passed Pearl and Pepe without even a single glance. Pearl was complaining about it to Pepe who explained to her that this will happen. Some humans are fond of dogs and others not that much. Some cannot have enough of us and some will not even look at us but that’s okay. We will try to comfort everyone who wishes to play with us or pet us or just sit with us. She is so wise! Poor Pearly, she wants everyone to play with her. She is just a kid of 1 and a half. She’ll learn all these things soon.

We were so busy on the first day itself that we didn’t realise it was time to go home already. We started walking towards the exit. We met so many new people. Some of them came to say goodbye on our way out. It was a fun day. We got inside the car. I looked at Aakash and Malvika. They were tired just like us. But I can tell from their faces that they were very proud of us. I nudged Malvika’s arm. She smiled and scratched under my ear. Pearl was already snoring. Pepe was slouching on the armrest. I sat by the window, enjoying the cool breeze and woofed into the night.



Therapy dog Sunshine is a working therapy dog with Animal Angels. She, along with three other therapy dogs are India's first therapy dogs to work at an International Airport in India to comfort passengers.

Animal Angels Therapy Center, partnered with Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport on creating Asia's first ever Comfort Dog program 'CSIA Comforting Angels' for the Mumbai Airport. The program, which was launched in Sep 2015 went on to be a big hit among the passengers, making Therapy dogs Goldie, Pepe, Sunshine and Pearl, household names and at the same time creating more awareness about the fabulous work of Animal Angels Therapy dogs in India.

You can visit our official Fb page - CSIAComfortingAngels or log on to our website animalangels.org.in, to know more about the program.
 



Blog wirtten by Aditi Bodas.

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