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We all know that dogs are man’s best friend, and soon they’ll bring joy to many travellers at Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB). If you’ve seen dogs and their handlers walking around the terminal recently, your eyes haven’t been deceiving you. Marc-André Bédard, vice-president, Operations at Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB) and Marie-Claude Deschênes, director general of Cégep de la Pocatière, officially launched a pet therapy pilot project at YQB. This eight-week initiative is designed to comfort travellers who may be feeling anxious or stressed before flying while allowing students to gain experience in a real-life environment.
“Many travellers are afraid of flying to some degree. Heart palpitations, increased sweating, difficulty breathing… for many people, the anxiety and discomfort can begin well before takeoff. Even the sight of the terminal can make it worse. At YQB, we make sure to do everything we can to provide the utmost reassuring experience for the thousands of travellers we see each week,” explained Bédard. “For example, the terminal’s large, bright waiting areas have been specifically designed to be calming. Furthermore, our Passenger Experience team is always at the airport to answer travellers’ questions and give them the support they need. Today, thanks to a promising collaboration with the Cégep de La Pocatière, we are pleased to be offering pet therapy to travellers in the greater Québec City area.”
Having therapy dogs in the terminal helps build a rapport between the handler and the travellers, according to the airport. The presence of a dog, even if it is only for a few minutes, gives anxious travellers something else to think about. It redirects attention, helping to reduce stress, anxiety and worry. And of course, it makes people smile. As of Feb. 9, 2020, students in the Intervention Strategies in Animal Therapy ACS program at EXTRA Formation, Cégep de La Pocatière’s continuing education program, will join teachers and their dogs to work with passengers in the secure area of the terminal building. The teams will be at the airport during busy periods for eight weeks.
“We are very proud to offer a formal pet therapy service at the airport, provided by budding professionals and supervised by a qualified teaching team in a training program recognized by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. This new internship option for our ACS students in Intervention Strategies in Animal Therapy, which concludes their 585 hours of training, allows them to enhance their experience in a unique environment,” said Deschênes.
In pet therapy, a qualified trainer works with groups or individuals using a carefully selected and highly trained animal.
The goal is to elicit reactions that can help people maintain or improve their cognitive, physical, psychological or social state. Many airports around the world have implemented pet therapy initiatives. While they naturally appeal to all animal lovers, they are primarily intended to soothe passengers who are more anxious or stressed in an airport environment.