SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)- The Syracuse Hancock International Airport is the setting for Paws of Central New York’s PET Program, or pets easing travelers. Judy McManus and her 11-year-old cocker Spaniel Tom are one of the teams who have become a staple at the airport.
The dogs that are part of the PET Program are trained therapy dogs. The goal of the program is to comfort travelers who have to cope with the high stress levels typically associated with air travel.
“One of our first visits, some young girl stopped us and said can I pet your dog,” McManus said. “And we probably spent 10 minutes with her and she was sitting on the floor hugging him and crying because she was so stressed.”
McManus and Tom head from Oswego to the airport every other Thursday. They work their way up from baggage claim and meander through the security line up to the gates.
Even the TSA agents are happy to hold and pet Tom when McManus goes through security, she said. They typically spend about an hour and a half walking through the airport greeting people.
“On a busy day, 150 people, easily, interact with him,” McManus said.
The PET Program currently consists of five dogs that rotate days at the airport. Each of the dogs has to be an experienced therapy dog to qualify for the airport duty.
McManus looks at working with therapy dogs as a way to give back, and Tom has a great personality for it, she said.