We've written about comfort dogs visiting airports during times of stressful travel, but what if you got to the airport and saw nearly 100 pups romping around?
Last weekend travelers passing through New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport saw just that--89 guide dogs in training. These pups were brought to Terminal C as part of their prep with The Seeing Eye, a local group that places about 260 guide dogs per year with the visually impaired.
The Labradors, Poodles, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers accompanied their handlers through ticketing, security checkpoints, and baggage claim. They rode escalators, explored the terminals, and even boarded a United Airlines plane.
Newark Airport has been hosting guide dog training for more than 20 years. According to airport deputy general manager Frank Radics, "the program has trained nearly 3,500 dogs to assist visually impaired passengers navigate busy airports, making air travel a little easier."
Exposure to a variety of environments is essential to a guide dog's training.
"We have to make sure the dogs are steady when there's a lot of noise so they're confident and it doesn't scare them," said longtime puppy raiser Jeanne Kollmer. "It's so many different experiences you can have in one venue."
Jeanne was at the airport with ten month old Black Labrador, Shari, the 18th dog she helped raise for The Seeing Eye. It's been incredibly rewarding.
"You're making a difference in someone else's life," says Jeanne. "There's nothing better than that."
If you missed the parade of pups, they'll be back at the airport this Saturday for more training.