Willow is one of several therapy dogs at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport through the PAWS for Love program. The program strives to make traveling a comfortable experience for everyone.
“Willow has gone through training, she was tested through the SPCA. She had to pass a good number of tests like noise,” said Margaret Sullivan, PAWS for Love volunteer.
Willow the Golden Retriever helps travelers with autism feel at ease at the airport.
“I have seen in the times that I’ve worked with kids that it really lowers their anxiety level and it lowers the anxiety level for their parents too because their anxious about their child’s difficulty getting on a plane,” said Sullivan.
Anyone who struggles with a disability or anxiety can actually request a therapy dog ahead of their trip to the airport.
“The dogs are paired with the person and their family from pre-security to post security to the gate and right to the door before you get on the plane,” said Sullivan.
People on the autism spectrum often have a tough time dealing with sensory input at places like the airport, and a therapy dog like Willow can offer comfort.
“Putting them in an environment like this where there’s lights, there’s sounds, there’s baggage carts that are walking by, that can be very very overwhelming,” said Jennifer Toomey, Summit Center Director of Research.
A special ‘preview program’ allows individuals with autism to get a tour of the airport so they know what to expect before the day of the flight.
“If we know ahead of time what some of the pitfalls might be, what some of the areas they have difficulty with, we can practice more,” said Toomey.
You can set up a tour at the airport and request a therapy dog by contacting customer service at 716-630-6072 or by email at Beverly_halligan@nfta.com