The next time you touch down at Tulsa International Airport (TUL), you might find yourself greeted by man’s best friend. Since April 1, following a pilot program, TUL has hosted Welcome Waggin’, a group of Alliance of Therapy Dogs-certified therapy dog teams.
The dogs “visit the airport and provide stress relief, anxiety relief, smiles — anything that might ease a passenger’s stress,” says Dustin Meyer, who certifies teams for ATD.
TUL currently has 30 teams, each comprised of one handler and one dog. “They’re all obedience-trained,” Meyer says of the canines. “They’ve all been tested, observed and certified with Alliance of Therapy Dogs.”
Meyer and his own dog, Midas, form one of the teams at TUL. Midas is a 6-year-old golden retriever who was born blind. “He has adapted very well,” Meyer says. “It’s very unique; I don’t know of any other blind therapy dog in the state of Oklahoma.”
Midas has all the traits of a good therapy dog, which boil down to his easygoing demeanor. “He has just got a great personality,” Meyer says. “He loves people. He loves other dogs.”
Of course, Midas is quite good at his job. “He just brightens everybody’s day,” Meyer says. “All of our (Welcome Waggin’) dogs are like that. People just break out in smiles, and they very much like to handle and pet the dogs.”
Not a dog fan? Have an allergy? Just mention this to any approaching team, and they’ll back off. “We don’t put any stress on anybody,” Meyer says.
TUL isn’t the first airport to institute a program like Welcome Waggin’, though it took several years of trying by Meyer and his colleagues, Shirleyanne Johnson and Amy McCarthy, the program’s cofounders.
Welcome Waggin’ launched after TUL Marketing Coordinator Michelle Evans brought the proposal to the attention of CEO Alexis Higgins. The rest is history.