Lending a helping paw: What it takes to be a therapy dog at the Syracuse Airport

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — If your dog has a good temper and loves being pet, and you’re looking to put a smile on someone’s face, PAWS of CNY might be for you.

The organization is always looking for more doggy-handler duos.

Bob Long volunteers with his dog Lea at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport through the “Pets Easing Travelers” (PET) program, a collaboration between the airport and PAWS of CNY.

Long is one of more than 100 volunteers with the organization working throughout Onondaga, Oswego, Cortland, Madison and Cayuga Counties. Volunteers can spend time at schools, libraries, hospitals, nursing homes, and community events.

NewsChannel 9’s Nicole Sommavilla followed Long and another team of volunteers through the airport to see what goes into “a day’s work.”

When Brody and Lea put on their vests, they know it’s time to go to work.

“Everyone just relaxes when they see her, everyone smiles when they see her,” said Long.

The job is simple: sniff out the travelers who need a little love.

“Sometimes it’s a mother with a child and they’ve just had a delay,” said Floris Palmer, Brody’s handler. “I even had a pilot approach him, he said ‘I’ve had a bad day.'”

Palmer got involved in the program 3-and-a-half years ago after her husband died. A therapy dog visited her husband weekly while he was in the hospital and helped lift their spirits.

“We would just hug the dog and your worries and your cares just fall away,” said Palmer. Now, she and Brody work together to help others.

PAWS of CNY ask volunteers to visit at least one facility per month with their pet. Visits typically last 45 to 60 minutes.

Before beginning the certification process, you have to submit an application to PAWS of CNY.

Each pet that passes the certification process will be charged a $100 certification fee as a charitable contribution to PAWS of CNY, Inc.


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For more local news follow Nicole Sommavilla on Twitter/NeSommavilla.

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