'Paw-some' visitors take worry out of travel at Jacksonville airport

Therapy dogs visit with stressed out travelers in JaxPaws pilot program

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

Flying and airport crowds can cause major stress for travelers.

"Fur-tunately" some "paw-some" additions at Jacksonville International Airport have arrived to help.

In a program that took off Monday at JAX, handlers and their therapy dogs are roaming about, ready to share their "pet-tential" and comfort travelers in need.

The JAXPaws program aims to "cur-tail" stress for nervous travelers with 13 dogs who wander (with their handlers) around the ticketing area, courtyard and terminals beyond security checkpoints.

Jewel and her owner, Anne Bell, are one of the JAXPaws teams working to make a “ruff” experience easier for passengers.

"It has been proven physiologically it calms the person, lowers the blood pressure,” said Bell, who like the other handlers is a volunteer. “(It's) just the greatest thing of giving back to people and seeing smiles and seeing people relax."

PHOTOS: JAXPaws teams take stress out of travel

John Sawyer's flight was delayed an hour Monday, but a quick selfie with JAXPaws member Roxie distracted him from his worries for a few minutes.

"It seems to cheer up just about anybody that takes a moment to stop by and see them,” Sawyer said.

All of the dogs in the program are registered therapy dogs, but they spent some time at the airport to get used to things like suitcases and the environment.

For now, the pups in the pilot program will be roaming the airport from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. three days a week and on weekends. 

Belly rubs optional, but encouraged.