The Long Beach Airport (LGB) launched their new dog therapy program on Wednesday. The program, known as STARS (Simple Therapy And Real Smiles), is aimed at reducing stress by providing trained therapy dogs to comfort travelers. (Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune)
The Long Beach Airport (LGB) launched their new dog therapy program on Wednesday. The program, known as STARS (Simple Therapy And Real Smiles), is aimed at reducing stress by providing trained therapy dogs to comfort travelers.

Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune

Long Beach Airport (LGB) launches new therapy-dog program to provide a paw-sitive experience for travelers

October 30, 2019

The Long Beach Airport (LGB) launched their new therapy-dog program on Wednesday. The program, known as STARS (Simple Therapy And Real Smiles), is aimed at reducing stress by providing trained therapy dogs to comfort travelers.

The airport hosted a celebration in which the nine participating therapy dogs were presented and given their official STARS dog vest.

The therapy dogs were Bella, 3, an Australian labradoodle; Cleo Rose, 8, a golden retriever; Rudi, 11, a chihuahua-terrier mix; Coco, 12, a standard poodle; Rider, 3, a labrador retriever; Hope, 10, a beagle; Harmony, 2, a lemon beagle; Zubaida, 7, a German shephard and Sigmund Freud, 3, a German shephard.

The dog therapy program was piloted for a year and was implemented to “add another amenity to the easy-going, relaxed experience at Long Beach Airport” according to Lindsey Phillips, who works with Public Affairs at LGB.

Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune
A young traveler approaches Bella, 3, an airport therapy dog at the Long Beach Airport.

Handlers Sue Woolhether and Louis Malenofski spoke to the Signal Tribune about the certification process for their therapy dogs Cleo Rose and Rudy. Woolhether and Malenofski are both with an organization called Alliance of Therapy Dogs. In order for dogs to be certified, they must pass a series of tests based off of how the dogs interact with others. The dogs must be well behaved, not barkers or jumpers and can’t be afraid of loud noises such as slamming doors, bells or whistles.

Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune
Airport therapy dog Cleo Rose, 8, in action as travelers approach to pet her.

Certification time varies, depending on the behavior of the dog.

“They just have to be good-mannered,” Woolhether said. “There’s no formal training, it’s just what you work on with them at home– sit, stay– basic commands.”

Aside of LGB, Woolhether and Malenofski have also volunteered at Los Angeles’ airport, LAX, in a similar program for the past six years as well as schools, libraries and hospitals.

Woolhether and her golden retriever Cleo also volunteer at grief therapy groups for high-risk teenagers.

“She’s really good with the kids,” she said.

Catch the dogs roaming around the LGB, daily or whenever their volunteer handlers are available and give them a belly rub– the dogs not the handlers.

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