PLANE SAILING: Gary the dog with owner Ellen Thomas , airport volunteer Tom Meath and chief operating officer Marion Charlton.
PLANE SAILING: Gary the dog with owner Ellen Thomas , airport volunteer Tom Meath and chief operating officer Marion Charlton. Scott Powick

Nervous? Gary will keep you calm as you board the plane

A RELAXED pooch is bringing his special brand of therapy to calm down people who have a deep fear of flying.

Gary, a labrador-cross, is the newest team member at Gold Coast Airport where he is helping passengers who need emotional support before they board their planes.

The therapy dog is helping travellers who may be nervous flyers or are experiencing any other anxieties.

He is also on hand to meet and greet other passengers.

His owner Ellen Thomas, of Burleigh, said Gary was a natural at his new role.

"He's always calm because he can't be bothered to react to anything," she said.

 

Ellen Thomas trainer of Gary the Ambassapaw Dog from the Gold Coast Airport, who calms nervous flyers down before they depart. Ellen Thomas, and Marion Charlton Gold Coast Airport Cheif Operating Officer.
Ellen Thomas trainer of Gary the Ambassapaw Dog from the Gold Coast Airport, who calms nervous flyers down before they depart. Ellen Thomas, and Marion Charlton Gold Coast Airport Cheif Operating Officer. Scott Powick

"He doesn't mind being sat on, poked or prodded - probably because he spends a lot of time with my three-year-old nephew."

Ms Thomas said Gary loved babies and children, and had already had to deal with a few at the airport.

"He's so calm, he doesn't even flinch when they pull his ears," she said.

We've just spent time with a boy with autism, who was petrified of flying, and his flight was delayed. He was a lot calmer after he hung out with Gary."

Ms Thomas said she was also petrified of flying and having Gary around was a welcome distraction.

"He makes me focus on something other than what I am about to. Because he's so calm, he makes other people calm."

Gary is taken to the airport on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays by his owner and another airport ambassador, Tom Meath.

And when he's not mingling with passengers, the loveable lab - who will be two-years-old in January - spends time at the beach with his favourite toy - a soccer ball.

 

Ellen Thomas trainer of Gary the Ambassapaw Dog from the Gold Coast Airport, who calms nervous flyers down before they depart. Ellen Thomas, Airport Volunteer Tom Meath, Marion Charlton Cheif Operating Officer.
Ellen Thomas trainer of Gary the Ambassapaw Dog from the Gold Coast Airport, who calms nervous flyers down before they depart. Ellen Thomas, Airport Volunteer Tom Meath, Marion Charlton Cheif Operating Officer. Scott Powick

He also enjoys watching David Attenborough on TV and hanging out with his bestie, Angus, a dalmation. His other faves are rolling in mud, posing for photos, getting hugs and pats, as well as swimming.

The airport's chief operating officer Marion Charlton said the therapeutic impact of animals was well known and it made sense to have Gary on hand to help passengers who struggled with the stress of flying.

"A growing body of evidence points to the therapeutic benefits of animals when it comes to helping humans," she said.

"Therapy dogs have become popular in airports overseas, particularly in the United States where they are common place, but they are still quite a new phenomenon in Australia.

"We know travelling can be stressful for many people and for years we have been concerned with ensuring that people with more visible disabilities are well cared for," Ms Charlton said.

"Now we are able to turn our attention to do what we can to help those with more hidden disabilities. "

She said the introduction of the AmbassaPAW program was the result of months of planning and training, and she was confident it would be well received by the travelling public.

Gary will be based in the main check-in hall inside the Gold Coast Airport terminal at designated times.


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