-By Liz Prevedello
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No...it's Finn!
Our wonderful JBPack superhero volunteers for the LAX Pups Program and helps make a difference for passengers flying all over the world. Finn is a calming force who brings comfort to people experiencing stress when flying. From passengers to pilots and airport staff, Finn is always handing out love and puppy kisses!
We wanted to ask Finn & his PAWsome Mom Tessa what it's like making a difference in one of the largest airports in the world.
How often are you guys at the airport?
"Finn & I volunteer for the LAX PUP (Pets Unstressing Passengers) program a couple of times a month. We do a few extra rounds during the holidays on the busiest travel days."
How many dogs are a part of the LAX PUP's program?
"There are now around 115 dogs in the program that vary in breed, age & size!"
What is the most common reaction you get when people greet Finn in the airport?
"There are two common reactions! One is how much travelers miss their own dogs & how excited they are to be going back home to see them. The other is when people see PET ME on Finn's therapy vest & ask why we are there. It gives us a chance to talk about the @LAXPUPS program & pet therapy work."
What is Finn's favorite part of being an LAX PUP?
"One of Finn's favorite things in life is getting belly rubs & he definitely gets lots by being an LAX PUP! Each dog's working style is different (some like ear or chest scratches, some like to do tricks, some like to stand or sit), but when Finn lays down on his side, more people can pet him at once since he's a big dog. I think it's a strategy of his!!"
What has been your most rewarding experience working as a part of the program?
"The most rewarding experience has been how appreciative people are to have us there. Seeing people's faces & body language change as they start walking towards us & as they pet Finn is neat too."
Is there anything else that you would like to share about the program?
"Heidi Hubner, our pack leader, started the PUP program at LAX in 2013 & has gone on to help set up similar programs in 60+ airports!
Before I got Finn, I volunteered with The Equestrian Therapy Co-op in Simi Valley, helping kids with special needs ride horses (here is a feature on the family that runs the program that the company I used to work for produced for Disney Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQTSV5jj8SU
It was incredibly rewarding & I could see kids change by gaining confidence & strength on the horses. I knew I wanted to eventually do therapy work with Finn when he was ready. It was a gift that I was able to start bringing him into the office at such an early age (3 months) to get socialized around people & other friendly dogs. He also was exposed to various floor textures, elevators, noises, big groups of people petting him, so I thought that he would be a good fit for everything that goes on at an airport, which is why I focused on this type of therapy work. He enjoys it & the people meeting him get enjoyment as well!"