Burlington International Airport resurrects therapy dog program

Published: Dec. 11, 2022 at 7:32 AM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Flying can be stressful, especially during the holidays. So, the Burlington International Airport resurrected an old program to help ease some nerves.

For years, John Wrobel has raised therapy dogs, and now, the Burlington International Airport’s reinstituted therapy dog program features his 5-and-a-half-year-old German shorthaired pointer.

The airport’s newest volunteer employee, Ellie Mae, is an airport therapy dog designed to make flying a little easier. Ellie Mae and her owner hang around the terminal to bring smiles to passengers before their flights.

“I think it just puts everybody in a really good mood. It’s something about the dog wagging its tail, seeing it and petting it, it just relaxed her, kind of getting some nerves out,” Brett, a passenger from Washington, D.C., said of baby Bristol.

“It hasn’t been available with COVID, construction, change of management,” Wrobel said. “Again, I want to thank Nic Longo and his entire team for allowing us the opportunity to share Ellie Mae’s treasure, and that’s exactly what she is, a treasure.”

Each day, they spend about two hours in the airport and at the gate meeting flyers.

“It’s cool, actually. I’m a dog person, so it was nice,” said Eric Fatyol of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. “It kind of takes stress off you to see a dog and be able to pet the dog. You know how travel is it’s kind of hectic sometimes.”

“I didn’t even know that they brought therapy dogs to the airport, so that’s really cool,” said Katie Vitez of Morrisville. “I think that’s a good way to entertain kids while you’re waiting for a flight.”

They were also passing out Ellie Mae’s Christmas card. Wrobel hopes that more therapy dog owners will join the program, and one day they can have a therapy dog room at the airport to share their pups with travelers.