#086: Coordinating Airport Therapy Dogs with Heidi, Chance and Chubs

by | June 5, 2023 | Therapy Dog Talk

Therapy Dog Talk - Heidi + Chance & Chubs

Heidi knows what it takes to coordinate an Airport Therapy Dog program and has helped others to do the same.

In this 86th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I spoke with Heidi Huebner, founder of the LAX PUP Program, and her rescue dogs, Chance and Chubs, who are both certified through Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Heidi shared her inspiring journey from starting her work with Therapy Dogs in 2000 to founding the LAX PUP Program in 2013.

Heidi shared that her dogs found her and that when looking for a Therapy Dog, the right fit is all about the dog’s natural temperament and personality. She spoke about how Chance, a Shepherd Husky Jindo mix, and Chubs, a loveable pug, found their way into her life and the therapy program. Their stories show that all dogs, regardless of their past, have the potential to bring joy and comfort to those who need it.

Heidi took me through the development of the PUP Program, from its launch in 2013 to how it has inspired 90 airports around the world to create their own programs. She shared that “Every dog needs a job”, explaining how therapy work can fit a wide range of breeds and sizes. I was really impressed by how she helps other airports to set up their own therapy dog programs, providing advice and resources from her own experiences.

We had a great conversation about some of the challenges and considerations of therapy work at airports, from handling interactions with other dogs to navigating spaces with police dogs. Heidi also shared a great story about a stressed-out man at the airport who found comfort in the presence of a Therapy Dog.

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Throughout our chat, Heidi emphasized prioritizing the wellbeing of Therapy Dogs, and how important it is for anyone interested in starting an airport therapy program to understand the specific needs and rules of each airport. She left me, and I’m sure you as well, with a deeper appreciation for the extraordinary work Therapy Dogs can do.

I know you’ll walk away from this episode with a fresh perspective on the impact of Therapy Dogs, not only in the LAX PUP Program but also in other airports around the globe. Whether you’re a dog lover, involved in therapy work, or just looking for an uplifting story, this episode is sure to inspire.

In this episode, we discuss …

  • How it’s important for a dog to have a temperament and personality that naturally enjoys Therapy Dog work.
  • What it took for Heidi to create the LAX PUP Program and how she helps others to do the same.
  • Why various working dog teams at an airport need to communicate with each other.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

Note that the timecodes match the video, not the podcast.

  • [00:00:49] Heidi Huebner introduces her own rescue dogs, Chubs, a pug, and Chance, a Shepherd Husky Jindo mix. They’re both part of the LAX PUP Program.
  • [00:01:32] Heidi shares that she started working with Therapy Dogs in 2000 with her nonprofit, Kids and Pets.
  • [00:02:42] Heidi talks about her belief that dogs find their own human partners. She says a dog’s natural personality and temperament are important for therapy work.
  • [00:03:49] Heidi tells us about her dogs, Chance and Chubs, and their roles in the LAX PUP program.
  • [00:04:24] Heidi explains how she started the LAX PUP Program to make the airport experience better for guests.
  • [00:05:29] Heidi shares the story of the PUP Program and how it has inspired 90 airports around the world.
  • [00:07:12] Heidi believes that “every dog needs a job”. She talks about the many different breeds in the PUP Program.
  • [00:09:10] Heidi helps other airports start their own therapy dog programs. She shares how she does it.
  • [00:11:34] Heidi celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the LAX PUP Program.
  • [00:15:06] Sherrie and Heidi discuss how airport Therapy Dogs deal with other dogs, including airport police dogs.
  • [00:17:37] Heidi shares a story about a stressed man at the airport who was helped by a Therapy Dog.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a watch or a listen and then let me know in the community which part you found the most helpful!

Mentioned in this episode:

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Therapy Dog Talk is a podcast where I interview a different team each week via Instagram Live. If you enjoyed this episode please find us over at Apple, Google, or Spotify and give us a follow after you leave a review.

Do you know someone who would make a great guest? Be sure to reach out and let me know.

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