Piper the Airport Operations Dog. Image via www.airportk9.org
I recently had the opportunity to adopt a puppy from a local animal shelter. My new puppy is a Shiba Inu with a lot of energy. She’s instantly become a big part of my life (mostly because she’s so needy and needs constant supervision until she’s housebroken) and it got me thinking about how dogs can fit into the wide world of aviation.
Most people think of the pain of traveling with animals when they think of bringing animals into aviation. However, there are several ways that dogs have been brought into aviation to do a job or accomplish a mission. I have collected some of the most fascinating examples of these dogs and I would like to share them with you.
Airport Operations Dog
A video went viral a few months back featuring Piper the K-9 Wildlife Management Specialist at Cherry Capital Airport in Michigan. The dog works closely with his Operations Specialist owner who drives him around to chase away any wildlife that is a hazard to airport operations. Wildlife can be a huge problem at airports, and sometimes using flares and traps isn’t enough. He appears to love having such an important job, and getting to run around chasing his natural enemies away must be rewarding as well.
Airport Security Dog
I have encountered airport drug sniffing dogs several times during my travels. These large, serious-looking dogs walk up and down the lines heading towards TSA. They have a mission to find drugs or hazardous materials that passengers may be trying to smuggle past security. They are extremely good at their jobs and help add an extra layer of protection to the airport with their superior sniffers.
Lost and Found Dog
Another viral video sensation, which unfortunately turned out to be staged, featured the adorable beagle named Sherlock who returns lost items to passengers on KLM. The PR stunt was done incredibly well, as the majority of people who saw the video (myself included) were completely convinced that dear Sherlock was a real full-time employee of the airline. Although the story was not 100% true, I could totally see a dog with an excellent sense of smell and memory being able to do that job.
Airport Stress Relief Dogs
As I mentioned in my previous article about stress relief, an even increasing number of airports are having volunteers with stress-relief or emotional support dogs come to greet passengers and hopefully make their days a little better. These furry friends help anxious passengers feel calm and comforted. I believe this is an incredibly valuable service, especially during the holidays when passengers who do not regularly fly are on their way to family and friends.
Additional Note on Taking Your Dog Flying
One of the things I was most excited about when I got my new puppy was being able to take her with me to fly-ins during the summer. Thankfully she does great in car rides so I am hoping this will translate to her first plane ride as well. AOPA has a wonderful article outlining tips for flying in your general aviation plane with your dog. It discusses restraints, food and water, motion sickness, oxygen, hearing, and traveling with your dog outside of the U.S. I highly recommend reading it in its entirety before you take your dog for a plane ride. Being safe and knowledgeable will make the flight all the more fun for you and your dog!
I hope this list has helped you see that integrating dogs into aviation can be beneficial and amazing for airports and the dogs themselves. There are a lot of opportunities for well-trained dogs to make a difference in the world. Aviation is a great field for it!