Kida the therapy dog comes to the rescue, just in time for holiday travel season

Kida, a 2-year-old chocolate golden doodle and her handler Molly Arneson are a registered therapy dog team at Dayton International Airport. (WRGT)

DAYTON, Ohio (WRGT) -- The busy holiday travel season begins Wednesday, November 23, the day before Thanksgiving. According to AAA, nearly 4 million people will be flying during the Thanksgiving holiday. And, that can get frantic. But, Dayton International Airport now has a four-legged calming effect named Kida.

The 2-year-old, 50-pound dog and her handler Molly Arneson are practically superstars at the airport. They can barely make it through the terminal without someone stopping them. Together, Molly and Kida are a registered therapy dog team. They started volunteering at the airport in February. Apparently, a friendly chocolate golden doodle can melt away a lot of airport hassles.

"Oh, you had a delayed flight? See that's what she's here for, delayed flights. People missing their families, working while traveling," said Arneson to some travelers she encountered.

Paul Joyce and Scott Smith were delayed at the airport when Kida came walking by them. They couldn’t help but play with her.

"Very, very nice little dog that came over and kind of made people relax and forget about their flights being delayed and schedules that they're not going to be able to keep," said Joyce.

"I'm surprised they're not at more airports,” said Smith. “But yeah, great idea."

"We always approach people who look interested,” said Arneson. “You know, people who are looking at her and smiling. And like, 'would you like to pet her?' They'll say, 'no that's OK.' I'm like ‘you sure, she's really soft?’ And, then they won't stop petting her."

This is the first holiday season Dayton International travelers can take some time with Kida to relieve the stress.

"We're ready. The more people, we're happy if there's more people at the airport," said Arneson.

Norma Raiff is president of Best Friends Pet Assisted Therapy. She says therapy dog teams are in great demand.

"We just don't have enough teams to go out," she said. "They make you feel better. Cheer you up, bring you to a happier level."

Her nonprofit group offers free training for pet therapy teams. She said the teams are requested by schools, nursing homes, courtrooms and cancer centers.

And, at the airport, the demand is heavy from travelers and workers.

"This is the first time I've ever seen an airport therapy dog inside the airport," said Mike Grace, a pilot with Xtra Airways.

"Sometimes it's the employees that are really stressed out. TSA, they love Kida," said Arneson.

Arneson said she’s had Kida since she was a puppy. She was being trained to be a service dog with 4 Paws for Ability. But, her demeanor was so pleasant, they decided to have her breed puppies instead. So, Arneson and Kida took classes to become a registered pet therapy team. They volunteer at the airport one to three times a week. They're even at the airport for Honor Flights. Meanwhile, they have worked out so well, the airport wants to add more therapy dog teams to cover more days.

By the way, Christmas came early for Kida. Arneson said Petland heard about Kida and has offered free pet food for life.

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