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'We're here to bring smiles' | These dogs are working hard at the Charlotte Airport

Canine Crew volunteers welcome passengers with a smile and a wagging tail, spread joy through positive interactions, and help calm stressed passengers.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The airport can sometimes be a stressful place.

For example, the TSA line is too long, your flight is canceled or delayed or you have just 10 minutes to get from Concourse A to C. The volunteers at CLT Canine Crew are hoping to take away some of that stress. 

According to their website, all dogs are registered, professional therapy dogs with at least one year of experience working as a therapy dog. Each member of the crew wears a Pet Me dog vest, and handlers wear a CLT Canine Crew t-shirt.

"Canine Crew volunteers welcome passengers with a smile and a wagging tail, spread joy through positive interactions, and help calm stressed passengers," the airport said. 

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Meet one pup 12-year-old Izzie and her handler, Mark Heinen. 

Heinen said he rescued Izzie from Animal Care & Control 11 years ago when she was about 4 months old. Izzie, who has been extremely friendly her whole life, started volunteering in and around the Charlotte area when she was six years old. 

"They looked at her and said 'hey you know she looks like she could probably do this,"  Heinen recalled. 

So Heinen and Izzie began volunteering at assisted living facilities and then the public library. 

"She would just lay there with kids, and it was an awesome program too," Heinen said. "Because if they were scared to read in class, the whole idea is anybody can read to a dog." 

Heinen said about four years ago, he spotted a poster at Charlotte Douglas seeking therapy dogs. He said he applied and the rest is history. 

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"She makes everyone happy. She likes it," Heinen said. 

Izzie, who apparently has all of the passengers trained, is always excited when she gets to go to work with her dad. 

"She knows where we are when we arrived at the parking garage. So she's running down the stairs and everything like that," Heinen chuckled. 

Heinen said Izzie is so popular, that he has to wait to put on her "pet me" vest. If she wore that into the airport, Heinen said they would never leave the parking garage. 

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"We wouldn't make it across the four lanes," Heinen said. "I mean once one person figures it out, I'm not getting across." 

CLT is one of about 50 airport therapy dog programs in the US. Programs like the Canine Crew are becoming popular because numerous scientific studies show that the act of petting a dog makes people feel better mentally and physically:

    • Releases serotonin, a hormone that elevates your mood.
    • Lowers anxiety and blood pressure.

Click here to learn more about the program and to volunteer. 

Contact Meilin at mtompkins@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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