Comfort dogs at O'Hare help travelers cope with stress

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Santa’s got his reindeer to help him fly, but at O’Hare’s Terminal 1 this week, travelers are getting some help with their Christmas plans from some very special dogs.

Sylvia the dog was getting lots of love on Tuesday. The 2-year-old Labradoodle is one of about two dozen comfort dogs in the United Airlines Terminal at O’Hare. They were helping travelers cope with the stress of flying during the holidays.

“I instantly smiled when I walked by,” said traveler Lindsey McKinney.

“It's nice, especially when you're stuck in the airport for a couple of hours,” said traveler Allison Roebker.

O’Hare is one of seven airports nationwide where the United Paws program has been offered this holiday season.

“United understands that this is a stressful period for a lot of travelers, Even the most seasoned traveler may find him or herself getting a little stressed,” said United Airlines spokesperson Charlie Hobart.

Sometimes it's hard to tell who's more excited to be here: the travelers flying out of O'hare, or the dogs who are here to greet them.

And why wouldn't the dogs love it? They get kissed by children, scratched behind their ears, they’re adored by babies, and their photographs are shared all over the world.

And all the while, they’re providing some important benefits for anxious holiday travelers.

“Research has actually showed that petting a dog for five minutes can reduce blood pressure, it actually releases a hormone that is associated with bonding and affection,” said Hobart.

And for travelers like Jared Fruland, who was catching a flight to Seattle, the bonding and affection were appreciated.

“Just a nice little warm feeling before you jump on a plane, for four hours across country. Yah, so it's a nice little holiday treat,” Fruland said.

This is the second year for the United Paws program, and the airline says the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.