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Pets aim to ease travelers' stress at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport

"When a person sees animals, blood pressure decreases and heart rate calms," said Elysia Reineck, Therapet executive director.
Credit: Maleri McHam - Tyler Morning Telegraph
Animals from Therapet greet travelers at the Tyler Pounds Regional Airport during the holidays.

TYLER, Texas — A mix of fur and feathers greeted travelers Wednesday as they entered the Tyler Pounds Regional Airport.

Volunteers with Therapet, a nonprofit organization in Tyler, try to go to the airport every year around Christmas to help relieve the stress of traveling, said Elysia Reineck, Therapet executive director.

Wednesday's visit to the Tyler airport included four dogs and a cockatoo named Cuddles.

“As many of us know, flying even pre-COVID was very stressful and caused a lot of anxiety,” Reineck said. “You throw on the challenges that we’re under now with travel, and it's even more critical to try to reduce some of that stress for the travelers.”

When a person sees animals, blood pressure decreases and heart rate calms, she said.

Therapet primarily serves hospitals, rehab facilities and schools, but it tries to attend community events when possible, she said. This is about the seventh year Therapet has greeted travelers at the airport, Reineck added.

Seeing people interact with the animals is rewarding, she said. There are times when members encounter someone with a downturned face who doesn't seem “checked in with life,” but when dogs walk into the room, the person's whole mood changes, she said.

Read more from our newspaper partners, the Tyler Morning Telegraph.