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LAX dog-greeter program marks its first year of keeping fliers calm

Los Angeles International Airport

Finn, a large Irish wolfhound, spends some of his time cheering up travelers at Los Angeles International Airport. One day after a gunman opened fire at Terminal 3 and left a Transportation Security Administration officer dead last November, Finn was on the job.

A member of LAX's Pets Unstressing Passengers, or PUPS program, Finn moved in and out of boarding gates, stopping for some petting and love from passengers.

"I think after the shooting, Finn attracted attention because he represented something comforting," owner Brian Valente said in an airport statement. "As passengers asked questions about Finn and started to pet him, I could see their bodies relax and their demeanors change."

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It's been a year since the airport introduced PUPs, a milestone being marked Monday at a meeting of the L.A. Board of Airport Commissioners.

Finn and 29 dogs of all breeds make up the PUPs team. They appear in post-security-screening areas to help reduce the anxiety of traveling. The dogs and handlers wear bright red vests that identify them as part of the program.

The dogs are registered with Therapy Dogs, a national organization that supports pets that visit places such as hospitals, special needs centers and nursing homes and others.

Mary.Forgione@latimes.com
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