Meet SJ Airport's Therapy Dog

An airport can be an emotional place. Sometimes you need a shoulder (or a paw) to cry on

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Area's Damian Trujillo spends a day at the airport with a companion who really knows how to comfort troubled passengers. (Published Monday, Sep 12, 2011)

    He walks around both terminals at Mineta San Jose International Airport.

    Henry James doesn’t speak and he can’t give advice, but for the last year he’s been providing therapy for people going through a difficult time.

    The airport is often a place where people say painful goodbyes to loved ones.

    “It’s extremely difficult because I really haven’t seen my family in a really long time,” said Naomi Torres, who was catching a plane to Texas.

    Kyra Hubis, Henry James’ handler, said, “People sometimes need someone to talk to."
     
    Henry James is a golden retriever and a therapy dog. And Hubis is one of the airport’s volunteer chaplains.

    “I walk the terminal without him, and people don’t come up to me. But if I walk with him, he’s an ice breaker,” Hubis said.

    There are five other therapy dogs who roam the airport, but Mondays belong to Henry James and he is a virtual magnet.

    “The idea is awesome,” said Robin McIntire, who was flying to Colorado. “He just brought me joy. He’s a hugger and kisser. He’s a big puffy ball. Who wouldn’t want to hug on him?”

    Gwen Hepler was headed to Pennsylvania when she met Henry James.

    “It’s wonderful,” she said. “So many people are uptight flying. It’s not a relaxing, pleasant experience for a lot of people.”

    Henry James knows when its time to wag his tale, and when it’s time to sit and listen.

    Hubis says that’s exactly what he did when a couple from out of town walked up to him a couple weeks back.

    ‘’His wife saw him, knelt down on the floor, and buried her head on his fur. And for a good 3 minutes was sobbing, and telling him her father was dying… and didn’t know if she was going to see him again,” said Hubis.

    On Monday afternoon, his tail stopped wagging again when he came upon two sisters whose pain was visible.
     
    He sat and he listened as one of the women placed her head on his.

    ‘’I’m going to give back in some way,” said Hubis. “I got him and he has to do more than just look cute. He has to give back. So together, I feel we’re doing something.”

    Henry James stayed with the two sisters for a while. And without saying a word, for that moment, he was their therapy.