Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, has welcomed nine Medical Alert Dogs on board as part of the dogs’ comprehensive training and socialisation programme. Organised by the charity Northern Ireland Assistance Dogs (NIAD) the aircraft visit was part of a familiarisation session of George Best Belfast City Airport where the dogs experienced all aspects of taking a flight from check-in to boarding.
Eight golden retrievers are in training to be Diabetes Alert Dogs alongside one Spanish water dog who is trialling the ability to become an Allergy Alert Dog. Aged between one and two and a half years old, the youngsters are in various stages of their Medical Assistance training, having already reached a high standard of obedience and socialisation thanks to their ‘puppy parents’ – volunteers who look after and train the puppies from just eight weeks old. They were walked through every area of the airport from check-in, through security and finally onto a Flybe aircraft.
Andrea Hayes, Flybe Regional General Manager, said, “The comfort and safety of our passengers is at the forefront of everything we do at Flybe. As such approved assistance dogs are very welcome on our domestic flights. We have always facilitated Guide Dogs on board and as the skills of our four-footed friends have become more sophisticated, we are now seeing increasing numbers of other specialist assistance dogs as well. We were delighted to facilitate the medical alert dogs on board and look forward to seeing them taking off with us in the future.”
Judith Byrne, NIAD, explains, “We train and provide medical alert dogs to adults with medical conditions such as diabetes. Our Diabetes Alert Dogs are trained to warn their partner that a hypo or hyper glycaemic episode is imminent, thus allowing time for the person to get to a safe place and take medication or appropriate action. The whole aim of these specially trained dogs is to enable the person to lead a more independent life. Flying is an integral part of most people’s lives now and as such our dogs need to be fully confident when accompanying their partners.”
NIAD is a registered charity which aims to make a positive impact on the lives of adults and young adults live with unstable / brittle diabetes and their families, by providing exceptional, well trained Diabetes Alert Dogs, The charity is currently investigating other areas where medical alert dogs can be trained to assist people such as for those suffering with nut allergies.
Image 1: Flybe cabin crew Katherine Maxwell and Stacey Allen welcome the NIAD medical alert dogs on board.
Image 2: Flybe cabin crew member Stacey Allen with NIAD medial alert dogs Ember, Scout, Isle and Ted getting ready to board.