Houston Airports, passengers mourn sudden death of beloved therapy dog

Rebel, a golden retriever known for his adorable ensembles, comforted and calmed passengers at Hobby Airport for the last four years.

October 31, 2023

Houston Airports and its employees at William P. Hobby Airport are saddened by the sudden death of Rebel, a 12 ½-year-old golden retriever that participated in the Houston Airports Therapy Dog program since 2019. Rebel was known for his colorful wardrobe, which always included a hat. His handler describes Rebel as a “southern gentleman” who regularly visited hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, senior living facilities, Amazon and Hobby Airport.

“Rebel created unique and memorable moments among our passengers. In his signature hats and colorful costumes, Rebel was always a hit,” said Ella Ghica, Volunteer Outreach Initiatives Manager for Houston Airports. “He was a welcomed distraction from the stress of the day. Both travelers and airport employees loved Rebel. He will be missed.”

Rebel also served as a HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response canine for the last 10 years, He was deployed locally and nationally to provide comfort and support to people affected by traumatic events like school shootings and natural disasters.  

In fact, Rebel was scheduled for a HOPE deployment on the morning of October 11. His mission was to provide unconditional love to firefighters who had responded to a horrific house fire. Rebel’s handler shares that the golden retriever was rushed to an animal hospital because Rebel was unable to stand. In a matter of hours, the veterinarian confirmed Reel had a tumor in his spleen that had attached to his liver and lungs. Rebel was bleeding internally. He passed away a short time later. 

“Dogs are very stoic and often don't let us know what is going on,” said his handler, Jeanne.

Rebel’s last visit to Hobby Airport was Sunday, October 1. Because of his colorful clothing, Rebel was one of the most photographed therapy dogs at Hobby Airport. “You couldn’t help but smile and want to pet him,” said Ghica. “Losing Rebel is devastating. He was part of our Houston Airports family.”

Hobby Airport has a total of 12 Volunteer Pet Therapy Dogs. To learn more about the program click here.