For traveling long distances, flying is undoubtedly the way to go — on any given day, more than three million people safely fly by aircraft, reaching their destinations in a fraction of the time that driving or train travel would take.
Unfortunately, Hobbes the stuffed tiger never even got a chance to fly. His owner, 6-year-old Owen, lost him somewhere at Tampa International Airport before he and his family boarded their flight to Houston.
“When Owen asked for Hobbes on the plane, my husband and I looked at each other and our hearts sunk. We knew he was left behind,” Lake said.
Luckily, Hobbes, a handmade gift from Owen’s aunt, was in good hands. The airport’s staff found the tiger — and decided to let him take a journey of his own throughout the airport.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Tony D’Aiuto, the airport operations center manager, photographed Hobbes eating gelato, playing Jenga, riding a luggage cart and exploring various behind-the-scenes locations within the airport. Photos show the stuffed tiger at the air traffic control tower, hanging out with airport firefighters and even getting in a workout at the employee gym.
D’Aiuto said he got the idea for Hobbes’ journey after seeing a photo series that showed a stuffed lion “exploring” a museum. He decided to extend the gesture to one of the Tampa airport’s travelers as soon as the opportunity arose, noting that he took the photos during his lunch hour.
“I pitched this idea a couple of months ago after I saw a similar idea where someone took a stuffed lion around a museum,” D’Aiuto said in a statement from the airport. “This seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
When Owen and his family returned to Tampa, airport workers reunited him with his orange friend and gave him a special hardcover photo album to show what Hobbes had been up to.
“It was very, very sweet,” Lake said in the airport statement. “We already told him over and over that Hobbes was on an adventure, so it was nice to get back and show him that Hobbes really had been on an adventure. Owen really loves him. He’s special, and we are so thankful for the airport and what they did.”