Airports are pretty low on most people’s list of favorite places.
Whether they’re faced with delayed flights, large crowds, or missing luggage, air travel is often stressful. But thanks to this adorable crew, passengers at San Francisco International Airport are having a much better time!
Meet the Wag Brigade, a group of volunteer therapy animals that are trained to tackle stress and anxiety by brightening passengers’ days.
They got their start in 2013 when the airport officially partnered with the San Francisco SPCA, but their inspiration came from a San Jose Airport employee. Right after 9/11, this man brought his therapy dog to work, and the pup’s presence comforted countless people.
The Wag Brigade is made up of animals that have graduated from the SPCA’s Animal Assisted Interactions training program and can adapt to the airport environment. After all, not every pet can manage the noise and the crowds.
Once they’re given the all-clear, the incredible team members stroll through various terminals wearing vests that read “Pet Me!” They tend to focus on areas where flights are delayed.
“A lot of people are missing their own animals when they are traveling, so this provides them with a little bit of comfort,” said Eric Espejo, who cares for one of the dogs. “Traveling is stressful, so any distraction that you can provide while people are traveling is pretty positive.”
Today, there are 22 dogs in the program — and a pig named Lilou!
Lilou is the world’s first airport therapy pig and delights everyone who meets her. Not only is she hypoallergenic, but she can also perform tricks such as standing up on her back legs, taking a bow, and twirling around.
“The reaction from our passengers is really positive,” said Jennifer Kazarian, the manager of the program. “When a Wag Brigade animal walks into the terminal, we see people look up from their devices, and they start to interact with each other and they start to interact with the dog, and it puts a smile on everyone’s face.”
What a fantastic way to cut down on travel stress! Here’s hoping we see a Wag Brigade in every airport someday soon.
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