The “Wag Brigade” Of San Francisco Airport

Meet the Wag Brigade! It’s made up of 22 dogs and 1 pig who help passengers relax at San Francisco International Airport

This is LiLou the therapy pig. She knows a whole bunch of tricks

The animals are all certified therapy pets

The Wag Brigade program started in December 2013 and ever since then, the doggos have been meeting and greeting everyone who’s feeling a bit down or in need of a pick-me-up.

And LiLou the pig joined the team not too long ago. She’s hypoallergenic (instantly a 10/10 for me), she knows how to do lots of tricks: she can greet you with a wave, stand on her back hooves, and perform with her toy piano! (Obviously, not all at once, though that would be impressive.)

According to Jen, back in 2013, they “had noticed a trend with a few other Airports that had started similar programs and I was asked to take a look at those programs to see if I could create something fun and unique to SFO. The idea for therapy dogs in Airports got started the day after 9/11 when an airport employee at SJC brought his therapy dog into work to ease passenger jitters and anxieties.”

Every doggo has its own unique way of cheering up stressed-out passengers

Jen told us that being in the company of animals helps reduce stress: “Scientific research shows that pets make us happier and healthier. Dogs love making people happy. It’s been proven that petting a dog increases levels of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for making us happy; and decreases levels of cortisol, the hormone responsible for making us feel stressed and anxious.”

We were curious to find out where the animals go and what they do when they’re off duty. “All of the Wag Brigade animals are personal pets and when the animals are off-duty they accompany their human handlers as they go about their day-to-day routines. Most of the animals live in San Francisco and they enjoy fun dog activities like playing fetch at the beach or the park! Some even pick-up additional volunteer shifts at local hospitals, nursing homes, colleges, and Puppy Dog Tales Reading (PDT) Programs.”

“Our main goal is to connect with our guests, bring people together, and to provide a memorable Airport experience,” Jen added. “Our Wag Brigade dogs are required to pass a Canine Good Citizen Test (CGC); and all of the animals must graduate from the SF SPCA’s Animal Assisted Interaction program; are required to have at least 6 months to a year of successful therapy experience working with other organizations prior to coming to the Airport to audition for the Wag Brigade.”

She continued: “Potential Wag Brigade teams are evaluated for their temperament, as well as Airport suitability. It is especially important that the animals are good with children. We look for animals with stable temperaments, friendly personalities, impeccable manners, and are very obedient. The animals are like Airport celebrities and they look forward to being loved and petted on here at SFO. It’s a win-win for the animals and our Airport guests!”

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