San Francisco International Airport Introduces Therapy Pig
According to research, stroking animals such as dogs and cats can help to dramatically reduce stress and anxiety, which is why San Francisco International Airport first initiated their ‘SFO Wag Brigade’ in December 2013.
Their mission was to bring trained animals into their airport terminals, to reduce passenger stress and make travelling a more enjoyable experience, and now they have over 300 dog, cat and rabbit volunteer teams. However, they have now decided to add a new member to their team – LiLou the pig.
LiLou is the first known therapy pig in the United States, and frequently visits airports, senior centres and hospitals to show off her outfits, painted nails and array of tricks.
The SF SPCA certifies all animals before they are ‘hired’, and each animal is carefully chosen based on its individual temperament and suitability for the job. Once selected, they walk around the airport wearing ‘pet me’ vests, to encourage travellers to interact with them, and hopefully relieve their stress.
Los Angeles, San Jose, Miami and Edmonton in Canada also use the programme.
If you’re a nervous traveller, keep your eyes peeled for therapy pets during your next journey. If your chosen airport isn’t part of the programme, here are some quick tips on distressing during travel;
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- Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the airport and then get through security and baggage control. It may sound obvious, but if traffic makes you late then a mad dash through the airport will increase your anxiety tenfold.
- If you’re an anxious flyer, save something nice for the flight so you have something to look forward to, e.g. read your favourite book, watch a great film or treat yourself to your favourite snack.
- Take time to unwind – many airports are now great places to shop, eat and drink, so take time to wander around and unwind from the first part of your journey through the terminal.
- Stay organised – the last thing you need is desperate rummage through your bag to find your passport, so consider investing in a travel organiser or alike so you know your documents are safe and secure.