In December, 2013 San Francisco International (SFO) joined the growing list of airports where handlers walk trained therapy dogs through the terminals to greet passengers and reduce the stress of travel.
But today SFO’s Wag Brigade get its first non-canine team member: a small, spotted Juliana pig named LiLou, who turns two on Dec. 15 and who has her own Instagram account lilou_sfpig.
LiLou is the first pig to be certified in the Animal Assisted Therapy Program of the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She has a variety of costumes, including a Wag Brigade “Pet Me!” vest. And, according to the stats on LiLou’s Wag Brigade trading card, she also performs a variety of tricks, including greeting people with her snout or a wave, twirling and standing up on her back hooves, and playing a toy piano -- with a proper, post-performance bow.
“I can see that she is happy showing off her tricks and getting her praise,” said LiLou’s owner, Tatyana Danilova. “It also brings positive emotions to me seeing that we can do something good for the community and bring more smiles in some unconventional way.”
While the dogs in SFO’s Wag Brigade have been quite popular, the airport has been working with the SF SPCA to expand the types of animals on the team, airport spokesman Doug Yakel said. “When we learned of LiLou being certified, and met her, we knew this had the potential to be a very popular addition at SFO.”
A photo posted by LiLou (@lilou_sfpig) on
Currently, up to three canine members of SFO’s Wag Brigade can be found on duty in the terminals every day of the week. For now, there’s no set schedule for when LiLou the pig will pop up.
“We expect her out here at least once a month,” said Yakel. “We may end up making her visits a surprise.”
SFO isn’t the first airport where non-canines are part of the animal therapy program.
San Francisco airport hires LiLou the 'therapy pig'
Since last May, miniature therapy horses have been making regular visits to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
We're horsin' around at CVG today! Meet Dakota, our first therapy horse. pic.twitter.com/BUnYueK7K1— CVG Airport (@CVGairport) March 9, 2016
Harriet Baskas is a Seattle-based airports and aviation writer and USA TODAY Travel's "At the Airport" columnist. She occasionally contributes to Ben Mutzabaugh's Today in the Sky blog. Follow her at twitter.com/hbaskas.