First Therapy Pig Greets Anxious Flyers at San Francisco Airport
Travel| | By Robin Milling
If you’re one of those nervous nellies who says they’ll get on a plane “when pigs fly” – well no more excuses. Meet LiLou, the first therapy pig stationed at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) who greets you with a comforting nudge of her snout as you enter the terminal to calm those flying fears. The friendly swine was suitable for the airport because of her easy temperament, charming personality, and adorable looks. Her attire ranges from a “Pet Me” vest which encourages interaction with airport guests, to an interesting variety of tutus. The kicker is her perfectly manicured pink nails. LiLou doesn’t actually fly – she is the newest recruit of the “Wag Brigade”, formed in December 2013, whose members include about 300 cats, dogs and rabbits certified by the San Francisco SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Deployed by SFO, they work hard to ease passengers onto their journey. LiLou is a Juliana pig and an Instagram sensation with almost 2,000 followers. Tatyana Danilova, her mom who raised her in the city, enrolled her in the SPCA’s Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) training program along with three dogs where she graduated in Spring 2016 with flying colors. Animal trainees are certified after they meet the requirements which are “pets must be interested in and eager to approach people and accept handling, regardless of the person’s age, gender, race, size, mobility equipment usage, and apparel.” LiLou is the first of her kind to enroll in AAT since it began in 1981. She joins a menagerie of other odd therapy pets such as chinchillas, a bearded dragon, a turtle, guinea pigs and a Moluccan cockatoo. Lilou is not only a joy to be around – she can also play a mean toy piano and entertains travelers while they’re waiting to board.
When not required for airport duty, LiLiu spends her time visiting senior centers and hospitals in San Francisco. As for now, her SFO schedule is once a month with her commitments for further airport visits still waiting for take-off. And if she personally can’t assuage your jitters, LiLiu has been known to go on the occasional beer run.
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