The world's first airport therapy pig is comforting US flyers

Nov 12 2019, 5:08 pm

San Francisco International Airport has become the first in the world to have a therapy pig.

Five-year-old LiLou is the most recent addition to the airport’s “Wag Brigade” therapy animal team, reports Reuters.

The Wag Brigade is a program that supplies therapy animals to the airport to ease any stress or anxiety that passengers may have while spreading some positive energy to boot.

LiLou is hard to miss; dressed to the nines in a pilot’s cap and bright red toenails, she confidently waltzes through the metal detector at airport security and trots with a purpose on her way to the various departure gates.

 

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Ready to greet you with a politely raised hoof, LiLou poses for selfies and delights departing passengers by playing ditties on her toy piano with her hooves and snout.

LiLou’s owner, Tatyana Danilova, states, “People are very happy to get distracted from the travel, from their routines, whether they’re flying on their journey for vacation or work…Everybody is usually very happy, and it makes them pause for a second and smile and be like, ‘Oh, it’s great.’”

In times when she is not gifting passengers with her magnetic presence, LiLou lives with her roomie, Danilova, in a downtown San Francisco apartment. At home, she “enjoys a diet of organic vegetables and protein pellets, sleeps in her own bed and goes for daily walks around the neighbourhood.”

 

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Danilova claims that LiLou loves interacting with people. However, since she is a prey animal, she does not like being approached from behind.

Jennifer Kazarian, guest services manager at San Francisco International Airport, says that Lilou is the world’s first airport therapy pig in the Wig Brigade program, which includes dogs of various breeds and sizes. However, LiLou has created a sense of community in the airport.

“When we first launched the program, our main goal was to relieve stress for our passengers. However, what we have found is we have formed a connection with our passengers, and it’s been totally amazing.”

 

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The therapy animals are required to complete a training program with the San Francisco SPCA and must have good manners, a mild temperament, and a friendly personality, according to Kazarian.

While it may seem like an unconventional therapy animal, pigs generally have a very mellow temperament and docile personalities. They love to be cuddled, scratched and massaged. Additionally, they are social animals and enjoy spending time with their owners.

They can also be playful and mischievous and thus can make owners feel more happy and positive through their goofy antics.

 

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Therefore, according to the Official Service Dog, Therapy Dog & Emotional Support Animal Registry, emotional support pigs can help individuals reduce negative emotions and anxiety.

Pigs are trainable and can be tested by a certified assessor and qualify for a therapy pig status. The average lifespan of a pig is 12 to 15 years, meaning they can serve as a long-term companion. However, they require care, attention, and affection, just like any other pet.

Regardless of your stance on the animal, when it comes to the case of LiLou and her work at the San Francisco International Airport, we can all take a note from Charlotte’s Web.

That’s some pig!

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