Fear of flying, long security lines and flight delays are a few of the many stressors found at airports. But travelers passing through San Francisco International Airport (SFO) might get a lick from Prancer, a personable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, or can watch Chedda Cheese, a 4-year-old Fox Red Labrador, perform tricks. What better way loosen up than that? Prancer and Chedda, along with a friendly pack of about 30 other dogs, are volunteers with the Wag Brigade.
The animal assisted therapy program, launched in 2013, is one of several administered by the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF SPCA). The specially trained dogs and their handlers also visit hospitals, senior centers, rehabilitation facilities and universities.
“Interacting with therapy dogs has been proven to offer both physical and mental health benefits,” says Dr. Jennifer Henley, animal assisted therapy program manager at SF SPCA. “We’re hoping our therapy dogs will help provide stress relief to SFO passengers during the busy holiday season and beyond.”
The canines, which have been chosen because of their good behavior and calm temperament, are graduates of SF SPCA’s Animal Assisted Therapy program. They stroll the terminals with their handlers, outfitted in vests that say, “Pet Me!”
Handlers, who also sport identification, have passed 10-year background checks and can assist customers with general airport questions. There were 22 different dogs of varying breeds recruited when the program launched. Next time you are at SFO, “paws” and take some time to interact with them. sfspca.org