Lonely Planet Writer

San Francisco Airport's therapy pig Lilou is proving a massive hit with passengers

San Francisco International Airport’s Wag Brigade latest addition, Lilou the pig, is proving a massive hit with passengers in the airport’s busiest terminals. The newest addition to the airport’s Animal Assisted Therapy programme was brought on board at the end of last year.

Reaction to LiLou has been unprecedented, according to SFO authorities.
Reaction to LiLou has been unprecedented, according to SFO authorities. Image by San Francisco International Airport

Although many airports such as LAX and MIA have introduced therapy dogs into their terminals, SFO expanded their program to include non-canine member Lilou in December. Intended “to make passenger travel more enjoyable” the Wag Brigade brings trained therapy dogs (and now a pig) to airport terminals to help alleviate visitor’s travel-induced anxiety and frustrations. The small, colorful Juliana-breed pig is the first porcine member of the team 

A lot of selfieshave been taken with LiLou
A lot of selfies have been taken with LiLou Image by San Francisco International Airport

Lilou has prior experience bringing good cheer to places where it’s needed most. “The SPCA contacted us to advise that LiLou’s owner/hander Tatyana, who was already volunteering at hospitals and senior centers, was interested in coming out to the airport,” said Doug Yakel, SFO’s Public Information Officer. “We scheduled an airport orientation visit (standard for all incoming Wag Brigade hopefuls), found it to be a good fit, and the rest is history.”

The airport authorities say the uniqueness of a trained pig has been a huge attraction.
The airport authorities say the uniqueness of a trained pig has been a huge attraction. Image by San Francisco International Airport

Hypoallergenic and temperamentally-vetted by the SPCA, Lilou provides a cheerful, albeit somewhat unexpected surprise to travelers with her smiling snout, wagging tail, and painted little hooves. In addition to the Wag Brigade “Pet Me!” vest uniform, Lilou is often dressed in a variety of costumes from a pink ballerina tutu to a pilot’s hat. Giving new meaning to the term ‘hamming it up,’ she garners quite the crowd as she strolls through airport terminals with her owner, whipping out tricks such as “playing a toy piano, performing twirls, and taking a post-performance bow.”

The airport say they are open to other animals that the SPCA recommends
The airport say they are open to other animals that the SPCA recommends Image by San Francisco International Airport

Yakel says feedback about Lilou has been great so far, and travelers stopping for a selfie with Lilou is not uncommon. “The reaction to any Wag Brigade member is terrific, but the uniqueness of a trained pig, especially one as adorable as LiLou, has been unprecedented. It’s like seeing an A-list celebrity walking through the terminal.”

A post shared by LiLou the Pig (@lilou_sfpig) on Feb 10, 2017 at 1:05pm PST

Lilou graces SFO with her presence about once a month. She has racked up quite a following on her own Instagram account, where she announces her airport dates ahead of time. Stay up to date on Lilou’s airport appearances by following her Instagram account: lilousfpig.

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