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As Winter Storms Cancel Flights, SFO Deploys the “Wag Brigade”

Over the past few weeks, record-breaking storms have led to the cancellation of numerous flights across the U.S. Fortunately, the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has a unique solution to manage the uptick in travel stress. Their method: some much-needed feel-good therapy, courtesy of some really happy dogs.

The Wag Brigade is a furry squad of trained therapy animals that includes 22 dogs, as well as several cats, a rabbit, and even a pig. The critters are decked out in “Pet me!” vests and often get deployed to gates with delayed flights and other high-stress areas. So far the Brigade has been an enormous success. 

“We launched as a pilot program in late 2013 with six dogs to gauge the reaction from passengers,” Jennifer Kazarian, Wag Brigade trainer, told Simple Flying. “The engagement was just amazing. So from then on we were like, okay – send more dogs! We often hear people say things like, ‘I just got back from a two-week vacation, and this is the best part of my trip.'”

Organized by the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Wag Brigade has earned something of a celebrity status among frequent California flyers. It has also served as a paw-some example of the positive effects of animals on human well-being. 

Studies have shown that interactions with animals can lead to a release of oxytocin, a hormone associated with feelings of love and bonding, and a decrease in cortisol, a stress hormone. So, the Wag Brigade isn’t just adorable; it’s a scientifically-backed stress-relief program. 

So, if you find yourself stranded in San Francisco this week, keep an eye out for the “Pet me!” vests. Who knows — you might end up enjoying your layover after all. 

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