Travel may be an anxious experience, whether you are terrified of flying, concerned about your vacation plan, or simply miss your family and pets back home. Fortunately, there are solutions. Some people believe that nothing soothes nerves like the presence of an animal. This is the concept behind the Wag Brigade at San Francisco International Airport. The initiative invites therapy-certified animals into airport terminals to give comfort and distraction to travellers who are agitated. While many of the brigade’s pets are more typical therapy animals such as dogs, they’ve just been joined by a startling new addition: Alex the Great, a 28-pound Flemish Giant rabbit.
Since its inception in 2013, the Brigade has grown to include 16 diverse creatures, including 14 dogs, Alex the bunny, and Lilou, a pig. The program’s objective is straightforward and powerful: to make passenger travel more pleasurable. Naturally, the faces of the program, the dogs themselves, are the most significant components of this purpose. Each one has been certified by the San Francisco SPCA’s Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) Program and has been chosen for its temperament and airport compatibility.
Flemish Giants, the biggest domestic rabbit breed, are noted for their amiable, easygoing demeanor and tolerance when handled. These are the characteristics that make Alex ideal for the position. He roams the airport in his stroller, delivering a comforting presence and quality time to anxious visitors. He is easily identified by his Wag Brigade “Pet Me!” vest.
Though he currently lives in a loving family and has the opportunity to show that love through interacting with others, it wasn’t always like this. Alex was rescued from a rabbit farm in central California, where he was living in deplorable conditions. “He was coated with fleas and his fur was matted,” says Josh Row, his co-owner. Fortunately, Row was able to persuade the farmer to sell Alex to him for “a large sum of money.” He then brought the rabbit home and cared for him till he recovered. “We cared for him, and he grew well, and we immediately noticed he had a one-in-a-million personality,” Row says.
Alex was able to apply for a position on the Wag Brigade after obtaining his AAT license. The qualifications were initially established for canines, so it seemed doubtful that a rabbit would qualify, yet Alex passed with flying colors. He now visits the airport twice or three times a month as an official member of the Brigade, and he is always greeted with surprise and happiness.
Alex the Great, an adorable 28-pound bunny, is the newest therapy animal to join the San Francisco Airport’s “Wag Brigade.”
These unique creatures may be found roaming the airport terminals, providing comfort to nervous passengers.
Alex is a Flemish Giant, a breed famed for its kindness and tolerance.
Who wouldn’t want to be cuddled by this lovely giant?