Visits by members of the PHL Wagging Tail Brigade have been a highlight for airport guests and employees since the furry volunteers and their owners joined the PHL team in April 2019. When stay-at-home orders were put in place in March, the Wagging Tails Brigade’s visits were put on temporary hiatus—making it a “ruff” few months for those that looked forward to seeing their canine friends in the terminals and for the dogs that love greeting guests at PHL.
With stay-at-home restrictions being lifted, the Wagging Tails Brigade members can return to PHL. Casey the Golden Retriever and her handler, Chris, were the first team to come back to the airport, visiting on July 21.
“We were excited Casey and Chris were ready to resume their volunteer duties,” said Leah Douglas, PHL Director of Guest Experience. “Before they came back, we needed to put protocols in place, for the health and safety of our guests, as well as for our volunteers.”
Prior to greeting guests and then once every hour, Casey was sprayed with a canine antimicrobial spray, a practice many hospitals adopted for their therapy dogs pre-COVID-19. Douglas also accompanied Casey and Chris during their visit, making sure guests were wearing face coverings as they approached Casey and while interacting with her, and having hand sanitizer for guests to use immediately before meeting Casey.
“We weren’t sure how guests would react to the Wagging Tails teams in the COVID-19 world,” said Douglas. “But as we moved through the terminals, quite a few people came up to Casey and wanted to pet her. The purpose of the therapy animals program is to help guests feel more comfortable while traveling. Casey was able to provide that to many guests during her visit.”
For the immediate future, Casey and Chris will visit PHL on a limited basis. Other members of the team will join them when they feel ready to interact with guests.
“Throughout the stay-at-home period, we received photos and videos from our team, showing how they were staying active while missing the passengers. We know they can’t wait to be back,” said Douglas.