San Francisco International Airport Welcomes Cat, Duke Ellington Morris, to its Therapy Animal Team
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has a long history of providing exceptional passenger experiences. Its well-regarded “Wag Brigade” therapy animal program is a central part of this commitment, creating a soothing environment and helping to reduce the stress that often accompanies travel. On May 27, 2023, SFO welcomed its newest member, a 14-year-old cat named Duke Ellington Morris, to its growing team of therapy animals.
The arrival of Duke Ellington Morris is especially notable because he is the first feline member of the Wag Brigade. Over the years, the Brigade has been composed primarily of dogs of various breeds, along with a few unconventional members such as LiLou, a Juliana pig. The introduction of Duke Ellington Morris expands the diversity of the Brigade, demonstrating SFO’s ongoing dedication to catering to the different preferences and comfort levels of all travelers.
Duke Ellington Morris is a striking black and white Maine Coon, a breed known for its friendliness and sociable nature. Weighing in at around 20 pounds, this gentle giant has a captivating presence that is sure to draw the attention of passengers. Despite his size, Duke exudes a calm and comforting demeanor that can soothe even the most nervous traveler.
Duke has been a therapy animal for over eight years, providing comfort and companionship to people in hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. His owner, Anna Morris, named him after the legendary jazz musician Duke Ellington, a testament to her belief in the therapeutic power of both music and animals.
Joining the SFO Wag Brigade requires an exceptional level of training and temperament. The San Francisco SPCA certifies all animals that are part of the Brigade. They must complete a rigorous therapy animal certification process that includes obedience training, behavioral assessments, and socialization exercises. Duke Ellington Morris has surpassed these requirements with flying colors, illustrating his capability to navigate the bustling airport environment and provide solace to stressed passengers.
As a member of the SFO Wag Brigade, Duke Ellington Morris is scheduled to make regular appearances in the airport terminals. The goal is to give travelers a chance to pause and take a moment to pet and interact with him. He wears a vest that says, “Pet Me,” an open invitation to engage with him, providing an immediate sense of relief and positivity in what can often be a tense environment.
SFO’s Wag Brigade program has always been a crowd favorite, drawing smiles from travelers of all ages and from all corners of the globe. The inclusion of Duke Ellington Morris adds a new dimension to the program. His calming presence and the distinct purring sound, known to lower stress and blood pressure, make him the perfect addition to this innovative program.
The benefits of therapy animals in high-stress environments are well-documented. Studies have shown that interaction with pets can reduce blood pressure, decrease levels of stress hormones, and promote feelings of relaxation and well-being. This makes the presence of Duke Ellington Morris in the airport environment not only a delightful surprise for passengers but also a significant contributor to their physical and emotional health.
With the addition of Duke Ellington Morris, SFO continues to uphold its commitment to passenger comfort and well-being. By continuously evolving and expanding the Wag Brigade, SFO has demonstrated an understanding of the diverse needs and preferences of its passengers, proving its place as one of the world’s leading airports.
The arrival of Duke Ellington Morris at SFO has generated much excitement, and passengers are looking forward to experiencing the therapeutic benefits of interacting with him. His soothing purrs, comforting presence, and the gentle affection he provides make the travel experience more enjoyable and less stressful.
Duke Ellington Morris is a unique cat with an important mission: to make travel better for everyone. His addition to the SFO Wag Brigade will no doubt create memorable moments for travelers, be they families on a vacation, business travelers en route to meetings, or those journeying to reunite with loved ones. The atmosphere he helps foster—an ambiance of care, empathy, and tranquility—is invaluable in an environment that can sometimes feel cold and impersonal.
Despite being an older cat, Duke Ellington Morris carries himself with the grace and confidence of a cat in his prime, embodying the spirit of the jazz musician he was named after. As he strolls through the terminals, his tail held high, he exudes an air of gentle majesty that seems to resonate with people, offering a silent reassurance. His serene demeanor and his vast experience as a therapy animal make him an ideal fit for SFO’s Wag Brigade.
Duke’s previous experiences have prepared him well for this role. His many years of service have equipped him with an uncanny ability to sense distress in humans, moving towards them with a quiet understanding. His presence often serves as an ice breaker, prompting conversations between strangers, thus creating a sense of community in an otherwise transient space.
But Duke’s influence extends beyond the immediate comfort he offers to stressed travelers. His presence is a testament to the evolving understanding of the value animals can bring to public spaces. The decision to include a feline member in the SFO Wag Brigade sends a message about the inclusivity and progressive nature of the program, and by extension, the airport itself. This move could pave the way for other airports and public facilities to adopt similar programs, expanding the roles animals can play in our society.
Moreover, Duke’s age symbolizes the value of older animals, often overlooked for adoption in favor of their younger counterparts. By showcasing the affection, calm, and joy that senior pets like Duke can bring, SFO sends a powerful message about the worth and potential of these animals.
Duke’s role at SFO will not only enhance the airport’s reputation but also create lasting impacts on the travelers he encounters. For some, he might serve as a beacon of calm amidst the flurry of travel. For others, a brief encounter with him might inspire them to adopt a pet, potentially changing the lives of animals in shelters.
As Duke Ellington Morris steps into his role at SFO, he carries with him the capacity to change perspectives, to offer comfort, and to remind us all of the therapeutic power of animals. His addition to the SFO Wag Brigade signifies more than just a new face; it embodies a progressive and inclusive mindset, a commitment to passenger well-being, and a nod to the significant role animals can play in our lives. His purrs may echo through the bustling airport, but his influence reaches far beyond its walls.