Scout, a 3-year-old golden retriever, gives free hugs. (See above.) His cortisol-reducing duties frequently include appearances at stress-release clinics, but more often than not Scout just likes to stroll the sidewalks downtown, wearing a “Free Hugs” sign.
“When Scout is downtown, he has an affinity for the homeless,” says Scout’s human, Melissa Heinonen. “He recognizes who is in need of love.”
Scout is so good at giving hugs, he has amassed an Instagram following of more than 120,000 people, digitally tracking his travels across Oregon. A certified therapy dog, he also ranges north to Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, whence his account provided reviews of pet-friendly hotels. For Heinonen, a former nurse from Baltimore, it is still bizarre when Scout—in plain doggo dress—gets stopped by a smiling fan who has seen him on Instagram.
Scout’s favorite place in the world? The wide expanse of Cannon Beach, where Heinonen organizes a regular meet-up of other Portland goldens to play together.
Says Heinonen: “He would be there every day if he could.”