Cirra has been recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a Distinguished Therapy Dog. She has been awarded all five AKC Therapy Dog Titles: AKC Therapy Dog Novice (THDN) – 10 visits, AKC Therapy Dog (THD) 50 visits, Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA) – 100 visits, AKC Therapy Dog Excellent (THDX) – 200 visits, and AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD) – 400 visits.
The AKC Therapy Dog™ program awards official AKC titles to dogs who have worked to improve the lives of the people they have visited. The purpose of this program is to recognize AKC dogs and their owners who have given their time and helped people by volunteering as a therapy dog and owner team. AKC Therapy Dog titles can be earned by dogs who have been certified by an AKC recognized therapy dog organization and have performed the required number of visits. Cirra is registered with Therapy Dogs International, an organization dedicated to regulation, testing and registration of therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers since 1976.
Cirra, Glimmer’s Spirit of Acadia, is a nine year old Great Pyrenees who lives on Mount Desert Island with her owners Robyn Douglas and Denise Houseknecht. She is a beloved and extremely active member of her community. In her lifetime Cirra has dedicated over 1,200 hours listening to children read, visiting patients in hospitals and visiting residents in assisted living.
Cirra began her therapy work in 2007 when Cirra and Denise Houseknecht visited patients at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital and Maine Coast Memorial Hospital. In 2011, Cirra and Denise began visiting Birch Bay Retirement Village in Bar Harbor. Cirra drops in to see residents that are fond of dogs to provide canine companionship and emotional support on the Pleasant Cove and Safe Harbor Assisted Living units. Cirra meets and greets visitors, volunteers and staff members as well. Staff members that were typically afraid of dogs have witnessed her gentle nature and over time began to greet her with a pat on the head. Cirra has always loved a “party” and she loves to greet each and every person in the group exercise class. The participants love it and request that she “attend” their class. Her magnificent presence is not lost on the residents, even those with memory loss. When otherwise unable to speak lucidly, a resident spontaneously said, “I would be happy if I could live with you!”
In 2008, Robyn Douglas and Cirra began the Children Reading to Cirra Program. They have visited several schools, libraries and Camp Beech Cliff, however spend most of their time at the Northeast Harbor Library. The Children Reading to Cirra Program provides a comfortable, nonjudgmental, empowering and fun environment to encourage the love of reading and improve reading skills. Learning is enriching and fun with Cirra’s breed cards, word puzzles, activity books and her “C is for Cirra” Alphabet Book. The photographic alphabet book is a favorite library book that features Cirra’s life from puppyhood to adulthood. Cirra gets special notes and drawings from the children in her mail basket in the Children’s Room at the library. A tote bag with a stuffed “Cirra” is available for children to check out and read to “Cirra” at home. Cirra rewards her readers with Cirra bookmarks with tassels of her spun fur, stickers, paw print pencils and special books to take home. Children and adults, especially those with developmental disabilities, have developed special relationships with Cirra. Her young readers learn about safe interaction with dogs and responsible dog ownership.
As a member of the Downeast Dog Scouts, Cirra has been involved in numerous community service projects and educational programs. Her service to her community has been recognized by the Great Pyrenees Club of America, Dog Scouts of America and Therapy Dogs International. Thank you Cirra! Good dog!