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Meet Maya Belle who has earned AKC’s top Therapy Dog title of THDD for making more than 400 visits to help others. She and her owner, Raymond Rauen of Livonia, MI, spend hours every week to cheer patients at St. Mary Mercy Hospital

Since Maya Belle and Ray began volunteering at St. Mary Mercy Hospital nearly three years ago, they have comforted countless patients and their families, made numerous friends among staff, gained a following on Facebook (Maya Therapydog) and become frequent attendees at hospital events.

Maya Belle made hospital history when she became the only canine to earn the L.O.V.E. award in 2012. The honor recognizes employees or volunteers who are committed to the hospital’s core values of reverence, justice, stewardship, integrity and a commitment to the poor.

The hospital honored the pair again in 2014. It created the Bow WOW award specifically for Maya Belle after she received more than 18 nominations for a second  L.O.V.E. award while logging more than 2,600 volunteer hours over three years.

“St. Mary is great about the flexibility we have. We can come in whenever we want and are allowed almost everywhere … waiting rooms, patient rooms, ICU. People need it,” Ray said. “I’ve had doctors say, ‘Hey, can you stop by and see this little boy or that little girl? They’re crying. Can you distract them?’ Or we’ll get paged — ‘Maya the therapy dog to room so and so.’”

Ray describes the 5-year-old German Shepherd-Labrador Retriever mix as “mellow” with the perfect mix of personality, smarts and obedience for the job.

Ray and his wife, Shirley, found Maya Belle, then 5 months, at the Michigan Humane Society. She was shy and “looked so downtrodden,” Ray recalled.

The couple took her home and Ray enrolled her in obedience training. An instructor told him she would make a good therapy dog, so Ray had her evaluated when she was 14 months old. She passed her tests and was registered through Therapy Dogs Inc. – the start of an amazing career for the therapy dog team!

Get more information on joining the AKC Canine Partners community for All Dogs, including mixed-breeds and rescues.

Get more information on the AKC Therapy Dog Titling program.