I can’t tell you how much I love Beethoven and Cynthia’s story. If more people would realize many of the myths surrounding deaf dogs are not true, they would be able to utilize deaf dogs for their strengths instead of believing everything negative myth they read about deaf dogs. For example they say deaf dogs are more aggressive but actually in studies they are 20% less likely to be aggressive. They say they will bite when they are startled but with proper training it is so easy a dog to be desensitized to being startled.
With proper touch training and conditioning, a deaf dog can easily learn all touch is good. Deaf dogs can make an amazing Therapy dog. For a Therapy dog to go into a hospital or incarceration facility where it is a loud environment, deafness in a dog can be an advantage to the dog being at ease and relaxed while they are working to comfort others.
Thank you Lt. Cynthia Shanon Zeisloft and Commander Dane Collins with the Muscogee County Sheriff’s office for giving Beethoven a chance to shine and show the world how much deaf dogs rock! ~ Christina Lee – Deaf Dogs Rock
Beethoven Loves His Job As A Therapy Dog by Lt. C. Shanon Zeisloft
Beethoven was adopted last May from PAWS Humane in Columbus Georgia by the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office. He had a mission and that was to train to become a Therapy dog for the mental health inmates at the Muscogee County Jail.
I was approached by the warden of the jail (Commander Dane Collins) with his idea and asked if I would be interested in being the handler for the introduction of a therapy dog program. I had to think about it…I had just lost my father in California and my best fur friend Chip had recently passed and then while I was away in California my other fur boy Frank passed away from heart failure. I just wasn’t ready for the responsibility.
I didn’t debate too much and then I made my decision pretty quickly and of course it was yes.
So myself and another Sgt. who is a dog handler for our facility went with me to PAWS Humane. We looked at about 20 dogs or more and as we neared the end of the tour of beautiful pups we came around the corner and there was this white, blue eyed dog just chillin in the corner. We went into his room and asked if we could walk him. Of course once we walked him it was over. We talked and came to the same conclusion this dog would be perfect for the jail environment he can’t hear so he won’t be startled by all the noise of the jail atmosphere and the warden wanted a dog with a pleasant look knowing that there are a lot of people who are afraid of dogs and we needed a special dog with a good demeanor and friendly face. Beethoven fit! his being deaf was just an added benefit.
We were going to look at other places but when I went home that night I knew Beethoven and I were to be a team. I told the Warden the next morning I wanted Beethoven, he said o.k. and I went to go get him.
I did some research looking for a trainer and it was hard to find someone to deal with deaf dogs. PetSmart wouldn’t train deaf dogs but they did refer a lady Bobbi Jo Teal with On Command K-9 Education. Turns out she had a deaf dog! How perfect is that? So she agreed to help with the training process of Beethoven thing is I couldn’t find someone to test Beethoven so he could get his Therapy Certificate it was harder than I thought because he was deaf. I then found PetPartners and there was a local lady who said she would test and register Beethoven as a Therapy dog. So now all our ducks were lining up, all we had to do is start training.
Bobbi Jo met with us once a week and then Beethoven and I would work 3 times a week for two hours for about six months. Beethoven tested for his registered therapy dog certificate with Angie Zapata of PetPartners and well of course we passed! It was scary because I didn’t realize it was a pass or fail as a team. That meant that I could have failed. Whew!
That was it…We started visiting the Inmates of the mental health dorms. There are three, two men one female. Beethoven was a hit. The inmates can’t wait to see Beethoven every week. The warden asked me a couple months later if I could go to the Veteran dorm? Of course we can go. Beethoven now visits four dorms every week at the jail. He plays a significant role to those inmates he visits every week.
The warden called WRBL the local news channel to introduce the public to the new program introduced at the jail. Well, a week after the news cast of Beethoven aired a lady in New York called from National Geographic (Rebecca Asher-Walsh). She said she saw Beethoven and was interested in putting Beethoven in her book that included therapy dogs. I told her I’d have to get with the Warden and the Sheriff. They didn’t hesitate. Rebecca interviewed me and the Warden and just last week I was contacted by Laura Lakeway of National Geographic for photos. So excited!
All of this has just been a whirlwind of attention but really Beethoven loves to visit and meet new people he makes people feel special.
Beethoven has gone to a couple of the public schools where kids will read to him and he sits as if he understands what the kids are reading and he acknowledges the child’s success as each book is read. He has recently started to visit outside the facility going to visit the adult mental health program center here in Columbus called REACH through the New Horizons Community. He has also started to volunteer at Columbus Hospice; in fact today was his first official visit at the facility. (05.27.16)
Here are just a couple of testimonies about Beethoven:
From Paws Humane:
I had the amazing experience today of following PAWS alumni, Beethoven, through the Muscogee County Jail, as he spent therapy time with the mental health inmates. Beethoven truly is in his element when prancing around the jail cells making everyone smile. The inmates light up with Sgt. Z and Beethoven walk through those doors. While he was at PAWS, we knew he was destined for greatness…and greatness is what he does every day while helping provide therapy for the inmates, as well as all of the deputies and staff of the jail. Thank you, Beethoven, for taking me with you today and showing me how you shine!
From Michael Delk:
Thank you so much for your therapy work. My son is in the VA side in the jail. He calls me and tells me Beethoven makes him feel better. Just making him feel better for a few minutes makes his day. I wish your organization could do this more then one day a week. Thank you and God Bless you. Michael Delk
Beethoven is amazing to me. He is able to assess the different environments to which he visits and he acts accordingly. I am amazed at the public’s response to Beethoven in such a very short time. We take this job seriously and although I really like just being at the jail I feel that Beethoven is public figure as I am and he has so much to offer to our community. The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office has introduced an amazing friend to the citizens in Columbus Georgia. He really is a good boy and is loved very much.
This deaf dog really does rock!
Have a great day…
Lt. C. Shanon Zeisloft
Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office
700 10th Street
Columbus, Georgia 31901