COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - In the last moments of some people’s lives, one Muscogee County Sheriff’s Deputy and her therapy dog are offering comfort.
Deputy Cynthia Zeisloft, better known as Lieutenant Z in Columbus and her deaf therapy dog, “Beethoven,” regularly visit patients at hospices. The sheer joy that washes over them when they enter rooms can be described as nothing less than remarkable, according to residents.
At 90 years old, Mary Frank is limited in what she can do and who she can see because of coronavirus. Loneliness is a feeling she knows all too well. Wednesday she found a connection with a 100-pound bull-terrier mix who brought some happiness back into her life.
“It is wonderful," Frank said. “It makes me feel good. I am hard of hearing and to think that he can’t hear.”
Beethoven, originally a rescue from Paws Humane Society, was adopted by the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office and trained for several months before becoming a certified therapy dog.
Beethoven and Zeisloft make frequent visits to local hospitals, inmates at the Muscogee County Jail, and nursing homes.
“Seeing Beethoven make an impact on people, I consider it more than a privilege to be apart of this person’s life in their last days," Zeisloft said. "And it’s going to be the last time they see a dog.”
Staff members at Columbus Hospice said in their line of work, it is challenging having to see death all too often, but when they see Beethoven’s four furry paws strut down the hallway, they get some much-needed relief.
“He is my deep breath and that gives us relief from the times that we go through,” said Registered Nurse Jane Galloway.
“We are able to mentally decompress and have some joy with Beethoven," said Registered Nurse Marilyn Jones. "He brings smiles to us.”
Beethoven, although deaf, is no stranger to the spotlight.
He and Zeisloft were selected as the 2020 Volunteers are the Foundation of Hospice Award in the Specialized Volunteer for Pet Therapy Services and Pet Peace of Mind category.
Zeisloft said it’s an honor to receive national recognition for the duo’s efforts but shared what the real reward is.
“When you walk in and people see the dog, they light up," Zeisloft said. "It does not matter how sick they are. It makes such an impact. I get goosebumps just thinking about how it affects people.”
90-year-old Frank said Wednesday’s visit with Beethoven is just what the doctor ordered.
“It gives you a pickup," Frank said. "To think I am complaining about this leg, but this poor dog, he can’t complain to nobody.”
Beethoven is featured in National Geographic’s book “Loyal”. He was one out of 38 therapy and service dogs across the country to be selected that features the way he changes people’s lives.