Therapy Dog Brings Empathy and Connection to His Community

From the prison to the hospital, to the school and beyond, Beethoven and Cynthia are making a difference for each person they meet.

Cynthia + Beethoven

Beethoven was an adoptable dog, and Cynthia was a handler in their therapy dog team. Beginning with mental health inmates, their therapeutic work has made them a beacon of hope in their community.

"Working with Beethoven at the jail, I am privileged to see how he immediately transforms the inmates, bringing calm and happiness as soon as we walk into each dorm. "

Beethoven wasn’t my first choice in a therapy dog team for the mental health inmates at the jail. I actually left him overnight at PAWS Humane to make sure I was making the right choice, but I woke up the next day and knew: Beethoven was the right fit. Beethoven was deaf and in a loud jail environment that was ideal; he wouldn’t be scared of the constant noises and banging.

Working with Beethoven at the jail, I am privileged to see how he immediately transforms the inmates, bringing calm and happiness as soon as we walk into each dorm. The most fun is watching one of the mental health inmates who happens to be deaf completely bond with Beethoven every week. The inmate is so excited to have a special deaf furry friend to talk to, and he makes an impact with each inmate we visit.

Since working with Beethoven as a team, my view of inmates and their lives has altered my jaded façade and has made me more understanding of the situations that bring people to certain extremes, and how they end up in jail. Working with mental health in the jail and our community, Beethoven has built a genuine bridge of caring and love that has exposed an unremarkably heartfelt and eye-opening perspective in my life.

Watching the impact Beethoven makes on the inmates, and being in law enforcement, I knew I had to share Beethoven’s gifts with the community. Beethoven’s impact on my life as a therapy dog team has literally created a path in our community that has changed my life. We now work in hospitals, schools, libraries, and hospices. We visit patients who are so sick or declining in their health that I know that they will not be there the next time we visit. Still, I got to be a part of that person’s life; Beethoven got to be a part of that person’s life, and I know that this will be the last time that this person will ever see a dog. 

I am privileged and blessed to be Beethoven’s handler. Being a part of this team, seeing that for a brief moment in someone’s life, Beethoven connects—we are a part of something so special, that so few get to witness. Who would have thought that this homeless, deaf rescued dog wandering around Columbus, Georgia would make such a difference in so many people’s lives? It is truly a privilege to witness.

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Cynthia won PAWS Humane in Columbus, Georgia a 2021 Love Stories award.