When visiting Cornwall Community
Hospital (CCH), you might have noticed a hospital team member with four legs
and a tail. That would be Charlee, a 4-year-old Labrador Retriever who has been
with the hospital as a therapy dog since 2019.
The idea of a therapy dog was
brought up in 2018 as we brainstormed new and innovative ways to support our
staff. Today, as the hospital recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and we work
through our 2022-2027 Strategic Plan – which identifies the need to support the
wellbeing of our People as a strategic priority – Charlee’s therapeutic
presence at CCH has become more important than ever.
As a certified therapy dog
through the Canadian Kennel Club, Charlee is fully trained in obedience and
manners and provides affection, comfort, and love to our staff, physicians,
volunteers, students, midwives, and more. She wears a dedicated therapy dog
vest and even has her own hospital ID badge.
Charlee usually works all day
from Monday to Friday, often called to visit staff working in the Emergency
Department, palliative care, or other nursing units following stressful
shifts. She also attends meetings alongside her full-time handler, Jennifer
Barkley, the hospital’s Director of Diagnostic Services.
“Working in a hospital, staff are
often faced with extremely demanding, stressful, and traumatic situations, but
when Charlee enters the room, you can just feel everybody’s spirits being
lifted. She’ll even make her way next to someone who she feels is anxious or
stressed and signal that she wants some attention. It’s truly amazing to see
her practising and providing therapy in real-time,” explains Jennifer.
According to Jennifer, the morale
boost that Charlee brings to the workplace every day is truly palpable.
“I can’t go for a walkaround with
Charlee without being stopped numerous times along the way. She’s even
developed a reputation with community partners, such as paramedics and police
officers, who often make a point of visiting Charlee when they are at the
For Stefani Groulx, a Registered
Nurse in our Emergency Department, a
good day isn't really a good day without seeing Charlee’s wagging tail at least
“Working in the Emergency Department has been a little
overwhelming with how busy it’s been, so I always try and make a point to stop
in to see Charlee when I have a minute, and I’m not the only one who does that.
Seeing her allows us to momentarily forget about our stresses or pressures and
she just makes you feel happy,” says Stefani.
Stefani recalls a time at work
when she was struggling emotionally following the passing of her long-time pet
Goldendoodle, and she appreciated being able to stop in and see Charlee for
some much-needed therapy.
“Charlee could tell I was hurting, so she brought me a
stuffed toy and pushed it under her gate to show me that she was there for me.”
In fact, Charlee’s no stranger to
handing out stuffed animals. Although she isn’t a therapy dog for patients (due
to infection control and allergy reasons), Charlee recently brought some
holiday cheer to our paediatric patients over the holidays, delivering stuffed
animals from a safe distance at the bedside.
This was made possible through a special partnership with our local
PetSmart Cornwall. For several weeks, customers at PetSmart Cornwall could
purchase a PetSmart holiday plush toy and donate it back to the store to be
distributed by Charlee at the hospital.
Through this initiative, CCH received a donation of over 300 holiday
plush toys to be distributed by Charlee to any child or patient who needed a
smile, and there were certainly lots of smiles to be had.
When it’s all said and done, Jennifer says there’s no denying that
Charlee is committed to her friends at CCH.
“When we get home at the end of
the day, she turns herself off and often spends her evenings sleeping and
relaxing. Every day that she’s on duty at the hospital, she’s giving absolutely
all of herself to help provide comfort and love to the people around her.”
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Patient and Family Advisory Committee
Cornwall Community Hospital is located on the traditional lands of the Akwesasne Mohawks and their ancestors. We are forever grateful to those who had been on these lands before us and through their stewardship and connection to the land, have made it what it is now. Read our full Land Acknowledgement here.
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