Pictured are Dr. Danielle Clark and Charlie. Danielle works closely with Charlie to improve the lives of both pediatric patients and staff at HCA Florida Brandon Hospital.

By Kayleigh Jones

With the assistance of her beloved Labrador retriever Charlie Clark, Dr. Danielle Clark is making a difference in the lives of pediatric patients and staff members at HCA Florida Brandon Hospital.

Fate played a significant role in Danielle and Charlie’s journey together. Danielle and her husband, Ron Clark, had contemplated getting a dog for quite some time, so when an acquaintance chose to rehome their dog, destiny spoke. Despite her longtime fear of dogs, Danielle fell in love with Charlie right away, and he has become a vital member of their family. Charlie entered the Clarks’ lives at a critical crossroads.

“An angel on Earth while I navigated a hard time in my life,” said Danielle when describing Charlie’s personal influence after they adopted him.

After witnessing Charlie’s caring, social and clever character, the Clarks decided they wanted Charlie to be of service to his community in some capacity. Charlie, then 2 years old, began his training to become an emotional support animal in 2020, working extensively with a trainer for over six months. Despite the early limits set forth by COVID-19 guidelines, Charlie and Danielle have been successful in their endeavors to positively contribute to their community during the last three years of his service.

Ron’s connection to the hospital is what started their adventure there. Ron works as the facilities supervisor, and when he brought the notion of Charlie working at the hospital to the human resources department, they loved the idea and were excited to meet Charlie.

Charlie started working at HCA Florida Brandon Hospital in the spring of this year. Wearing an official employee badge that identifies him as CEO — canine executive officer — he has refined his talents and shared his affection with many in a short time. From visiting patients’ bedsides for hugs and pets to strolling along the corridors and greeting everyone he meets with a tail wag, Charlie is a ray of warmth at the hospital.

Charlie has a significant impact at the hospital because with his empathic nature, he makes people feel loved, and in the moment helps bring a little sunshine into people’s lives. His presence assists people in dealing with complex emotions such as stress or anxiety. Danielle said that after conquering her fear of dogs and seeing the wonderful dog Charlie is, “the most rewarding part for me is knowing how much I’ve opened up my heart and mind to really understand dogs.”

Although Charlie plays a serious role at the hospital, at heart he is still a Labrador retriever who enjoys his food and toys, which Danielle believes adds to the beauty of the connections Charlie creates. For more information, connect with Danielle through email at drdanielleclark@gmail.com. HCA Florida Brandon Hospital is located at 119 Oakfield Dr. in Brandon.

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