While an ophthalmologist’s office seems like an unusual place to find an 85-pound Russian Wolfhound, Rhett the Borzoi spent almost every day at Park Avenue LASEK.
Walk through the glass doors of the 25th Street office, pass through the waiting room, and sure enough, among the hundreds of patient files, there sat Rhett, regally lounging upon a worn, maroon cushion, tastefully garnished with his iconic silvery-white fur. If the Borzoi was missing from his throne, he was at work.
And what exactly was work for this Borzoi? Standing at 5 ½ feet on two legs, Rhett earned $1 a minute as a certified therapy dog and donated all his proceeds to canine-friendly charities.
After witnessing the joy Rhett brought patients on pediatric and geriatric floors of hospitals such as Saint Vincent’s and Memorial Sloan Kettering, owner of both Rhett and Park Avenue LASEK, Dr. Emil Chynn decided to transform Rhett’s hobby into a full-time profession.
While the idea started out as pet therapy for those with emotional needs, Rhett ended up providing companionship to New Yorkers prohibited from owning dogs in their apartments, as well as previous dog owners who have recently lost a pooch but aren’t willing to get a new dog just yet. Chynn understands this dilemma personally.
“After I lost my other dog, I wasn’t ready for a new dog, and Rhett was supposed to be a temporary dog,” Chynn recounts. Shortly after, Rhett’s presence had become permanent. Rhett rarely left Chynn’s side, accompanying him religiously on his daily walk from their townhouse in the West Village to their office.
Five-years ago, after an argument with his sister, Chynn realized Rhett’s unique
sensitivity to those around him. After the disagreement, Chynn’s sister began to cry, and within seconds, Rhett traveled across the house and laid his head in her lap.
“It’s unbelievable how he somehow figured this out from many rooms away,” Dr. Chynn exclaimed. “It’s not normal for a dog, it’s not typical, he’s just very intuitive.” According to Dr. Chynn, the canine’s hyper-intuition is what made Rhett an exceptional therapy dog.
Chynn reflects on the love and therapy he, himself, experienced from Rhett. “A dog is so far forward in their love, so totally committed to you, that it is very easy to drop your defenses and love back because you know there’s no chance the love will be unrequited,” he said as he turned to the doe-eyed hound at his feet, crooning in a distinctive voice of compassion, unbeknownst to everyone but the two of them. “They’re never going to withdraw their love, and you’ll never be stuck,” he assured.
Rhett passed away on July 16, 2017