My best friend and baby boy is gone.
Rhett’s friends talk about him.
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
I’m so sorry to have to inform you of Rhett’s sudden and tragic death. As you may know, I travel abroad very often for both work & pleasure (am trying to visit 100 countries–I’m at 70). Rhett’s a very sensitive creature, so has never been in a kennel–he has his regular babysitters, but in this case, they were all unavailable so I reached out to some of his other friends who’ve had dogs before
A nice older gentleman who was a fan did have extensive experience sitting his brother’s dog for 6 months before he reclaimed him, and had a “hole in his heart” that “needed to be filled by another dog”. He had sat Rhett 1 week prior when I was in Paris, and sent pictures of him in a “dog pool” & returned him w no ill effects other than weight loss (I told him to feed him more next time)
Anyway, he seems to have brought Rhett to a party in a park and had him out for 2 hours when it was 80 degrees in the sun and didn’t give him enough water. When he got up to go, Rhett collapsed and couldn’t walk, so he put him in a cart and rolled him to the closest vet. Dr. Jaffe, who was very professional, gave him an IV hydration and oxygen but he wasn’t responding well, so they sent him to the VERG animal hospital in Brooklyn. Later when Rhett was in the ICU, I spoke to Dr. Jaffe at length to thank him for his help. Nowhere in our conversation did he mention anything about any charges. Next week I will go there personally to settle everything and give Dr. Jaffe a big hug!
I’m in Ukraine and was supposed to be here finding more Refractive Fellows & Interns as I have a relationship with the prominent Filatov Eye Institute in Odessa. So I didn’t hear about all of this until Rhett was in the hospital bc of the time difference.
VERG had continued with the IVs & also gave him platelet-rich plasma for his admitting diagnosis of DIC. I had 3 of Rhett’s friends rush to the hospital & video chat with me, where I saw that Rhett wasn’t responsive, but was breathing comfortably in no acute distress, with stable vital signs, an increasing BP on hydration, and high PO2 saturation on supplemental oxygen. So I told the vet to just keep him stable until I got there & booked the next flight home. I specifically refused further imaging as they already had taken X-Rays which were negative, and no offense to vets, but from
my experience with Hershey’s demise in the animal ICU 7 years ago, they often over-test and over-treat, much to the detriment of the animal’s comfort and psychological & even physical well-being (people ICUs suffer the same problem bc wise doctors purposely don’t order every test as then you’re almost obligated to treat every abnormalvalues, but in ICUs they are obligated to routinely (over) test
I had paid VERG $2000 by PayPal after speaking to Dr. Slade, the night shift (& admitting) vet for the care they had already rendered, but the receptionist refused to even transfer my call from Ukraine to the day vet until I paid another $2000 for “future care.” Once I spoke to Dr. Fico, after an update on Rhett’s condition that lasted for approximately 4 min, hesaid “look, Dr. Slade & I have been speaking to you ‘ad nauseum’ about Rhett’s condition.” When I pointed out to him that I had only spoken to Dr Slade once for 5 min, and him for 4 min, he refused to agree that ‘ad nauseum’ was inaccurate & inappropriate for a parent calling from abroad & speaking to 2 vets for less than 5 min each over 7 hours asking about his baby boy’s condition, who was also a physician/surgeon wanting to be appropriately participatory in important clinical decisions (especially after my former dog Hershey had 18″ of healthy small bowel resected for what the vet ICU said was a swallowed Wiffle ball (by a Corgi??) which turned out to be a peach pit, discovered by my 85 year old retired neuroradiologist father by rereading their incorrectly read barium swallow, when he had been retired for 10 years and hadn’t read out anything but MRIs and CTs of the head & neck for the last 30 years of his career–a total nightmare).
Anyway as I was packing to go to the airport I got a call from VERG. The only other call I received from VERG was about them not receiving my PayPal payment yet, and I already confirmed they received their second $2k prepayment–so I knew the news wouldn’t be good
Dr Fica got on the phone & said, “your dog had labored breathing, so we decided to intubate him, but the intubation didn’t go well, he had some massive bleeding & went into cardiac arrest, we gave him cardiac massage & epinephrine & got his heart to beat again, but he’s now not doing well. Should we keep coding him to try to keep him alive until you fly back? What would you like us to do?”
I’m thinking “go back in time, notice he had a high PO2, and not make the idiotic decision to intubate a patient in DIC & cause massive bleeding?” Or “learn better intubation technique bc Rhett’s the size of a little pony & skinny so any1st year intern could intubate him?” Or “listen to my legally binding medical proxy directives and not be overly aggressive and kill my dog?”
Instead, I control myself & say “listen–please DNR Rhett as I certainly don’t want you continuing to torture the little guy just so I can get there while he’s still ‘alive’–I’ll call my friends back soDr Dovzhuk (my Ukrainian fellow) can say goodbye by video call as you extubate him. Ok?”
Dr. FICA (I will now have even more distaste for that tax) said he would do as I wished (now, after he didn’t the first time), I called my friends, they rushed back, but by the time Chris returned they said that Rhett had died 5 min before.
So instead of flying out at 7am and landing at JFK at 2pm and leaving my luggage to be stolen & running through Global Entry & getting to VERG so I could hold my perfect child in my arms, stroke his head, kiss his silly nose, and whisper into my baby boy’s ear that he was going to be fine, I’m here now, see Daddy came, you don’t have to be scared anymore, everything is going to be ok, you’re a Good Boy, the very Best Boy, and my very Best Friend, loved you So Much, I’m with you now, all you have to do is relax and go to sleep, I know you’re tired little one but you have to rest now, in the morning we will go to the park, you can run in the fountain to cool yourself off, and you can hunt for your daily slice of pizza on the sidewalk, yes you’re such a fierce little wolf hunter, good thing there are no wolves in nyc or they would be in big trouble, yes my darling we all love you so much, and I couldn’t ask for a better friend & son, now go to sleep my angel, and rest, you have given us everything you had, you were in the park letting people come up to pet you and making them happy even though you weren’t feeling well, you shouldn’t have been so loving Rhett, you didn’t need to give everybody all your love, if you could had understood I would have taught you to save something for yourself, but maybe that wouldn’t have worked anyway, you weren’t built like that, you were an empath, you used to do pet therapy and dozens of people would come up and hug and pet kiss you, and sometimes on the subway even start crying into your neck, and I know you made them all happy, or feel better, often they would say things like “you just made my week”, but then at the end of these days you were tired and all you wanted to do is go home & lie on your couch, why didn’t they know that while they feeling better they were also taking from you, and nobody has infinite love, I tried to put all my love into you so you wouldn’t have it all drained out with 50 pictures and 50 selfies and 100 hugs every day, you needed so much of my affection but how could you not watching your typical day, in all our years together I never once heard you growl or even bark, and when other dogs attacked you you wouldn’t even fight back, you would just jump away and look sad, then I would have to kiss and hug you and say it wasn’t your fault, not everybody is like you Rhett, those mean dogs are lucky they messed with a sweet borzoi because borzois were bred to hunt wolves, I know you don’t understand anger or hate or things like that, I know you only understand love, and your right Rhett, love is the only pure emotion, love is why God made you and gave you to us, and now it’s time to let you go Rhett, don’t worry about me, I’m not crying, these are tears of joy, I’m happy, ha ha, see, Daddy’s happy because he got to be with you now, now go to sleep my little angel, God is calling, and we will see each other again and play in the park together soon, so let me lie down and breathe next to you like we did some nights when I couldn’t fall asleep, let’s do this together, you and me, one last time, my baby boy, let’s go to sleep
Instead I was sobbing while Chris kindly showed me on videochat his corpse, telling Rhett I was sorry I rushed out of the office wo saying goodbye, my staff pulled my luggage to the front to save time & were saying “go, go) and I was late for the plane and forgot, normally I’d go to the back to get my luggage & stop to hug and kiss you and tell you I loved you & to be a Good Boy while I was gone & not give the sitter any problems, then I was 2 blocks away from the office & I remembered but didn’t go back, why oh why did I not go back, who gives a shit about my stupid flight, I’m so sorry Rhett, I wasn’t mad at you, I just forgot, just this one time, it didn’t mean I didn’t love you, please don’t think that, please forgive me, I promised I would protect you, I promised I would be there in the end, I promised you we would sleep in the living room together after you couldn’t walk anymore, and later I would carry you outside to go to the bathroom, and then even later take you home like Hershey & put you to sleep myself surrounded by your friends & those who loved you, but that wasn’t supposed to be for 3-4 years, I’m sorry I failed you, I’m sorry I let you down Rhett, I’m sorry you had to die alone and scared, in a cold ICU, thinking you did something wrong, maybe thinking I’m sorry I went to the bathroom, I tried not to but I couldn’t help it, why is Daddy not here, is Daddy mad at me, sometimes Daddy would put me in the bathroom if I went potty by accident while he cleaned up but only for a few minutes, this is much worse, I’m sorry Daddy, please come Daddy, I’m not happy, this place is scary, oh God I’m so sorry Rhett, you were the best dog anyone could ever have and my baby boy and it wasn’t your fault, it was my fault, it wasn’t even that stupid old guy’s fault bc if I just been more clear with him that you’re Russian so love the cold but hate the heat you would still be alive, if I had taken you to Ukraine this time like I did 3 years ago to donate the $ you raised at your birthday block party to the only no-kill dog shelter in Kiev, but you were getting old so I thought the trip would be too stressful for you now, I’m so stupid, this is all my fault, if I hadn’t been so casual with you with a new sitter you’d still be happy and healthy Rhett, please forgive me, I love you so much, and I can’t imagine know how I will be able to go on without you in my life–although I know I must
Rest In Peace, my little friend, son, and angel
We will be having Rhett’s viewing at 35 Cornelia Street in the West Village on Sat July 22 at11am, and the funeral at 12:30pm at 9 Woodhill Rd in Tenafly NJ, where I will bury him next to Hershey. Please RSVP by email so we have a headcount as transportation will be provided from Manhattan to NJ and back
I will be starting a charity in Rhett’s honor which will allow people who love dogs but are too busy to care for one properly to take legal joint custody of a dog rescued from a kill shelter, and “co-parent” the dog, as happens with joint custody after a divorce. Done properly, with commitment, responsibility, communication, flexibility, understanding, and love, that child’s environment can be as stable, and actually more enriching than a single home. Anyone interested in helping should contact me by email
My deepest thanks to everyone who replied with their kind words & prayers. You can find these, and more pictures of Rhett, on my and his Instagram accounts: @EmilChynn & @RhettBorzoi
Anyone who dislikes this message for some reason should please just click the “unsubscribe” button below, rather than reply w some nasty message (as sometimes happens). Rhett taught me to be a more loving person, which is why I have already forgiven his sitter–but unlike Rhett, I’m still not an angel, and do havemy limits.
Emil William Chynn, MD, FACS, MBA
Rhett's Friends talk about Rhett
i am writing to you about the passing of my baby boy, who was really more like my child than my dog, as he was very person-like, and i don’t have any children of my own
first of all, i want to be clear that i am not angry at you, and do not “blame” you for his death (unlike some of his friends and fans)
i explained to them that you did not kill him with neglect, but rather with something like “too much love”
i explained to them that you had babysat for your brother’s dog for 6 months a few months ago, and then he took his dog back, and that left a “dog hole in my heart” as you said to me
and that you were so excited to play w rhett and share your life with him like i did, and that the 1st time you babysat him when i was in paris 2 weeks prior to his tragic death, you sent me pictures of you and him happily playing in a dog park in brooklyn with a doggy lake, which i never heard of, and he was smiling:)
i also told keith and roe that the fact that he lost weight after his 1st week w you was not due to neglect, but bc you didn’t let him eat pizza on the sidewalk, although i told you to allow this, as you probably didn’t feel comfortable doing so, and pizza from the sidewalk comprised about 10% of his normal weekly intake;)
i told them that you simply “overscheduled” him, took him to the park for 1.5 hours in 80 degree weather, and probably were just inattentive so didn’t pick up the signs that he was overheating, and that Rhett was always so sweet that unlike a normal dog he woudn’t whine when in pain, but would just give hurt looks, which unless you were really used to him, you could miss
i also explained that your brother’s dog was a short-haired breed, and although i did shave rhett this summer as his heat tolerance was declining with age, i (in retrospect) should have warned you not to bring him out when it was hot, to give him lots of water, to always bring that collapsable dog water bowl that i gave you, and to splash him with water if he looked hot
i also explained that you are older than i am, and were somewhat inattentive to your own recent medical problem (internal bleeding after a bike accident), so that you were not treating rhett worse than yourself, but similar to yourself, and in retrospect i should have noted this, and then had a further discussion with you to please pay closer attention to Rhett than you normally would
i should also have emphasized to you to call the people who’s numbers i gave you right away if he had a problem, like roe who’s # is also on his dog collar, as she knew him best of all, and if you had called him after the 1st vet had given him IVs, instead of admitting him to the animal hospital, he might be alive, or at least would probably have been alive long enough for me to say goodbye, as that animal hospital vet was too aggressive, intubated him unnecessarily even though he was in DIC, caused bleeding, put him into cardiac arrest, and hastened his death:(
so, in all fairness, if anyone wants to blame anyone, i deserve more of the blame as owner who could/should have more clearly communicated his particular weaknesses to you, rather than assume you would be able to manage him properly, given your prior dog experience
i paid over $2000 to the animal hospital that killed Rhett, but still owe $ to the 1st vet who treated him, who unlike VERG was actually willing to speak to me from ukraine before i paid the bill (one more reason why i am very unhappy with VERG animal hospital)
i did give you $100 for food for rhett for the 1st week, and $100 for food for rhett the 2nd week. the 2nd $100 was of course not spent, as he was in the hospital about 48 hours after i gave him to you:(
therefore, what i think would be both fair, and allow us some chance of “closure,” would be for us to meet at a mutually agreeable date and time at that 1st vet’s office in brooklyn, you can contribute the $100 that you never spent on food, i will pay the balance, i will give that vet a big hug as he was really sweet, and you and i will shake hands and part ways with no hard feelings
i know that you never called me or emailed me after roe emailed you saying “please don’t babysit any more dogs as dozens of people are crying about rhett”, so you knew he was dead, but i told them that this probably means you are very upset, and they should not take this as a sign of your not caring about him (or me).
this is why i told Rhett’s friends and my friends to not call you or email you with angry words, as that is really not indicated, and not at all what an angel like Rhett would have wanted
please reply to this email agreeing to meet me at the vets, and please include his name and phone # as i lost it in transit back to the US, and also include some days and times over the next 1-2 weeks that are good for you (i can meet late weekday evenings like at 9:45pm as you said his office closes at 10pm, or weekends between 11am – 7pm)
thank you for doing your best to take care of my baby boy, and for sharing your love of dogs with him, and your love of him in particular. we all make mistakes, and in retrospect, can always think of things that we or someone else could/should have done.
many people have overheated dogs without killing them, and just 1 month ago i overheated rhett to the point that we had to put ice packs on him and make him drink iced water to get him up to walk home. so this is just a tragic accident regarding a long-haired borzoi from russia who was losing his heat intolerance with age
it is NOT your “fault” and i do NOT want you to feel “guilty”–this will NOT bring Rhett back, and if there are incredibly holy/spiritual parents who can actually forgive people who killed their child (there was a recent series about this in the NYT), i can certainly “forgive” a kind, older gentleman who made one tiny mistake, based out of love, not neglect, with an unfortunately bad result
it is certainly not your fault that i have made many bad decisions in the past, and unfortunately prioritized my career and patients over having a personal life 20,000 little times over the past 20 years that i have been in practice, so that in my life i really only had this little angel as my constant companion and best friend, without a wife or children to lessen the grief:(
rhett was the most kind, gentle, loving, affectionate, sweet, intuitive, empathetic, generous, loyal being that i have ever known, and had an influence on so many peoples lives in both ways big and small–surely inordinate for any “dog”
they say “Dog’ is “God” spelled backwards, and i have certainly learned a lot from Rhett in terms of being more unconditionally loving and demonstrative. mark, whom you know, and who has worked for me for nearly 4 years, and loved rhett, was crying on the phone w me when i was in ukraine, and it took this shared experience for us to admit to each other that our relationship is not just based on mutual respect in a professional manner, but also on love for each other personally
such was the impact of Rhett, even in death, and i am happy that you got to share in his love when he was alive
let’s honor Rhett and everything he stood for by trying harder, expressing affection, forgiving, and loving more–not less. it’s what he would have wanted