Boston University’s unofficial mascot, Rhett the Boston Terrier, died March 3. For 12 years, Rhett frequented campus, met generations of students and became a living symbol of the University’s spirit and community. Now, six months later, a new puppy is taking Rhett’s place.
Named R2 — Artoo — short for Rhett the Second and a reference to Star Wars’s R2-D2, the three-month-old dog is already exploring BU’s grounds and interacting with students as they return for the Fall semester.
R2 was born May 21 at a Boston Terrier-exclusive breeding farm in Northern Vermont. His owner, Calvin Iwanicki, who previously cared for Rhett, bought R2 in mid-July.
Iwanicki said R2 is behaving “like a typical three-month-old puppy”: full of energy and playfulness. He said he is excited for both himself and the rest of BU to have another furry friend.
“The students on campus enjoyed [Rhett] so much,” Iwanicki said. “[R2] is only three months old and insanity is already starting.”
Iwanicki, who graduated from BU’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2011, said Rhett’s passing took an immense toll on him and his family and that they needed time to mourn before considering a replacement. But Iwanicki said the months without Rhett reminded them of the comfort that a dog provided, prompting them to look into adopting another little Rhett.
“At first, it almost seemed like the world went to hell once he died,” Iwanicki said. “We were missing companionship. Boston Terriers, I think why we like them is they’re just people dogs.”
The pup made his first social media appearance after one student posted a photo of him on BU’s Reddit page — which is named “Rhett-It” — on Wednesday, reporting his name to be “Rhett Jr.” The post sparked conversations over R2’s name, his owner and the post’s legitimacy, which were later made clear by Iwanicki.
Neither Rhett nor R2 are affiliated with the University, and Iwanicki said he hopes R2 does not “feel pressured” to perform like Rhett had. But Iwanicki said the attention Rhett and now R2 receive is welcomed, and that he recognizes how much his dogs mean to the community.
“He wasn’t a mascot or anything. He was just a Boston Terrier on campus,” Iwanicki said. “In the beginning I was like, ‘He’s not really the mascot, he’s not really the mascot,’ over and over. Then after a few years of that, I’m going, ‘Oh, screw it, yeah, he’s the mascot.’”
Trevor Powell, a sophomore in CAS, met R2 on campus Friday during a Pep Band performance. Powell said he thinks R2 pays homage to Rhett both in name and in character and that the new unofficial Rhett will lift students’ spirits on campus.
“I’m a big dog person and I’ve always loved that BU’s mascot is a dog, and that we have an actual dog,” Powell said. “I think that’s great for [Iwanicki] and his family that they can have this new dog to spread joy and happiness to the campus, because that’s always what Rhett did, and I know that that’s what this dog will do as well.”
Kiana Carver, a senior in the College of Communication, said the transition from Rhett to R2 is a great way to memorialize Rhett’s legacy. While Rhett’s personality will be missed by the student body, Carver said R2 will fill that void.
“I loved that dog so much. He was so goofy-looking but he brought me a sense of comfort,” Carver said. “So I think it’s really nice, especially during what’s going on right now, that there’s a cute little puppy walking around campus.”
Given the nature of the coronavirus, Iwanicki said he is weary of students getting R2 sick, but he said anyone can stop and say hello to meet BU’s newest recruit.
“One thing I’m not going to allow is for him to be petted while the pandemic is going, because there’s questions of whether dogs and cats are getting this from human contact,” Iwanicki said. “But obviously, people can stop and stay socially distanced from us and they can take all the pictures they want… I’m sure he’s on probably a few hundred cell phones as we speak.”