Just after 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 4, Little Bit Rove, the world’s greatest dog, passed from this life to the next. She apparently had an arrhythmia from birth and despite the best efforts of Dr. Julie Page of Palisade, Colo., and her Valley Emergency Pet Care colleagues in Basalt, Little Bit’s loving heart gave out. She’d have been three in November.
My wife Karen and I had been without a dog since our border collie Nan died in August 2015. On Christmas 2019, Karen decided it was time. Her gift was a promise: I could pick out a dog from a nearby hunting preserve.
When we arrived at Joshua Creek Ranch, the cages on the hunting trucks were filled with a dozen or more dogs that the guides let out so we could see them all in action. From the scrum of animals, a sleek black English cocker spaniel emerged, running straight for us. She jumped on me, her little white tail wagging eagerly, as if to say “Nice to meet you! We’ll have fun today! If the rumors are true you’re looking for a dog, keep me in mind!” The issue was settled.
So Little Bit traded up, moving from a crowded kennel and the converted barrel in which she slept to a giant suburban home with doting parents. It was February 2020, just before we were all locked down and separated from family and friends. Little Bit’s arrival was fortuitous. Who knows what our mental health during Covid would have been like without her?
Despite the several dog beds scattered around our home, she set her eyes on ours as her preferred sleeping spot. At first she’d wait for an invitation, her snout and front paws perched on the bedspread. But a few weeks in she realized she was queen of the house and began jumping up into her rightful place in the middle where both her subjects could scratch and rub her.
Little Bit loved long walks, especially at the ranch where she’d match each of our miles with two or three of her own, zigging and zagging over hills and pastures. She wouldn’t get into our pristine swimming pool but jumped enthusiastically into every scum-covered cattle trough.
She required daily trips to the park and when she tired of playing chuckit—the brand’s launcher lets you huck a ball much further than your arm—she’d retrieve the yellow orb and run back, then swerve off at the last second, clutching the ball in her mouth and pointing toward home. She knew after meanderings through creeks, mud and foliage, she’d receive a rubdown with a beach towel, which she delighted in.
A great traveler, Little Bit loved riding in cars—any car, actually, which proved to be a challenge. Every open car door was an invitation to jump in. While riding in the back seat, she did two things with equal delight: observe the scenery and then fall asleep until delivered to her destination.
Everyone loved Little Bit, and she returned their affection, offering enthusiastic greetings to friends. Dog sitters would fight over the opportunity to be with her, though we eventually started driving for vacations so that she could come along.
Little Bit especially enjoyed going to work with Karen, who’d take her across the street to run on the Texas Capitol grounds and say hello to her pals, the state troopers standing guard.
She appeared in videos we shared with friends marking holidays or offering invitations to parties and ranch weekends. She even had her portrait painted by a former president, who captured her regal bearing, penetrating eyes and long ears.
For 18 months this loving, joyous spirit was a big part of our family. On vacation the Saturday before last, we slept in, Little Bit wedged right up against me for warmth. We went for her morning business, then she ran cheerfully through the hotel to report to Karen and snuggle more, rising after a while for breakfast. A few minutes later, she went into convulsions. She recovered somewhat on the frantic ride to the vet’s but was gone within the hour.
I’m no theologian, but believe God grants us pets to encourage us to give and receive unconditional love—to see loyalty personified and to remind us that we must balance joy and delight with loss and grief in this transitory life.
Karen and I are so grateful Little Bit was part of our family, even for a short while. She’ll always be in our hearts. RIP, LB.