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Melissa Gilbert and her husband Timothy Busfield have always had dogs. They currently have a rescue dog named Chicago, and who can forget the Little House on the Prairie actor’s little bulldog Josephine, the inspiration for her children’s book Daisy and Josephine. But the couple used to have a golden retriever named Chevy. Here’s why they thought it best to rehome the dog. 

Melissa Gilbert with her dog, Josephine.
Melissa Gilbert and dog Josephine | Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

How Melissa Gilbert and Timothy Busfield came to adopt Chevy 

Today, Gilbert and Busfield live in the Catskills. But before that, they lived in Michigan, Busfield’s home state. It was a welcome adjustment for Gilbert, who’d spent her whole life in the Hollywood fast lane. She was ready for something quieter and slower. That’s exactly what Michigan provided. While living in Michigan, the couple adopted a golden retriever, Chevy, from their friends, the Smiths.  

“They raised goldens, but they were also expecting their sixth kid, and when they heard we were looking for a dog, they introduced us to four-year-old Chevy, who had us with his first lick,” Gilbert wrote in her 2022 memoir, Back to the Prairie

They were living out in the woods at the time and Busfield wanted Gilbert to have a dog “with a big bark” that could protect her when he was out of town. 

“My tiny bulldog Josephine, who preferred to nestle in my lap or on the sofa, didn’t cut it,” wrote Gilbert. “But Chevy fit the bill perfectly.”

Chevy hated living in New York City 

Chevy was happy at Gilbert and Busfield’s home in Michigan. 

“He was an adventurous free-roamer who spent hours exploring the woods on his own but somehow was always loping back when one or both of us wanted his company,” wrote Gilbert of her former dog.

But, eventually, Gilbert and Busfield made the move to New York City for work.  

“Chevy was not thrilled,” she wrote. “Unlike Josephine, he was not made for apartment living. Neither was he wired for daily walks on a leash. He missed being outside and free. It was more than hate. I could see the contempt in his eyes. Apartment living in the city? You’ve got to be kidding me. This is not a life.


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Melissa Gilbert injured her shoulder while walking Chevy 

Then, one night when Gilbert was taking Chevy out on a walk, he pulled on his leash harder than normal and injured her shoulder. 

“He saw a rat run out from one of the vents on the side of a brownstone,” wrote Gilbert. “He took off, and the force of his lunging and then my trying to hold him back injured my shoulder.” 

Add it to the list of injuries the actor had suffered in the last several years. Just a few years prior, she dropped out of the race for Congress due to extreme pain from a herniated disc pressing on the nerves in her neck. A few years prior to that, she broke her back

Between the injury and Chevy’s clear unhappiness with living in the city, Gilbert and Busfield decided to find their dog a new home.  

“I waited months before I got it examined,” wrote Gilbert. “Pictures revealed a badly torn rotator cuff. Surgery was inevitable. But first things first. We found a new home in the country for Chevy with our friends Pete Benington and his wife, Kathy. They had a house on a lake, plenty of land, and children and grandchildren nearby, and they had recently put down their beloved twelve-year-old Lab. After much soul-searching, we proposed the idea. ‘Oh my God, are you kidding?’ they said. ‘We already love Chevy!’ 

And that was that. Gilbert had yet another long road of healing ahead and Chevy found a new home somewhere that he liked much more than New York City.