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30 Unlikely Animal Friends Guaranteed to Make You Smile

True friendship can cross distance and time—and kingdom and phylum and genus.

America's Best Pet Pals Logo With Backgroundrd.com

Unlikely animal friends turned America’s Best Pet Pals

America’s Best Pet Pals is Reader’s Digest’s nationwide search for the most unlikely animal friends we can find. After sorting a menagerie of entries into five categories, we were able to sniff out six finalists and one winner in each. Read on to see which ones are the wildest, and check out these adorable animal friendships that will fill your heart with happiness to see more of our nominees!

Pet Pals Winner, Animals to Animals category. Floyd the dog looking at the camera with a kitten close to its chest between his front legs.rd.com, Courtesy Elizabeth Miller, Getty Images

Animals to Animals: Floyd and his kittens

“I found Floyd delightedly gazing under a broken floorboard in the barn, and discovered Moustrap was now a mama. I had a hard time getting him to budge—he wanted to lay at the opening of the hole all day. He was right there to greet the kittens as they began emerging from their comfy birthplace, lovingly licking them head to toe as he had their mother.” —Winner submitted by Elizabeth Miller of Saratoga Springs, New York

READ MORE: Meet Floyd, the Adoptive Dog Father of Five

Jeannie, the dog, and Chad, the bunny, lounge together in the grass.Courtesy Andrea Stetson

Animals to Animals: Jeannie and Chad

“Chad is an English Lop bunny who believes he is a dog. He eats from a dog bowl, sleeps in the dog’s be, and follows us around the yard like a dog. Naturally, his best friend is our dog, Jeannie. One afternoon, my parents visited with their dog, Bradley. Since Chad’s best friend is a dog, he had no fear hopping over to say hello. But Bradley grabbed the ten-pound bunny by the face and started shaking him. Jeannie got there first on her four fast legs to chase Bradley away.” —Finalist submitted by Andrea Stetson of Bonita Springs, Florida

READ MORE: This Brave Dog Saved His Rabbit Friend from a Dog Attack

a small pig and a black dogCourtesy Joanne Clayton

Animals to Animals: Porkchop and Harley

“I noticed some movement along the fence line but couldn’t quite make out what the critter was. Days later, the critter emerged: a piglet, moseying along, rooting for morsels, and occasionally grunting in contentment. As it turned out, the pig escaped a nearby farm, and the farmer didn’t want Porkchop back because of the Houdini tendencies. The wandering pig picked up a companion, a neighbor’s black lab, Harley. Porkchop and Harley made an awesome team, wandering all over Herrin, Illinois, accepting pats and treats from whoever would oblige.” —Finalist submitted by Joanne Clayton of Herrin, Illinois

READ MORE: How One Pig Became a Town Mascot, and the Best Friend She Made Along the Way

pig and cat pet palsCourtesy Tif Saucier

Animals to Animals: Miss Priss and Precious

“We live on a farm with five dogs, three cats, two horses, and Precious, an indoor mini pig. All of our herd are leery of cantankerous Precious. Even the horses run when she comes near, despite the “Precious proof” fence separating them. However, our tabby, Miss Priss, Miss Priss was determined to bond with Precious, and to our surprise, Precious has allowed the friendship. Precious will go about grazing while Miss Priss rubs lays beside her and even bats at her jowls.” —Finalist submitted by Tif Saucier of Hartman, Arkansas

READ MORE: This Ornery Pig Didn’t Like Anyone Until One Unlikely Creature Was Determined to Be Her Friend

dog looking at monarch butterfly sitting on his owner's handCourtesy Victoria Lorrekovich-Miller

Animals to Animals: Bella and her butterflies

“One day, we saw our pit mix, Bella, sniffing and gently pawing a branch on one of our milkweed plants. She then began to whine. When we went over to investigate, we noticed there were Monarch caterpillars munching on our bushes. My young daughter raised the caterpillars that summer, but Bella decided it was her job to protect them. She followed the butterfly habitat from the house to the yard and would sleep under the table it rested on at night.” —Finalist submitted by Victoria Lorrekovich-Miller of Pleasanton, California

READ MORE: The Dog Who Took Monarch Butterflies Under Her Wing

a deer and a poodle sit together on the floorCourtesy Melanie Butera

Animals to Animals: Dillie and Willie

“Rejected and blind at birth, farm deer Dillie was brought to my veterinary clinic in 2004, barely alive. After a week, she came home to live with us, but she was too fragile and afraid to live in the barn, so she stayed in the house. Willie and Dillie are now inseparable. They cuddle every night. Willie puts herself right in front of Dillie when she wants some grooming and will paw at Dillie if she stops too soon. Willie also runs point guard when Dillie goes outside to do her business, making sure no coyotes or dogs are eyeing the fence line.” —Finalist submitted by Melanie Butera of Canal Futon, Ohio

READ MORE: Meet One Family’s Blind Deer and Her Seeing-Eye Poodle

Pet Pals Winner, People to Animals category. Sophie holding one of the chickens and a sunflower with sunflower stalks in the backgroundrd.com, Courtesy Emily Chromczak, Getty Images

People to Animals: Sophie and the chicks

From the moment my husband brought home a box of six chicks from Tractor Supply Company at the start of the pandemic, our nine-year-old, Sophie, hasn’t let them out of her sight. She has had incredible adventures with her flock: camping, hiking, river tubing, biking, scootering, sledding, cross-country skiing, and trick-or-treating. The reactions from neighbors on Halloween were hilarious. “Wait, is that a real chicken you’re holding?” Trixie cooed the whole time. —Winner submitted by Emily Chromczak of Delmar, New York

READ MORE: When the World Shut Down, This 9-Year-Old Created an Unlikely Bond with 6 Chickens

a dog sits holding a toy in its mouthCourtesy Lynn Chandler

People to Animals: Luna and Ryan

Our son Ryan had brain surgery at age 16 to remove a tumor on his optic nerve. Just five months later, his beloved Husky, Kyra, passed. A few years later, Ryan was ready for another dog and saw a puppy with one blue eye at the shelter. It was love at first sight. The only problem was 50 other families applied to adopt her. Right before Christmas we got the call—Luna was ours! Ryan battled neurofibromatosis for 15 years and undergone 14 surgeries and 40 MRIs. Now, he and Luna are inseparable. I hear him whisper, “You’re the reason I get up every day,” to her. —Finalist submitted by Lynn Chandler of Charlotte, North Carolina

READ MORE: A Cancer Survivor Finally Found the Perfect Dog to Adopt—Their Odds were 50-1

white horse being pet by a seated manCourtesy Kathy Weidman

People to Animals: Rascol the horse

In 1980, my husband put a motor in a gentleman’s car. In exchange, we got a young, untrained horse. It wasn’t until we moved that my daughter found a name for him: Rascol. He would steal my underwear off the clothesline, promptly re-laundering it in the pond in front of the house. —Finalist submitted by Kathy Weidman of Lebanon, Missouri

READ MORE: This Horse Went from Hiding in the Woods to Seeing Himself Out the Front Door

Buster, the cow, and the woman take a selfieCourtesy Wynne E. Smith

People to Animals: Buster the bull

To make things clear, Buster was not my bull. Two weeks after I moved into my new farm, the 2,500-pound bull showed up in my barn aisle. He lived next door, and his pasture (which he’d just escaped from) ran very close to my house. I was afraid of Buster that day, but he soon became my confidante, therapist, teacher, and friend. —Finalist submitted by Wynne Smith of Spartanburg, South Carolina

READ MORE: How a 2,500-Pound Bull Became the Neighborhood Therapist

left: large tortoise on the grass; right: a young boy holds a young tortoiseCourtesy Eldon Grauberger (2)

People to Animals: Bozo the desert tortoise

“Bozo met his first generation of our family in the 1970s, in the backyard of an elderly woman who lived a few houses down in Las Vegas, Nevada. The kids visited her regularly, and she’d share lots of interesting information about Bozo and desert tortoises. When they met, Bozo was 60 years old, and my daughter was 10 years old. Now, she’s 52, and he’s over 100. —Finalist submitted by Eldon Grauberger of Las Vegas, Nevada

READ MORE: This Desert Tortoise Puts the “Forever” in BFF

Pet Pals Winner, Rescued Animals category. two dogs, Dakota and Indiana, stand next to each other on a snowy deckrd.com, Courtesy Nonnie Gerber, Getty Images

Rescued Animals: Dakota and Indiana

“When I first read Dakota’s Petfinder bio, it mentioned the puppy she’d been running with was shot, and I assumed, killed. I’m a broadcast news journalist, so I did some sleuthing and came across a story from a South Carolina TV news outlet about a puppy that recently had her front leg amputated because of an old gunshot wound. There was no mistaking it—she was a spitting image of Dakota.  —Winner submitted by Nonnie Gerber of Westhampton Beach, New York

READ MORE: 1,000 Miles Couldn’t Keep this Dog and her Pup Apart

Dog that brings hummingbirds back to lifeCourtesy Alannah Zurovski

Rescued Animals: Mowgli and Hummer

“Hummer came into our lives as a premature fledgling after a neighbor found him in her yard on the ground-not a safe space for a baby hummingbird. Over the next few days, Mo calmly sat with Hummer through several dozen, round-the-clock feedings and multiple flight attempts-most of which ended in the little guy exhaustedly sprawled out in one of my house plants waiting for Mo to sniff him out and alert me of his location. —Finalist submitted by Alannah Zurovski of Oxnard, California

READ MORE: This Rescue Dog Helps His Owner Nurse Baby Hummingbirds Back to Health

two cats laying together on paving stonesCourtesy Caren Ramon

Rescued Animals: Minnie the Moocher and Mr. Fluffy

During the 25 years we’ve lived in our home, a dozen or so felines have appeared on my porch, gazing through the glass door, silently begging for a nutritional donation. Well, what can I do? Certainly not ignore their pleading faces. Even as my husband says “Don’t feed that cat, Caren,” I am opening the door, cat food bag in hand. Most cats only stay a few days, maybe a couple of months before disappearing into the woods. Except for one. She stayed for 11 years. —Finalist submitted by Caren Ramon of La Vernia, Texas

READ MORE: The Stray Cat Who Brought Home a Stray Cat

Selfie of Stacey and HigginsCourtesy Stacey Place

Rescued Animals: Higgins

“When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I was suddenly teaching music from home. Higgins was always right by my side and the kids loved seeing him. In fact, I couldn’t start class without someone asking where Higgins was and how he was doing. This dog that no one wanted was suddenly a therapy dog during a pandemic. —Finalist submitted by Stacey Place of North Providence, Rhode Island

READ MORE: How the Dog Nobody Wanted for 17 Months Became a School’s Unofficial Mascot

two austrailian shepherds smiling, laying together on a bedCourtesy Jennifer Pustejovsky

Rescued Animals: Scout and Bandit

“To guide Bandit, Scout always walks on his left side, so he knows she’s there as that’s the eye out of which his vision is best. They move together as one, leaning on each other as a friend for Scout and necessity for Bandit. On the occasion when Scout has been gone from the house and Bandit has stayed behind, he’s lost without her and waits by the door until she returns. —Finalist submitted by Jennifer Pustejovsky of Allen, Texas

READ MORE: The Special Reason These Australian Shepherds Are Attached at the Hip (and Heart)

dog seated on the floor looking up at cameraCourtesy Sovereign Odell

Rescued Animals: Benji the Tripod

“When another car pulled up, I got out and waited by the door in sub-zero temperatures to ensure I would be first in line to adopt Benji when the shelter opened in an hour. Benji needed a bath before he could leave the shelter, so his paws were a bit wet when we were getting ready to go home. I told him there was no way he should walk in the snow with wet feet, so I wrapped him in a towel, tucked him in my coat, and hurried to the car. I held him the entire way home while he snuck peeks out of my jacket here and there.” —Finalist submitted by Sovereign Odell of Flint, Michigan

READ MORE: How One Veteran and Her Disabled Service Dog Are One Another’s Support Systems

Pet Pals Winner, Lifesavers category. close up the service dog with the veteran in the backgroundrd.com, Courtesy Robert Macpherson, Getty Images

Lifesavers: Blue the Big Yella Fella

“The cues Blue learned over two years are impressive. He inconspicuously blocks people from invading my personal space and scans our environment to judge where to place himself as others approach. While never aggressive, he gently guides me through crowds or moves to watch my back if I stop to engage in conversation or stand in a line. All examples of learned skills, but over our time together I’ve learned he has natural abilities that cannot be taught. -Winner submitted by Robert Macpherson of Charlotte, North Carolina

READ MORE: How Blue the Big Yella Fella Helped Turn This Veteran’s Life Around

woman sits on the ground holding and petting dog in her lapCourtesy Sharon Scott

Lifesavers: Sandra the dog

“One night, my dog Sandra refused to come in and kept darting back to the doghouse. I looked in the doghouse and didn’t see anything but old blankets. Then I heard a tiny cheep. A baby bird, still too young to fly, appeared. I dropped it off at the wildlife rehabilitator. Later, Sandra walked toward me again with her head held low. I thought she was sick. She softly laid another baby cardinal at my feet! —Finalist submitted by Sharon Scott of McKinney, Texas

READ MORE: Meet the Dog Who Saved a Nest of Baby Cardinals from her Brother

black dog lays on a colorful blanketCourtesy Michael Marshall

Lifesavers: Bear Junior

“Our neighbor has a small boy who sometimes comes over to visit. I had all three of our rescues outside getting ready for a walk. Bear Junior was still off-leash. Another neighbor has a very hyperactive dog, who literally jumped out of an open-air Jeep and ran into our yard, barking like crazy. Bear Junior leapt into action, placing himself between the dog and the boy. —Finalist submitted by Michael Marshall of Verona, Wisconsin

READ MORE: This Dog Felt It Was His Duty to Help All Who Needed It, No Matter Where He Went

two dogs stand together on a rock with a waterfall in the backgroundCourtesy Nancy Radebaugh

Lifesavers: Rue and Finn

“Returning to the parking lot after a hike, I prayed a stranger who’d behaved oddly toward me on the trail wouldn’t be there. I had to ask him twice to pass while my normally friendly German Shepherds, Rue and Finn, growled. He said, “I’m looking at your dogs,” as if considering whether he could fight off two big canines to get to me. Unfortunately, as I feared, he was standing between our vehicles, the last two in the lot, clearly waiting for me. —Finalist submitted by Nancy Radebaugh of Utica, Ohio

READ MORE: When a Cryptic Stranger Lurked Toward Their Owner, These Mild-Mannered Dogs Sprang Into Guard Mode

child standing and interacting with Magic, the therapy miniature horseCourtesy Jorge Garcia

Lifesavers: Little Hero Horse Magic

“Our 14-year-old therapy miniature horse has nuzzled the hearts of many. She’s been called in to comfort survivors of tragedy and natural disaster, as well as patients and residents at hospitals and assisted living facilities, where she’s an especially huge hit. Often our little black pony comes home with pink and red stains on her white nose from being kissed by all the ladies. —Finalist submitted by Jorge and Debbie Garcia-Bengochea of High Springs, Florida

READ MORE: The Therapy Miniature Horse With a Magic Touch

Pet Pals Winner, Rainbow Bridge category. Grace, dressed for the homecoming dance, and Esther, the sheep, dressed in a matching tierd.com, Courtesy Teresa Hislop, Getty Images

Rainbow Bridge: Grace and Esther

“Esther, biologically a Merino sheep, considers herself a human. Grace’s human, to be exact. She’d enter the house at will, jumping through an open window if no one was gracious enough to open the door for her. She was Grace’s shadow—and echo. When Grace left (heaven forbid!), all she had to do was “baaaaa” when she returned for Esther to come running and bleating her response. —Winner submitted by Teresa Hislop of Roy, Utah

READ MORE: The Girl and the Sheep Who Took the Town (and Homecoming Court) by Storm

two dogs sitting on the couch together; one dog has his arm around the otherCourtesy Patricia Laine

Rainbow Bridge: Whoobie and Juan

“One day, my dog, Whoobie, and I were napping together and woke up to a dog barking outside the window. I looked out the window, and this little brown dog was looking back at me. I tried and failed for an hour to catch him. Finally, I just left the front door open and he followed Whoobie inside. From then on, he always followed Whoobie.” —Finalist submitted by Patricia Lane of Rochester, New York

READ MORE: The Story of an Adopted Dog Who Adopted His Own Pet Dog

dog standing on the edge of a foggy road in autumnCourtesy George Van Grieken

Rainbow Bridge: Bart

“Forty years ago, when I taught eighth grade at a boarding school in California, the headmaster somehow ended up with three German Shepherd puppies. He asked me to take care of one. And so it was that a subsequent piece of my education began. —Finalist submitted by George Van Grieken of Napa, California

READ MORE: This Dog Belonging to a Boarding School Teacher Taught a Few Lessons of His Own

dog bucket list items: collage of dog being sworn in by police officer; dog meets elvis impersonator; dog wearing a firemans hat next to a firetruckCourtesy Jenny Leech (3)

Rainbow Bridge: Theo

“One more visit to the oncologist confirmed our concerns. They didn’t give a prognosis, but based on Theo’s spirit and wagging tail, we decided to create a bucket list for him to experience anything he might’ve missed earlier in life. After announcing the idea on Facebook we began receiving bucket list suggestions and set off an incredible 205-day adventure to complete 62 bucket list items. –Finalist submitted by Jenny Leech of Crystal Lake, Illinois

READ MORE: When This Family Fostered a Dog in Hospice Care, They Made Sure to Check Off Every Item on His Bucket List

a young man sits with his arm around a black dogCourtesy Brian Hoxie

Rainbow Bridge: Lucy

“Our Eric has since passed away. A rare form of cancer took him from us far too soon. It was a very hard time for myself, my wife, and Eric’s brother, Kevin. Eric was fresh out of college and just starting a promising engineering career when he was diagnosed. Less than two years later, he was gone. His dog, Lucy, was our living link to Eric. We keep a photo of Eric with his arm around Lucy on the wall. —Finalist submitted by Brian Hoxie of Gaylord, Michigan

READ MORE: After Their Son Passed Away, His Beloved Dog Served as Their Last Living Link to Him

golden retriever sitting with golden retriever toy on a bedCourtesy Karen Dickson

Rainbow Bridge: Jersey Girl

“Jersey Girl was our neighbor’s dog, and the sweetest little Golden Retriever I had ever met. She would come and visit us, then return home to her family. About ten years ago, our own two dogs had passed away. I’ve had animals in my life since the day I was born and love them dearly. Losing them was the first time I didn’t have animals around, and I’d often find myself in tears. Then Jersey Girl started coming around. —Finalist submitted by Karen Dickinson of Stanwood, Washington

READ MORE: My Favorite Neighbor Was a Golden Retriever