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'Best buddies': Grieving pit bull finds joy again with new kitten companion

Dude, a rescued pit bull, has formed an unlikely bond with a kitten named Ace.
AGoldPhoto Pet Photography
/ Source: TODAY

A pit bull named Dude learned through personal experience that good things really do come in small packages.

Dude has lived up to his name since being rescued as a parvo puppy from a Caribbean island by Florida resident Julie Burroughs in 2015. The affable dog saw her through a divorce and was close with her older pit bull, Harley Jane.

But when Harley Jane died in February, Dude slipped into a funk.

Dude the pit bull
Dude is a sweet, affectionate dog who grieved the death of his friend and fellow pit bull, Harley Jane.AGoldPhoto Pet Photography

“I felt really bad for Dude because he was really sad and very mopey,” Burroughs told TODAY. “I even tried pheromone collars. I just knew he needed a friend.”

Burroughs, 48, has had a particularly busy schedule this year, working as a finance and insurance manager for an RV dealership, which has seen increased demand during the coronavirus pandemic. So instead of getting another dog, she thought, “I’ll get Dude a kitten.”

This summer, she saw a photo of a tabby kitten rescued by a firefighter: Ace. She instantly knew he was "the one." But incorporating him into the family took a little finesse.

“The first couple weeks were a little interesting getting them used to each other,” she recalled with a laugh.

Dude seemed overly curious about Ace’s crate when she brought the kitty home, so Burroughs kept her dog on a leash for their initial interactions. Then one Saturday night, she decided they had smelled and seen each other enough to just go for it.

“They were fine, and now they are best buddies,” she said. “Ace is definitely in charge.”

Dude and Ace look up from a nap together.
Dude and Ace are best friends who love to play and nap together at home in Tampa, Florida.Courtesy of Julie Burroughs

In fact, the mischievous kitten gets the formerly innocent Dude in trouble quite a bit. Ace will leap onto counters and knock bags of treats to the ground so they can feast together while Burroughs is at work. (She now keeps their treats inside a cabinet.)

Another time, Burroughs came home to find recipes she’d stacked on her coffee table scattered on the floor — and chewed up.

“That’s definitely Ace,” she said. “I’m sure Dude is now participating in some of that because I don’t think Ace ate the paper, but Dude never would have done anything like that before.”

Ace and Dude stick out their tongues simultaneously.
Adam and Mary Goldberg are pit bull advocates who enjoyed working with Dude and Ace in their professional photography studio in Tampa, Florida. "Photographing Dude and Ace together seemed impossible at first, but with the help of a little string cheese, we were able to easily capture the bond they have together," Adam Goldberg told TODAY.AGoldPhoto Pet Photography

When the unlikely pals aren’t conspiring, they wrestle, play and nap together. Dude dutifully leaves his jaw wide open while Ace bats at his mouth.

Then there are the times when Dude will be lying on the floor and Ace will come running, take a flying jump onto him and bounce off. Dude’s reaction depends on the time of day.

“Sometimes Dude will run after Ace and play with him,” Burroughs said. “Sometimes he just lifts his head up like, ‘Really? What are you doing?’”

Dude, who is 5 years old, is gentle with his rambunctious 7-month-old buddy, Ace.Courtesy of Julie Burroughs

The close bond and silly antics of her pets have been a welcome diversion for Burroughs during the pandemic. She hopes their relationship will help people realize that pit bulls don’t deserve their reputation as being mean or vicious.

“Harley Jane was my first pit bull and she was the sweetest dog, and I think Dude is even sweeter. He’s such a lover,” she said. “I’ve always said that our pets find us; we don’t find them. I think that really has held true (for me), especially with these two.”