When Andra Novakowsky takes her pets for a walk through the streets of Thorsby, there's always plenty of rubbernecking.
Her 130-pound Rottweiler, Bruce, never goes for a stroll without his best friend: a tiny duck named Cashew, who waddles along beside him.
The big black beast and the fluffy brown bird are the ultimate odd couple.
"It's comical for sure when you see them," Novakowsky said. "Whenever he's en route somewhere, she's right behind.
"When they nap, they need to be close together. When they eat, they want to be together."
The unlikely pair have become the talk of the town in Thorsby, around 40 kilometres west of Leduc. They can be found greeting customers inside Novakowsky's pet store, Thorsby Pet Necessities, or on daily strolls together through the streets.
'Madly in love'
Novakowsky has tried introducing her pet bird to other ducks for companionship, but Cashew only has eyes for Bruce.
"I think Bruce sees her as his little sister," she said. "He kind of gets a little annoyed when she's trying to groom him or eat his food, but when push comes to shove, he's very protective of her.
"Cashew, on the other hand, I think is madly in love with Bruce."
Novakowsky got Cashew as an unexpected birthday gift two years ago. She jokingly begged for a baby duckling, but figured her boyfriend Jason would shrug off the birthday wish.
"I had joked previously about wanting a goat and donkey and nothing had ever became of those requests so I wasn't expecting much when I requested a duck," she said.
"But sure enough, my birthday came and we were on our way to a nearby farm and she was the last little duckling. As soon as I saw her, I couldn't leave without her."
When she brought Cashew home, she was not much more than a white puff of feathers. Call ducks, as they're known, are petite in stature and she would never weigh more than two pounds.
Novakowsky was worried about introducing her new duckling to her big oaf of a Rottweiler. In those first few months, interactions between dog and duck were closely supervised.
'Bruce was a little unsure what this tiny thing was, because she was quite vocal and wanted to groom him.' - Andra Novakowsky
"Bruce was a little unsure what this tiny thing was, because she was quite vocal and wanted to groom him, get in right underneath him and just snuggle in," Novakowsky recalled.
"But it didn't take long for him to realize that she is just part of the family now ... and it just kind of grew from there."
In the end, it was tiny Cashew that became top dog.
When she isn't busy preening Bruce's black coat or making a nest out of his furry tail, Cashew is busy stealing treats from him, pulling them out of his massive muzzle with her tiny beak and quacking wildly as she runs off with her thieving spoils.
Despite his considerable size advantage, Bruce will always let Cashew win the quarrel.
"It's funny because if Bruce is given a treat or a chewy stick or anything like that, he knows now that he has to take off running," she said.
"You'll hear the little pitter patter of Cashew chasing after him until he makes it to his safe zone, which is his kennel. Bruce is such a big baby that if Cashew takes it and wants it, he'll come wandering out from the back without his chewy stick...and then I'll find Cashew sitting on top of it.
"She absolutely rules the roost."
While the rest of Novakowsky's pets — a black lab, a Pomeranian whippet cross, two cats and Bruce — sleep at home, Cashew spends her nights in the store.
It was already a struggle to a find a landlord willing to house everyone. Adding a duck to the lease agreement would have been out of the question, Novakowsky said with a chuckle.
'My welcoming committee'
Cashew and Bruce have become a big draw, not only for regular customers, but for animal lovers around the province curious to see that friendship really does come in all shapes and sizes.
"I call them my welcoming committee because right behind one another, they're trotting off to the front to greet everyone," Novakowsky said.
"I get quite a few people from nearby areas, and quite a few from far away, that are told, if you're in Thorsby, you have to go see this duck and dog."