BILLINGS - They eat together. They sleep together.
They're about the same size and look a bit alike, with similar coloring, although Chloe the 22-pound pug is almost as broad as she is tall and Willow, a Siamese cat, has longer legs and is, well, more willowy.
Sometimes 7-year-old Chloe even deigns to chase and play with Willow or puts up with the 1-year-old feline's rubbing and licking her.
But the bond between the pets of Amanda and Ron Bjelland grew even stronger last Thursday.
The morning began as usual. At about 6:10 a.m., Amanda Bjelland walked with her pets to the mailbox to pick up the morning newspaper.
The return to the house ended as usual, with Bjelland and Chloe going in the front door and Willow wandering around back to explore.
But by 6:15 a.m., things began to change.
Chloe started crying at the glass door to the backyard of the home on Victoria Lane. Bjelland let the 7-year-old dog out onto the deck and continued her morning routine.
But Chloe kept barking and barking, so Bjelland let the dog back inside.
When, after another quarter-hour Chloe still was barking at the door, Bjelland let the pug outside again.
So Bjelland went out to see what was causing the ruckus.
Chloe led her owner down the back steps. Willow was nowhere in sight as Bjelland and the dog reached family's koi (a Japanese fish) pond.
The cat had fallen through the ice that covered the 5-by-9-foot pond except for a hole in the center kept open to allow gasses to escape from the koi habitat. The cat was churning with her front paws but couldn't escape the frigid 3-foot-deep waters.
Shaking, shivering and meowing, Willow was pulled from the pond, then rushed to the house to be warmed up.
Rabbit tracks were in the snow near the pond. And Bjelland suspects that the cat may have been checking out birds or wildlife that frequent the yard and gone onto ice, which gave way beneath her. The owner figures the cat was in the pond for about 20 minutes.
For raising the alarm, Chloe was rewarded with a special bone.
With the warmer weather in recent days, the Bjellands worked to chip away the ice on the pond.
The pets are back to their love-you/maybe-'ll-tolerate-you relationship.
"She knows she did good," Bjelland said.
Features editor Chris Rubich can be reached at (406) 657-1301 or at email@example.com.