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Zoo’s Nanny Dog Melts Hearts Caring for Newborn Cheetah

Is there anything more adorable than a baby animal of any kind? We think not. Blakely, an Australian Shepherd with a strong nurturing sense, agrees. Blakely worked at the zoo as a “nanny dog” before retiring in 2017 at the age of six. But he has been called out of retirement. He’s being asked, once again, to put his unique and honed nannying skills back to work.

When breeding zoo animals, it takes a village! A litter of baby cheetahs was born at the Cincinnati Zoo breeding facility, but unfortunately only one of the three cubs survived. The mother, Neena, was unable to produce enough milk to sustain the remaining cub. So the neonate staff, and Blakely, sprang into action.

Image Cincinnati Zoo

The human team can provide nutrition and medical care, but Blakely adds a special touch by serving as a surrogate parent.

Head of Cincinnati Zoo neonate care Dawn Strasser told WCPO Cincinnati, “Blakely will teach the cub animal etiquette and handle some of the social responsibilities, like snuggling, playing and disciplining, that would typically be performed by a mother.”

Over his years of service, Blakely has cared for cheetahs, foxes, an aardvark, a warthog and even tiger cubs. The tiger cubs were the last of the zoo babies he helped raise. Until now.

“We put them together for the first time two days ago, and Blakely went into work mode,” Strasser said. “His nurturing and patience skills kicked in, and he sat still while the cub climbed on him and tried to figure out what to do with him.”

Image Cincinnati Zoo

The cub is named Kris and she is receiving round-the-clock care during this critical time. In a month or two, when she is strong enough, she will be moved to the zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program. That is when Kris and Blakely will part ways, and Blakely will return to his life as a family dog.

Image Cincinnati Zoo

We are so happy that baby Kris is getting the needed help of her stand-in parent, Blakely. We hope he shows her how to be a cheetah just as well as her birth mother would have.

Featured Image Cincinnati Zoo

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Written by Kristen Cudd

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