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Dog snuggles, plays with cheetah cub as its surrogate parent in Ohio zoo, video shows

Dog snuggles, plays with cheetah cub as its surrogate parent in Ohio zoo, video shows

Blakely, an Australian shepherd, retired after a career as a surrogate parent at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, officials say. The dog is back to raise the only surviving cheetah cub of a new litter, video shows.
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Blakely, an Australian shepherd, retired after a career as a surrogate parent at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, officials say. The dog is back to raise the only surviving cheetah cub of a new litter, video shows.

An Australian shepherd is coming out of retirement to help raise a cheetah cub that lost her siblings this summer at the Cincinnati Zoo, officials say.

Two years ago, Blakely retired from his work as a surrogate parent at the Ohio zoo after a career of helping care for lots of animals, officials said in a news release. The list includes a few cheetahs, wallabies, an aardvark, a warthog, foxes, a takin, an ocelot and lastly a litter of Malayan tiger cubs.

Perhaps those tiger cubs wore out Blakely, because zoo officials say he retired to live a life of ease at a nursery keeper’s home after that.

However, duty called once again.

Blakely left retirement because Kris, the lone survivor in a litter of three cheetahs born at breeding facility in July, needed a role model to teach her “animal etiquette” and take over social responsibilities such as “snuggling, playing and disciplining,” officials said. Cheetah mothers aren’t stimulated adequately by just one cub to produce enough milk, so a neonate team took over to nurture Kris and Blakely joined the group, officials said.

“We can provide nutrition, medical care and some of the TLC that baby animals need, but Blakely can serve as a role model, companion and surrogate parent for them,” Dawn Strasser, the zoo’s leader of the neonate care, said in the news release.

Kris was born to first-time mother Neena on July 7, according to a Facebook post.

So far, Blakely and Kris are getting along, zoo officials said. The Australian shepherd went right to work as soon as he meet the young cub, 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,” Strasser said in the release.

While Blakely is handling surrogate parent duties for now, the zoo is looking for a puppy to be Kris’ new companion and grow up with the cheetah cub over the next couple of years, zoo officials said.

For now, Kris, who is described as “somewhat sassy,” still waddles around as she’s learning to walk and explore her surroundings, video shows. Zoo officials have high hopes that she’ll grow to be a fast runner.

“We’re hoping that she’ll follow in the footsteps of eight-year-old Savannah, one of the fastest runners in the Zoo’s Cheetah Encounter and the first baby that Blakely helped raise,” Linda Castaneda, leader of the zoo’s cat ambassador program, said in the news release.

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Chacour Koop is a Real-Time reporter based in Kansas City. Previously, he reported for the Associated Press, Galveston County Daily News and Daily Herald in Chicago.
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