Blakely the Australian shepherd has cared for cheetahs, tigers, ocelots and more!

By Kelli Bender
August 08, 2019 11:36 AM

Blakely is back!

Just in time for International Cat Day, Blakely, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s veteran nanny dog, has come out of retirement to care for a cheetah cub.

According to the Ohio zoo, three cheetahs were born to first-time cheetah mom Neena on July 7 at the zoo’s cheetah breeding facility in Clermont County . Unfortunately, only one of the cubs survived.

“Cheetah moms do not receive enough stimulation from a single cub to produce an adequate milk supply, so the zoo’s expert neonate team stepped in,” a release from the zoo said about what happened next.

The neonate team thought they could use a few extra paws caring for the baby big cat.

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“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,” Cincinnati Zoo’s head of neonate care, Dawn Strasser, said in a statement.  “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.”

Blakely has a resume you can believe in. Before retiring in 2017, the dog helped care for “several cheetahs, an ocelot, a takin, bat-eared foxes, an aardvark, a warthog, sibling wallabies, and a litter of Malayan tiger cubs,” the zoo said.

After a two year break, Blakely has had no problem picking up his cub caretaker duties.

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“Introductions are going well,” said Strasser. “We put them together for the first time two days ago, and Blakely went into work mode!  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.”

The cub, a female named Kris, will stay under Blakely’s care for a month or two, and then will move out of the neonate facility. After she is a little larger and more independent, thanks to Blakely’s help, Kris will be paired with a puppy who will grow to be her constant companion.

 

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