CINCINNATI — Blakely thought retirement would be a smooth and relaxing ride. Little did the Australian shepherd know, his services would be needed at least one more time.
Blakely was adopted by the zoo to act as a foster parent to baby animals. The devoted nanny dog went into retirement in 2017 at age 6.
Over the years, Blakely cared for cheetahs, foxes, an aardvark, a warthog and even tiger cubs -- the last of the zoo babies he'd help raise.
Or so he thought.
Last month, the Cincinnati zoo staff enlisted the help of Blakely once again to help its neonate staff care for a baby cheetah, zoo officials said.
The cheetah was only survivor in a litter of three born July 7 at the cheetah breeding facility in Clermont County. Its mother, Neena, was unable to produce an adequate milk supply for the cub, so the neonate team stepped in.
The team can provide nutrition and medical care, but Blakely can add a fatherly touch by serving as a surrogate parent.
“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,” said head of neonate care Dawn Strasser.
The cub, named Kris, is receiving round-the-clock care and will be moved to the zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program in a month or two. At that time, Kris and Blakely will part ways and Blakely will return home.
Until then, the two are getting along.
“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.”
Blakely’s new caretaker had left the door open for him to return if his services were ever needed, so his run as the zoo’s top babysitter many not be over yet.