Apparently this has been going on for a while, but I just ‘discovered’ these service dogs so now I’m going to tell you about them in case you were also in the dark.
In 1981 the San Diego Zoo was given a pair of cheetahs on the condition that they be given dogs as they were raised with a dog. So, you can see this is nothing new…for some of us. Today many zoos and parks use dogs to help cheetahs cope with the stresses of captivity.
Cheetahs are really big scaredy cats and the dogs keep them relaxed, calm and have the added benefit of companionship. The success rate of cheetah breeding programs is also on the rise due in part to this pairing.
The first reaction of a cheetah is to flee danger. They have no bulk or might for a confrontation but they are built for speed as we all know (they can go from 0 to 60 miles an hour in length of 3 feet, faster than any sports car). Their dog companions give them courage and safety from a mental standpoint. The dogs are always dominant and take the lead in new circumstances; if the dog is comfortable, the cat proceeds. Some pairs are ambassadors and do public awareness on the plight of the cheetahs who’s numbers in the wild are, as we know, dwindling. Where 100,000 roamed a hundred years ago, only 12,000 remain in the wild. They are extinct in 13 countries they had once called home.
The program originally began with Anatolian Shepherds as companions, but it was soon discovered the protective nature of the Anatolian was a bit of a hindrance since the dogs would not let anyone near ‘their’ cats. Currently, shelter dogs with the right temperament and demeanor are chosen for this work and are introduced in an appropriate timeline and with supervision, but it does not take long for the relationship to bloom. Cheetahs in the wild do form bachelor groups of two to three and many siblings, tend to stick together throughout their lives so even though they are somewhat independent and live alone, when the opportunity presents itself, they welcome companionship.
It is yet another piece of evidence of the continuum of energy and how we all fit with one another, how we are all part of the same thread. Perhaps the walls we build between us are constructed only by our beliefs and not of stone.