By now you’re probably familiar with Blakely, the Cincinnati Zoo’s nanny dog. He’s an Australian shepherd, so he’s got a strong paternal instinct and takes care of baby zoo animals when their mothers are unable to care for them. After years of being a foster dad, he’s retiring – and he actually IS going to live on a farm!
Blakely is most well-known for taking care of the (little) big cats – an ocelot and the tiger and cheetah cubs – but he’s also stepped in to help raise bat-eared foxes, skunks, a takin, wallabies, and a warthog. With only humans to raise them, these little critters would have missed out on learning important social behaviors, such as snuggling, playing, grooming, and discipline.
The zoo isn’t planning to replace Blakely, but is now striving to care for young animals in areas right next to their parents and other members of their species so they can see, hear, and smell the environments they will live in when they’re ready to hang with the big guys.
Blakely will be going home with one of his favorite caretakers, Dawn Strasser, a 35-year zoo veteran and the head nursery keeper. She lives on a farm, so this seven-year-still-young pupper will get to spend the rest of his days relaxing out in the country. That is, unless his services are required…
Here are some of the best photos of Blakely teaching, cuddling, and being trampled on by his charges.