Friendship can be one of the most beautiful things in the world. When you click with someone, you can work together to improve both of your lives. Having said that, friendships are nebulous and hard to define. You never know who is going to be the ‘right person’ to become your next close buddy. For two furry little babies at the Columbus Zoo, friendship came upon them in a way that you’d never expect. Today, you are going to get to meet Emmett the Baby Cheetah and his best friend, a puppy named Cullen.
Welcome to the Columbus Zoo
Before we introduce you to the stars of our story, let’s first settle in on the location of our saga. Today, we are going to be taking you to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, a non-profit zoo nestled in the heart of Powell, Ohio. The Columbus Zoo has more than 7,000 animals on location spanning more than 800 different species. Every year, more than 2.5 million people come to the zoo in order to see the wildlife and support their preservation.
The Stars of Our Story
Now, let’s take a moment in order to meet the stars of our story. In this adorable picture, you can see Emmett and Cullen cuddling up to one another while at the zoo. Emmett is a cheetah and Cullen is a labrador retriever. While this pairing may feel strange to you, there is actually quite the history between the two species!
Fascinating History Between Dogs and Cheetahs
Did you know that dogs and cheetahs have been paired together in zoos around the world since the early 80s? It’s true! Janet Rose-Hinostroza, an animal training supervisor at the San Diego Zoo, discussed the topic in an interview. Janet said, “A dominant dog is very helpful because cheetahs are quite shy instinctively, and you can’t breed that out of them.” Janet went on to explain that a brave companion dog can help to teach a shy cheetah how to interact and behave.
Companion Dogs Make Cheetahs Happier
While companion dogs are integral to helping adjust the behavior displayed in young cheetahs, there is more to their relationship than that. While the young cheetah will model its behavior after the dominant companion in the relationship, they will also grow to play and enjoy one another’s company. It’s true! Before long, a cheetah cub and a companion dog will feel like they are part of the same litter.
Many Benefits For Both Parties
When Cheetah cubs are first paired with their canine company, the relationship is meant to last for a quarter of the year. At the beginning of their social integration period, zookeepers will allow the two animals to meet with a fence between them. If the two animals show positive behavioral signs, the zookeepers will schedule a ‘play date’ between the two animals.
Now Meet the Babies
Now, let’s really get to know the stars of our story. Emmett was just 10-weeks-old when he was introduced to the younger Cullen. At just two months old, Cullen was quite the young companion to be showing Emmett the ropes. Still, the two became fast friends before developing an inseparable bond. It’s almost hard to imagine that these two adorable friends would have been enemies had they met in the wild.
Two Young Friends Ready For Adventure
Even though Emmett and Cullen were raised together under supervision, they still managed to find ways to break all the rules natural to their species. When Emmett was first introduced to Cullen, the poor cat had been dealing with a bout of pneumonia. Emmett’s handlers were worried about his health, and they felt that a companion would help with his recovery.
Poor Emmett Runs Into Health Issues
As a tiny little cub, Emmett looked downright sad when he was dealing with his respiratory problems. As a result, the zoo had to pursue hand-rearing the animal. Hand-rearing is an effective technique used by professionals to make sure that an at-risk animal is raised in a safe manner. Though not natural to how the world works beyond the zoo, hand-rearing is a completely acceptable practice for both the safety and health of the animal.
Calling On Cullen For Help
Like many other zoos, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium knew that they needed to share their work on social media. Thanks to social media websites like Facebook, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was able to broadcast Emmett’s story to as wide of an audience as possible. As a result, Cullen coming to Emmett’s rescue was able to go viral. More than just great marketing, stories like this are important to inciting interest in the support of zoos everywhere.
Where Did Emmett Come From
On the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Facebook page, the zoo staff shared Emmett’s story. The baby cheetah had been born and bred at the Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio. After Emmett reached the appropriate age, he was transferred to the Columbus Zoo where he was able to ‘select’ his companion dog. The process was sidetracked when Emmett became sick with pneumonia.
Raised in Captivity
While animals like Emmett can be found all over the world, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium didn’t have to go far from home to find their cheetah cub. Emmett was born and raised in The Wilds, a non-profit safari park located in Cumberland, Ohio. The Wilds is considered to be the largest conservation center in North America. If you want to support the conservation of animals like Emmett, that’s where you should definitely go.
Benefits of Being Raised By Humans
If conservation scientists like those in charge of Emmett had their way, these animals would be able to be raised in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, due to manmade causes, the natural habitats of animals all over the world have come under fire. For that reason, it can be beneficial to raise animals like Emmett in captivity, where they can be protected and given a comfortable life.
Emmett Picked His Own Companion Dog
Back to the story at hand, you’ll be ecstatic to know that Emmett actually chose to be raised alongside Cullen. When cheetahs are granted a companion dog, they have to go through a long process. We described the beginnings of the process above, with the split fence introduction, but there is more to the story than that!
Cullen Comes to the Rescue
After Cullen and Emmett first met one another, they were set up with a play date. While Emmett was still dealing with his pneumonia infection, Cullen was there to give him some love and attention. Cullen helped to make Emmett feel more relaxed and comfortable, something that is very important for young and high-strung animals like baby cheetahs.
Calming Emmett Down
After Emmett and Cullen were introduced, they were closely monitored by their keepers. As the two adorable animals became comfortable with one another, Cullen was able to assume the dominant position in the relationship. It is important for the dog to always be the dominant animal in the pairing because that is how the cheetah is able to calm down and stop being so nervous.
Growing Confident Together
One of the biggest problems that Emmett had after being transferred was that he couldn’t calm his nerves. Cheetahs are naturally skittish animals as they are always wrestling with their flight-or-fight mode. For a baby cheetah with pneumonia in a new home, being nervous was completely understandable. Unfortunately, nervous babies don’t sleep, feed, or heal well. Fortunately, Cullen was around to calm Emmett down.
An Important Training Technique
While emotional support animals have been legitimized in recent years, the idea of a wild animal having a companion is still hard to wrap our minds around. Lacking a parental figure in nature, would a cheetah cub find another ‘parent’ to form a mentor-like relationship with? This training technique has been in circulation for decades, and we’re glad to see it help animals like Emmett.
Emmett and Cullen Grow Comfortable
While Emmett and Cullen are the stars of today’s discussion, they aren’t the only cheetah and companion dog combinations in the world. Since being introduced as a concept in the ’80s at the San Diego Zoo, companion dogs have become a staple in zoos all over the planet. In fact, we’ll talk about another cheetah-dog relationship later on.
Are Emotional Support Animals Legit
Suzi Rapp is the Animals Program Director at the Columbus Zoo. Suzi was recently featured in an interview with CBS News in which she was given the opportunity to discuss Emmett and Cullen as well as companionship dogs in general. Rapp said of giving confidence to cheetahs like Emmett, “We know we can’t give it to them, but we know the dogs can.”
What Is In Store For Emmett
While zoos are an incredible resource for learning and preserving the wondrous animals of our world, their necessity is more than slightly discomfiting. The unfortunate truth is that mankind has played a serious role in the at times quick erosion of the natural world around us. As a result, the future of animals like Emmett is definitely in question.
Mellowing His Natural Instincts
As you can see, Emmett and Cullen are no longer the fresh-faced babies that you had met at the beginning of our discussion. As the two have grown together, their relationship has miraculously stayed the same. According to Rapp, being raised alongside Cullen has allowed Emmett to feel like something of a dog himself.
Becoming an Ambassador for Preservation
For Emmett, the Columbus Zoo has all sorts of plans. First and foremost, they want to offer their beautiful wild cat a healthy and happy life. In doing so, the zoo wants Emmett to eventually become an ambassador for wild cheetahs all over the planet. For that to work, the zoo knows that Emmett will need continued support from his companion dog.
Sad Reality For Wild Cheetahs
One of the primary reasons as to why zoos and companion dogs are so important is due to the natural erosion of natural habitats for cheetahs. According to scientific research, the population of cheetahs on Earth has decreased by more than 30% over the past twenty years. Can you believe that such a large number of incredible creatures have simply ceased to exist?
Dwindling Population Makes Emmett More Important
In fact, according to those same studies cited above, there are fewer than 10,000 adult cheetahs living out in the world. When we go back to 1900, there were more than 100,000 cheetahs known to be living in the wild. While we are sure that both of those numbers are slightly off, they point to a staggering reality.
Inspiration Through New Exhibit
Thankfully, zoo habitats like Emmett’s are helping to turn the tide toward increased wildlife preservation. The Columbus Zoo takes in more than 2.3 million visitors in a calendar year. That means that Emmett is going to get to see so many people who will, hopefully, spread the message for preservation far and wide.
Cullen Still Steals the Show
Even though most people come to The Columbus Zoo to see animals like Emmett, companion dogs are still quite a popular attraction. In fact, even when Emmett is in his enclosure, the zoo frequently gets asked when the dogs are going to be released. That’s right! Even though the ‘Heart of Africa’ exhibit was built from scratch for $40 million to house the cheetahs, visitors still want to see Cullen. What a good boy!
Other Cats Like Cullen
Even though our goal was to highlight the adorable relationship between Emmett and Cullen, there is so much more to talk about. Companion dogs are changing and saving the lives of cheetahs all over the world. Here we can see a young cheetah named Keyara and her companion labrador, Coby.
Keyara and Coby
Keyara had suffered a broken leg when she was still a tiny cub. Her injury partnered with her natural flighty nature meant that taking care of her was hard. Fortunately, Coby was able to help mellow Keyara out. As a result, Keyara was able to get the love, care, and attention that she needed. Rapp said of this relationship, “Without him (Coby), I don’t know that we could have pulled this off. She will be fantastic.”
Creating Conservation Momentum
The Columbus Zoo makes sure to showcase relationships like the one shared between Emmett and Cullen. The zoo knows that their existence relies on keeping people interested in what the zoo has to offer. For that reason, it is so important to share stories like Emmett’s. Fortunately, it seems like Emmett and Cullen are part of a broader push for change.
Work Going On Around the World
While companion dogs are still relatively new to America, dogs have played an important part in cheetah conservation for a long time. In fact, in Africa, there is a dog that can be cited for saving more cheetahs than any other companion animal. We are talking about the Anatolian Shepherd.
Saving Lives By Barking
The Anatolian Shepherd is one of the most popular dogs for farms in Africa. This breed of dog has a ferocious bark that services to keep encroaching cheetahs at bay. When the Anatolian Shepherd scares cheetahs away from the farm, the farmers don’t have to use their guns to shoot and kill the cheetah.
Continued Efforts of the Anatolian Shepherd
Thanks to the hard work employed by the Anatolian Shepherd, countless cheetahs, and their cubs have been saved. In fact, some would argue that the Anatolian can be credited with helping to prevent extinction from taking cheetahs even sooner. Who knew that dogs and cats had such a fascinating relationship?
Final Goal of Cullen’s Exhibit
While the tide of preservation can’t change overnight, stories like Emmett’s and Cullen’s are so very important. Ultimately, the zoo is hopeful that their companion dogs will continue to help cheetahs acclimate to their lives in captivity. In doing so, there is a very real hope that preservation efforts can improve so that we don’t have to say goodbye to these wonderful animals forever.
Stop On By To Support Your Local Zoo
Supporting your local zoo is one of the best ways that you can show how much you care about the wildlife around the world. While zoos can, at times, gain poor reputations, the truth is that they are ground zero for serious conservation efforts. Zoos are staffed by caring, loving, and intelligent researchers who are doing their best to help save our planet’s animals.
And Stay For Precious Moments Like These
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that zoos provide such touching moments as these. Whether you want to go see Emmett and Cullen or not, supporting your local zoo is something that anybody can do. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get to see a companion dog like Cullen in action at the zoo near you!
Who Rescued Who?
Susan Luong first discovered the power of dogs helping a patient heal, as a young child, when she was treated, in the hospital, for juvenile polymyositis. After volunteering her time at various shelters, Susan came to understand the challenges that exist with dogs who are left behind due to medical or behavioral issues. Susan’s time at the shelter taught her about patience, care, and training behavioral issues out of dogs to make them more adoptable. Her time at the shelters also fueled her desire to rescue dogs with medical, or behavioral issues–especially corgis.
Susan and her husband eventually adopted a corgi of their very own. The seller failed to tell them the corgi they adopted was not as advertised. Told the dog they were adopting was a 2-year-old corgi with no health issues, they later discovered the dog they adopted was almost a senior citizen! In addition, the dog they adopted, Oliver, was far from healthy, with a cost of nearly $2,000 for just his medical issues alone! In addition to his medical concerns, Oliver had aggression issues with Susan and her husband, other dogs, and strangers, too! Friends and family tried talking Susan and her husband into giving Oliver up, but instead, they upped their training.
Eva came to them almost two years later with similar behavior issues. Like Oliver, Susan and her husband trained Eva until they eliminated all of her aggressive behaviors. Amazingly, they trained both dogs so well, they each obtained an American Kennel Good Citizenship Award! Having successfully rehabilitated both Oliver and Eva, Susan founded Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue (QBSDR), a non-profit focused on rehabilitating corgis. Each dog that comes to the shelter is tested against her own dogs to determine its temperament. The results of that test become the foundation for each corgi’s personalized training to make the dogs more adoptable.
Adoption events, monthly hikes, community events, and even a special beach day just for corgis are sponsored by Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue. Corgi Beach Day is one of two annual events designed to educate prospective adoptees about corgis and the potential health or behavioral ailments that may occur down the road. Approximately 800 corgis hit the beach running at each of their two Corgi Beach Days — one for Northern California, and one for Southern California. Anyone wanting to adopt one of the corgis must go through a very-detailed five-part process: complete an application with as much detail as possible; answer any additional questions that QBSDR has about the application; submit to a home inspection designed to ensure no safety issues exist; come to the QBSDR facility with current pets and all household family members; and, once approved, receive whichever adoptable corgi that QBSDR feels will best suit the corgi’s needs, and the people’s personalities and lifestyles. This level of detail is very important to ensure the best possible fit between the corgi and its forever parents.
California Sets the Pace on Store-Bought Puppies from Mills
Imagine you had your heart set on an adorable new puppy you spotted at your local pet store. They give you those charming eyes and irresistible body movements that win you over, except no matter how set you are on ‘buying’ a new dog, you need its history and background. Every pet store has to provide the origins of the pup, their breed mix, and any additional facts and information about the dog.
Full disclosure is now becoming mandatory for pet shop owners when selling any puppies that have not been born or bred in puppy mills. California is setting the pace for this practice, and hopefully more states will follow the mandatory law. When Governor Brown was still in office in 2017 he signed a bill to prevent the practice of acquiring new pups from inhumane situations be sold at their stores. The law went into effect in October of this year, 2019.
What are the details?
The large-scale operations where most of the pet store puppies arrive from are less than humane. For instance, conditions at most puppy mills are so unsanitary that dogs sit in cramped cages, their treatment is borderline abusive, and its sad. Most breeders are concerned about one thing: profit. They push out dog after dog in an effort to increase their bottom line, only to have the original mother of the pups overwhelmed and possibly contracting illnesses.
Every breeder is different. Oftentimes, their intentions to sell high quality dogs to people are sound and true, yet once they decide to attract the pet store owners with the “reject” puppies, the pet shop receives the undesirables and tries to sell them at top dollar. Instead of placing the extra or unwanted pups in a shelter, the breeders go straight to the pet stores.
Well, all of that is changing in California. No longer will one of the estimated 10,000 puppy mills in the United States be able to sell to pet shop owners. The ban is now in effect. Every dog, cat, rabbit, or other exotic animal sold in pet stores must be obtained from shelters or rescue organizations.
It’s a giant step forward for animal activist groups, who have been pushing for this measure for several years. The Humane Society, PETA, and the national ASPCA support the bill and its verbiage. Banning breeders is not without controversy however, as the Pet Industry Advisory Council (who opposes the bill) feels it may put several breeders out of business altogether. Their worry is how the new legislation may put well-intended breeders in an evil light, also claiming the bill removes consumer protections.
Where do we go from here?
Since California tends to set the tone for many environmental causes and issues people mostly care about, the new law has pros and cons for all concerned. If there are responsible and humane private breeders willing to comply, they’re also able to continue selling puppies to private citizens desirous of a healthy breed and who doesn’t believe the price tag is over their budget.
A direct sale of puppies to pet stores isn’t in the offing anymore, and those breeders who have amassed a multi-dimensional business have to go elsewhere to direct their sales. California is the first state to enact this law, however more states are beginning to follow suit. Eliminating puppy mills within its borders is a celebration for shelters and rescue organizations as well.
If the trend continues, no longer will puppies have to sit for days on end in awful conditions. They are saved!
Popular Mini Horse Cheers Up Children at Local Children’s Hospital in Michigan
Nobody enjoys being in the inpatient unit of a hospital and for children, this experience can be downright scary. Fortunately, there are lots of volunteers who donate their time to help children make this experience just a little bit easier. Some volunteers dress up in costumes to help children who are having a rough time. Others might show up bearing gifts that can help children get through their stay. Other volunteers play musical instruments, trying to cheer up the kids. Sometimes, help comes in the form of a popular animal. Kids love animals and Fred the Mini Horse is one of the most popular guests at the local Michigan Children’s Hospital.
Horseback riding is a great activity both recreationally and competitively; however, even being around a horse can place a smile on someone’s face. This is what happened from Fred the Mini Horse showed up at the local Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fred the Mini Horse was instantly the star of the show when he arrived. This tiny horse belongs to an organization called Little Horses Big Smiles. This is a nonprofit organization that operates out of Fremont, MI. This organization is dedicated to training and providing mini horses for a variety of purposes. In this case, Fred the Mini Horse is training to be a dedicated service animal who can help people all over the pace. Fred the Mini Horse did exactly that when he made his way around the floors of the local children’s hospital. The nonprofit organization has already spent a lot of time with the children’s hospital, knowing that there are lots of patients there who could use a little bit of extra love and attention. It turns out the animals from this organization, such as Fred the Mini Horse, make appearances about once per month. Those who work at the nonprofit also love their work. They say there is nothing better than putting a smile on the faces of children who need it most. Fred the Mini Horse is happy to provide this opportunity.
Fred the adorable Mini Horse makes his way around the floors in a great costume. He wears shoes over his hooves in an effort to protect the floors from harm. In addition, Fred the Mini Horse also wears a vest that clearly marks him as a therapy animal. Fred the Mini Horse is about 14 months old, which is about the same age as many of the children he sees at the hospital. Parents and children from all over the hospital echoed these sentiments, knowing that Fred provides an opportunity for kids to put their illnesses on the backburner for just a few minutes as they interact with the loving animals. Even the parents enjoyed meeting Fred the Mini Horse. The parents go through a difficult time in the hospital as well. The opportunity to leave the room and be interactive is a welcome break for many families.
In addition to the children’s hospital in Grand Rapids, Fred the Mini Horse also makes visits to other local children’s hospitals in the surrounding area. There are lots of children who are going through a hard time and could use a lift. This is the goal of Fred and the other animals at this local nonprofit. In the future, other animals might also visit the hospital as well. This isn’t just a welcome break for the children. The hospital staff often interact with the animals as well, looking for a quick break from their demanding jobs.
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