On Wednesday, a concerned puppy in San Diego nuzzled and licked her best friend, a cheetah cub, to make sure he would wake up from his leg surgery this week.
With his spotted forelegs wrapped in blue bandages, the little cub Ruuxa is recovering from an growth abnormality operation.
His legs were starting to bow because the growth plate in his ulna stopped growing before the radius, so veterinarians wanted to correct the problem before it caused pain.
The young cheetah was sedated for the surgery at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Harter Veterinary Medical Center.
Raina, the brown Rhodesian ridgeback puppy who has been Ruuxa’s constant companion, accompanied her friend. She sat nearby through the whole procedure.
The pup even laid by his crate while he was recovering from the anesthesia.
“Raina appeared very concerned about Ruuxa when she saw he was sleeping and she couldn’t wake him,” said Susie Ekard, the park’s animal training manager. “She licked him and nuzzled him, and when he awoke, she lay with him and seemed very content to know her cheetah was OK.”
The dog’s presence made it less stressful for the cheetah, Ekard said.
The two were paired together through the Safari Park’s animal ambassador program. Ruuxa was rejected by his mother – which is often the case when a single cub is born – so Raina steps in to help the cub navigate the outside world.
The goal is to develop a kinship between the two animals so the dog can keep the cheetah calm in public settings.
The Safari Park says Ruuxa and Raina should be up to their normal roughhousing soon when the cub makes a full recovery.
According to Ekard, the surgery will help Ruuxa have a better quality of life because he won’t have further leg problems down the road.
“So I’m very thankful that we were able to have the technology and the expertise and the facilities and everything to do this,” said Ekard.