Do you need to teach a hungry ocelot kitten how to drink milk? Do you have an orphaned wallaby that needs to cuddle? When the animal keepers at the Cincinnati Zoo needed to look for a dog to help them raise their baby animals, they selected Blakely for the job. The Australian Shepherd breed was chosen because they are both keenly intelligent and are laid back.
Blakely is the resident baby animal whisperer and is helping raise orphaned baby animals at the Cincinnati Zoo. The Aussie visits the animal nursery each day to help care for the baby animals that need a little extra care. "We don't pull animals from their moms unless there is a problem," explains keeper Michelle Smith. "If they are doing good, we leave them be."
His first charge was Savanna. The tiny cheetah had been abandoned by her mother and had lots to learn. Although the animal keepers could painstakingly teacher her how to nurse from a bottle, Blakely had a quicker method. He drinks the milk from the bowl and lets the babies suck it off the fur around his snout. Eventually, the young learn to lap from a bowl following his lead. "He teaches them things we humans can't," Smith says. "It's animal language." Since Savanna, Blakely has gone on to help raise other species, including a wallaby, a skunk, a bat-eared fox, and a warthog.
The Aussie knows when to roughhouse and even when the babies need to cuddle. "He teaches the babies the right way to play pretty fast," says Smith.
Blakely begins his day with a walk around the zoo before it opens and he then returns to the nursery for a nap on his chair. When he isn't taking care of the baby animals, you can find him strolling around the zoo greeting visitors. "He loves kids," says Smith. "He has the biggest tail wag when he sees children." When she is asked to describe his role at the zoo, Smith doesn't hesitate. "I'd say rock star. Zoo rock star."