BFFs: Dallas Zoo Labrador, cheetah share special bond

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on July 11, 2014 at 6:34 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 11 at 11:14 PM

DALLAS -- As the Labrador retriever bounds through the door followed closely by a stalking cheetah, it looks like a scene involving a hunter and its prey.

But the dog isn't trying to escape the wild animal following him. It’s playtime.

Amani, the black Labrador, and Winspear, the cheetah, have been raised and live together - 24 hours a day, seven days a week - at the Dallas Zoo.

"Amani" means peace in Swahili. He is the calming influence for the more skittish cat, especially when interacting with the public as part of the travelling outreach program.

"Cheetahs are naturally timid animals,” said animal outreach supervisor Allyssa Leslie, “so having a dog companion kind of acts like an older brother."

The set-up involving a dog/cheetah relationship has worked well at other zoos.

The Dallas Zoo paired Winspear and Amani together when they were just weeks old. The two are comparable in size, which means there is no danger to dog. Amani is, in fact, the alpha dog of the duo.

There used to be two cheetahs  Winspear's twin, Kamau, died of a respiratory illness in January.

“At that point,” Leslie said, “you could really tell that Winspear and Amani's relationship grew together.”

This week, the two are celebrating their first birthday. They enjoyed a giant popsickle treat of frozen milk and chicken stock.

"Finally, cats and dogs are getting along,” said 12-year-old Amir Brown, in amazement.

Zoo guests say the two are a lesson in how to along, brotherhood, and best friends.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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