It all fun and games for us to go to zoos, but for the animals, it's extremely traumatizing. Once they're inside their enclosures, it's rather intimidating to be on display like that. That's why many animal sanctuary's and zoos have implemented 'therapy dogs' to help ease their anxiety.
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Some animals get so nervous that they need some sort of companion with them. The staff at Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange could see that their cheetah, Nandi, was having a hard time. So they brought in Bowie who just so happens to be a labrador and Nandi's best friend. As crazy as this sounds, this tactic has been proven to be extremely beneficial.
The golden Labrador x Golden retriever has been with Nandi since she was very young and has helped her with anxiety whenever her environment becomes too much for her. The two very opposite creatures have formed a beautiful friendship and now totally rely on each other. As a result, they've become the zoo's biggest attraction.
People are obviously fascinated by this strange relationship.
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Turtle Back Zoo's Charlotte Trapman-O'Brien said that "Bowie has a very important job here, which is to be, kind of, her confidence builder. So cheetah's are naturally skittish by nature, so one of the things that allows us to bring her out and do educational presentations like this is having Bowie by her side."
Bowie has been trained to pick up any signs of stress. Trainer Samantha Wegman explained that "We do need him to be calm. That's his whole job with the cheetah. So no matter what else is going on, if something startles her, she needs to look to him, and he needs to be calm. So he's been exposed to a lot of different environments. Part of the reason he comes home with us at night is to get him exposed to all different scenarios: Car rides, honking cars."
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Turtle Back Zoo stressed the importance of therapy dogs. They usually pair the dog with the animal in need when they are both young so that they can get along. As absurd as it may sound, it's worked wonders for these two best friends.