Dog steps in to help orphaned cheetah cubs

A nursery dog has come to the rescue for a group of cheetah cubs that need a surrogate parent.

Willow, the mother of these five cheetahs, passed away earlier this month after delivering the newborns via C-section at the Cincinnati Zoo.

“Cheetahs are a fragile species and this difficult birth proved to be too much for her to pull through,” explained the zoo's director, Thane Maynard.  “Willow was able to contribute to the survival of her species by producing five cheetah cubs.  Without the C-section, we likely would have lost both the mom and the cubs.”

The cubs -- three boys and two girls -- have been receiving constant care in the zoo's nursery since they were born.

Thankfully, the zoo's Australian Shepherd -- named Blakely -- has now been called into action as a surrogate parent to provide snuggling and comfort.

As the cheetah cubs grow, Blakely's role in their development will shift from companion to teacher and role model.

Cheetahs are endangered, the zoo's website explains, and their population worldwide has shrunk from about 100,000 in 1900 to an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 cheetahs today.