A dog who left a lasting legacy by helping socialize cheetah cubs and comforting other animals at the Columbus Zoo has died.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of beloved cheetah ambassador dog, Coby,” the zoo wrote Thursday on Facebook.
Coby, an 8-year-old Labrador retriever, was euthanized after his “health significantly declined” and he began suffering “severe neurological signs” related to chronic arthritis and secondary neck compression, and there were low chances he could live a life without pain.
The zoo praised Coby’s “playful and calm demeanor” and recalled that he loved spending time with animals and humans alike.
Coby was a puppy when he first came to the zoo, where he began his “illustrious career” with cheetahs Bibi and Zemba, the zoo said. He also helped mentor two other dogs at the zoo who took on similar duties.
Pairing cheetah cubs with puppies is a relatively common practice for zoos, especially in cases when cubs have come separated from their siblings or were born without them. The puppies and cubs mutually benefit from socialization and exercise, and the timid cubs end up taking a cue from the dogs and become less fearful of their surroundings.
“We want them to have confidence,” the Columbus Zoo’s Suzi App told The Wall Street Journal in 2019. “When we raise them with dogs, they have all the confidence.”
Though the animals may become less close as they get older, they typically remain friendly companions.
Coby’s duties extended beyond cheetahs. He also helped socialize other baby animals, like warthogs, and provided comfort for animals recovering from surgery.
“He made everyone feel special,” the zoo said.
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