In his new book, "Frenemies for Life," John Becker writes about the unlikely friendships forged among wild cats and domestic dogs. From when they were puffs of fur to full-grown animals, these diverse species created a long-lasting bond.
Read an excerpt from the book below and head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
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A young cheetah crouches silently in the grass, his gaze fixed on the unsuspecting puppy frolicking just a few yards away. When the puppy rolls onto its back, wiggling in delight, the cheetah slinks down even more and inches closer and closer.
Suddenly, with the explosive quickness that only a cheetah can call upon when attacking its prey, the young predator bounds forward, and in little more than a heartbeat, pounces on the startled puppy. "Yowl!" the puppy cries out as the cheetah traps it. Then the two animals tumble over and over in a rolling ball of fur and claws.
Suddenly another furry puppy and a lightning-quick cheetah cub join them. For the next several minutes, the four natural enemies chase each other around the grassy enclosure, zigzagging in and out, play-biting, swatting, growling, chirping, and wrestling each other. What might seem like a life-and-death struggle among mortal enemies was, in reality, just a playful romp, ending with none of them hurt and all of them ready for a long afternoon nap.
The two cheetah cubs and two Anatolian shepherd puppies (Ro, Reh, Reese, and Ruth) are best of friends, and they play together in an exercise yard at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Columbus, Ohio. In the wild, these animals would never live together, so why would a zoo think this is a good idea? The answer is surprising, and it's all about saving cheetahs.
To clear up this mystery, Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and host of Jack Hanna's Into the Wild television program, makes it a priority to tell people about what is going on—and what the Columbus Zoo and other concerned groups across the country are doing.
Jack says, "At the Columbus Zoo, we thought we could put pairs of young cheetah cubs and Anatolian shepherd puppies together and raise them to be friends. That would allow us to train them, so they can travel together to television programs, into schools, and to other settings to help us tell the public about how Anatolian shepherd dogs are helping save cheetahs from disappearing. We think that once people understand how important it is to get more of these dogs on more farms in Africa, they'll help us raise the money it takes to do that."
Former Columbus Zoo Director, Jeff Swanagan cited the importance of this cheetah conservation project as a perfect example of his belief that zoos should "touch the heart to teach the mind." He understood that when people feel strongly about something, like cheetahs disappearing, they become eager learners. People who are made aware of why and how cheetahs are disappearing become strong supporters of projects that focus on saving cheetahs from possible extinction. The zoo's program teaches children and adults how Anatolian shepherd dogs are helping save cheetahs in Africa. Learning more about these livestock-guarding dogs will also help people see that dogs and cheetahs truly can be "frenemies for life."