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New Jersey zoo pairs cheetah with service dog

Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Keepers at a New Jersey zoo said the facility's cheetah has been paired with a service dog to ease the big cat's anxiety.

The Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange said Nandi the cheetah was introduced to a Labrador named Bowie when both animals were just a few weeks old.

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"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," zoo spokeswoman Charlotte Trapman-O'Brien told WCBS-TV.

Officials said Bowie was given similar training to a therapy animal that would deal with humans.

"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," trainer Samantha Wegman said.

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