When a mother abandons a baby, hearts break. And when it’s a baby with a health problem, it’s even harder to bear. That’s when a best friend can make the difference between life and death, as the video below shows with the story of Ruuxa, a cheetah at the San Diego Zoo, and his best friend, a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Raina.
Ruuxa was the only kitten his mother had, and as is common with cheetahs when there’s only one baby, Mama left him alone to die. But the folks at the San Diego Zoo weren’t going to let that happen. They knew Ruuxa needed a “sibling,” so they introduced him to Raina.
From the get-go, Ruuxa and Raina hit it off. The pictures below prove this.
They were allowed to live together—in fact, that’s the sole purpose of bringing these two very different animals together in the first place.
Then the people taking care of this unusual pair found out something heartbreaking: Ruuxa had a genetic disorder called chondrodysplasia, a growth abnormality that caused his legs to bow inward and prevented him from running properly. That meant he would face surgery on both of his front legs, and he’d need Raina’s affection more than ever.
Ruuxa and Raina’s caretakers were concerned that they would have to separate the friends while the cheetah healed, but the two weren’t having any of that!
Raina was very gentle with Ruuxa’s bandages and their people decided that he would heal much better with Raina’s ministrations to her little “brother.”
Once Ruuxa’s legs healed, he and Raina were back to their old selves, constant companions who never wanted to be apart. They went on walks to strengthen the cheetah’s legs and build up the pair’s stamina and endurance.
Their relationship continued to grow, and the zookeepers knew that a large part of Ruuxa’s rehabilitation success was due to her bond with Raina. Eventually, they hoped that Ruuxa could run like the wild animal he was meant to be.
One day, they decided to clock both Ruuxa and Raina as they ran. Ruuxa didn’t disappoint. He hit 70-75 miles per hour, quite typical for his species.
Raina wasn’t even in Ruuxa’s ballpark, running quite fast for a dog at 20 miles per hour, but w-a-a-a-y behind her buddy’s speed.
Today, Raina and Ruuxa are still together, as they will be throughout their lives.
The story of Raina and Ruuxa has a wonderful ending—they lived happily ever after. Watch the video below and you’ll see that their story is the stuff fairy tales are made of.