17. THE BACKGROUND
Dolph Volker is a special person who has dedicated most of his life to caring for exotic and endangered animals. He’s worked with animals that would send normal people sprinting for cover. So, you can say that he can bond with animals really well. But, he had no idea how well he’d bond with this cheetah cub.
16. DOLPH VOLKER
Before I get to the cheetah and the whole story, Volker deserves a decent introduction. Dolph was a volunteer at the Cheetah Experience in South Africa when a 10-month old cheetah walked through the doors. And, Volker had no idea about how well he’d get to know that cub.
15. THE RELATIONSHIP
The cheetah, Gabriel, was wild at that time. But, Dolph somehow taught him to calm down and forget some of his predator instincts. They pretty much spend the whole day together and became the best of friends.
14. HAND FED
Gabriel actually ate right out of Dolph’s hand. This isn’t rare for new born cubs, but Gabriel was out in the wilderness for 10 months. When you consider that, hand feeding is actually a huge feat.
After volunteering there for a while, Dolph had to leave the shelter. He knew he’d miss the kitty, but he had no idea the feeling would be likewise.
12. COMING HOME
A whole year later, Dolph was back to the sanctuary. He didn’t know what reaction he would get from Gabriel, or if he’d even get one. Well, he definitely got one hell of a reaction.
11. WARNED BY OTHERS
The folks at the shelter offered a word of caution. They said that Gabriel had changed and showed aggression towards the staff. However, Volker was confident this wouldn’t happen with him and Gabriel.
10. THE REACTION
As soon as the cheetah saw Dolph, he leapt towards him. The audience gasped because they thought that Volker was about to be ripped to shreds. But, the animal purred with delight and went straight to hug his caretaker.
The cheetah just showered Dolph with kisses. Gabriel didn’t let the guy go and obviously the feeling was mutual. Dolph was overjoyed because he wasn’t even expecting signs of recognition from the cat.
Volker said that he raised this cheetah in his hands and he was confident that the cheetah wouldn’t attack him. The reaction he got was much different than an attack.
“The only injury I got the entire time I knew him were dew claws to my forehead, that and his scalp grooming which is like sandpaper on it; making it raw. I picked scabs off my scalp four days after I left.”, said Volker.
After the greetings, the two started playing. Volker knew very well that the 145 lbs animal could injure him unintentionally, but that didn’t scare away the brave guy.
5. TAME CAT
The danger of accidentally hurting was there, but the cat jumped on top of Dolph regardless. And, surprisingly, Volker said that he didn’t feel uncomfortable during their playtime. Gabriel made sure he wasn’t hurting his caretaker. And, to be honest, this is just really sweet.
4. LOVES TO CUDDLE
Dolph said that Gabriel loved to cuddle. This is natural for male cheetahs as they don’t like to split up. They love living in groups known as coalitions. This nature is completely different from female cheetahs and Volker said that the cheetah had included him in his coalition.
3. NAP TIME
Oh, did you think that was all that was going to happen between the two? Volker and Gabriel actually slept next to each other. How adorable!
2. CHEETAH POPULATION
Everyone was probably moved by the story of this cheetah. But, do you know that cheetah population is actually declining at an alarming rate? There are 18 native countries where cheetahs are now extinct.
1. HOW CAN YOU HELP
If you’re an animal enthusiast like Volker and want to help the cause, go to cheetah.org or bigcatrescue.org. The two non-profits are actually trying to help protect the species and ensure that the number of 18 countries doesn’t start going up.