Igor the German shepherd is a surrogate parent raising a lot of babies—none of them puppies.
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The caring canine is said to be raising a range of animals including tigers, monkeys, and even a hyena that are part of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation in Miami, Florida. Caretakers Mario and Maria Tabraue brought him along in hopes of him making friends with baby animals.
Little did they know that their pet will go on to become an unofficial staff member, as he has been tending to the emotional needs of these animals.
Mario said, “He loves animals, he’s my mascot, he’s my best friend, and he does what pleases me—this is how I analyze it. He does what I love to do because I love to do it.”
Igor became part of the couple’s family three and a half years ago when a friend offered them a pup. They snapped up the opportunity, being the animal lovers that they are and fell immediately in love with him. Maria shared, “He’s played a big role for us, for the family, for other animal companions we have at home. He plays a part with the visitors that come here, they’re in love with him.”
The sanctuary has an array of exotic animals from tigers to common farm ones, but their main focus is about conservation. Just recently, Igor befriended a tiger cub after he was rejected by his mother, and they have become friends since.
Speaking about their relationship, Mario said, “They love to run and chase each other for hours, sometimes just running back and forth and then they jump up and down with each other.”
Their relationship also allowed for the baby tiger to develop important social skills. Visitors love seeing the dog and the tiger together—a relationship they especially found interesting.
The most important thing about Igor’s presence, however, is that the sanctuary is now able to add another dimension to their care for the animals, especially the big cats, who often reject their own cubs, thus forcing all the other animals to be the surrogate parents.
Maria shared that in the sanctuary, it is her husband who takes care of the animals for the first few weeks, but then goes on to teach staff about the care and feedings of the animals. Eventually, Igor is introduced to the animals, and he takes care of the creatures by playing with them, eventually becoming the nourishing part of keeping the sanctuary.
“That’s the best way to grow an animal. With a dog they become friendlier, more easy, more caring,” she shared.