In 2014, a baby cheetah named Ruuxa was born somewhere in Oregon. He was flown to the San Diego Zoo when he was two-weeks-old.
Ruuxa’s name comes from a Somali word that means “Spirit”. As we will see, he sure showed a lot of spirit in his life!
Shortly after Ruuxa arrived at the San Diego Zoo, he met a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy named Raina. They became an unlikely pair of best friends.
Ruuxa was a naturally uptight cheetah. Each time he and Raina played together, however, he became calm. Eventually, Ruuxa and Raina became so close that they played together, slept together, and ate together.
The caretakers at the San Diego Zoo noticed something peculiar: Ruuxa’s legs were bowed. They hoped that Ruuxa’s bowed legs would straighten as he grew. His legs, instead, grew more bowed. The caretakers decided that Ruuxa would need surgery.
Ruuxa was taken to the vet, where several veterinarians performed a surgery that would hopefully straighten his legs. Raina, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, was there the entire time, even throughout the recuperation. Because of Raina’s presence, Ruuxa never became anxious.
The surgery was a success, and Ruuxa’s bowed legs were corrected. Despite that, the vet told Sain Diego Zoo volunteers that Ruuxa would likely not be able to run in the future. She would only be able walk.
A couple months later, Ruuxa ran a 100-yard dash at 70 miles per hour…no onlooker could believe his or her eyes. “It’s a miracle!” veterinarians exclaimed at the news.
Ruuxa’s caretakers decided that, yes, it was a miracle.
But Raina would need a miracle, too.
Raina, the dog, began having trouble walking. One of her caretakers inspected her paw and noticed a small bump. Hmm, that is concerning, the caretaker thought. Upon taking Raina to the vet, a CT-scan revealed that Raina had two tumors in her foot and one tumor in her shoulder.
The tumors were cancerous. In fact, the kind of cancer she had did not have a cure – it was terminal cancer.
Distraught, the volunteers at the San Diego Zoo mourned for Raina. They also mourned for Ruuxa, who did not remember life without her faithful canine friend by his side. Worry flooded the zoo.
One of the volunteers had a plan for Ruuxa: find another Rhodesian Ridgeback to replace Raina when she passed. (After all, Raina only had months left to live, according to the veterinarians.)
The zoo workers brought in Little Rae, a dog that could have been Raina’s twin. She was introduced to Ruuxa, who would unfortunately not have much to do with the new companion.
Several months passed, and the volunteers anxiously awaited Raina’s death. Raina, however, was living a remarkably long time with the terminal cancer. She would not pass away. What’s more: Raina’s owner noticed that the bumps on her paw and shoulder were…shrinking.
After several weeks of monitoring the shrinking, Raina underwent another CT scan. Results revealed that Raina’s tumors were nearly gone. A later scan depicted Raina as cancer free!
Another miracle had occurred!
To this day, the veterinarians cannot explain how Raina recovered from cancer that was supposedly terminal.
Ruuxa and Raina Today
Now Ruuxa and Raina can be found at the San Diego Zoo, enjoying life and each other’s company. Little Rae is loving life, too!
Ruuxa and Raina spend much of each day playing with each other, snuggling, and going for walks. They defied odds. Ruuxa learned to run and Raina beat cancer! The cheetah and the dog bonded in their individual struggles.
Not to mention, Ruuxa and Raina are also a media sensation in San Diego. Various newspaper posts, magazine articles, and YouTube videos have documented the amazing lives of these two animals. Ruuxa and Raina even inspired a kid’s picture book.
The picture book, by children’s author Georgeanne Irvine, ends this way, “Ruuxa and Raina’s friendship is proof that miracles do happen.” I can’t put it better than that!