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Kasi And Mtani, Baby Cheetah And Puppy, Celebrate One-Year Friendship (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

04/19/2012 01:40 pm ET | Updated Apr 19, 2012

Last March, Busch Gardens in Tampa received a 3-week-old orphaned male cheetah, which required around-the-clock care as a furry newborn.

And because male cheetahs form "coalitions," strong brotherly bonds, with their siblings, the animal park sought out a life-long companion for the lonely cheetah cub.

They found a 6-week-old female Labrador retriever at a local shelter, who was bouncy, smart, playful, and patient -- in other words, all the traits they thought would make a good cheetah best friend.

They spent time training the pup and soon introduced him to the little cheetah.

To name the pair, the Gardens held an online vote on Facebook. The nearly 3,000 voters named the cheetah Kasi, Swahili for "one with speed," and the pup was named Mtani, meaning "close friend."

"Everyone's like 'A cheetah and a dog? Does that make sense?'," zoo manager Tim Smith said. "And actually it does. They both have similar behavioral patterns. They find each other socially very similar in the way that they interact with each other. "

For the first couple of months, the odd couple's hangouts were completely supervised by Busch Gardens staff, who made sure that they were having "positive experiences with one another," according to Smith.

The two friends, which are a real draw to Busch Gardens visitors, recently celebrated their one-year anniversary together.

See video of them above and images from their 12-month interspecies love story below.

Baby Cheetah and Puppy Pal
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