Sadly, at the end of November 2022, we had to say goodbye to one of our very special dogs, Cappuccino or Cheena, as her adopted parents called her. Cheena was one of Namibia’s first dogs born through Artificial Insemination (AI) at the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and lived the life of a Livestock Guarding Dog Ambassador, having been adopted by the United States Ambassador to Namibia, Ambassador Wanda Nesbitt and her husband Jim Stejskal. Cheena is survived by her granddaughter, Kuvvet, which just gave birth to a litter of seven puppies on the 8TH October at CCF, and her sister, Pandora, a retired breeding female living at Cheetah OutReach in South Africa, and several breeding dogs from Pandora.
We were notified of the sad passing of Cheena in early December, after her health began going downhill a couple of months earlier. Like many of our older Anatolian Shepherd and Kangal dogs, she came to a point where she was unable to get up without help and lost all interest in going on. Cheena passed away peacefully and painlessly surrounded by her family that loved her.
Cheena was born at CCF to Mum, Uschi, through AI on the 5th August 2010 from sperm from a male named Zor was donated to CCF from Lynn Kenny and Mark Griffith from the Rare Breeds Ranch in Cottonwood, California, in the United States. Zor had come from an impressive working dog bloodline, so we knew this litter would be incredible.
We soon realized though that Cheena had skin allergies from living in the goat kraal, and we knew an alternative plan had to be made! It was at this time that Ambassador Wanda and Jim visited CCF for the first time and fell in love with Cheena. It was a match made in heaven. CCF ‘s Director, Dr. Laurie Marker remembers showing the Ambassador and Jim around the goat yard and introducing them to the Livestock Guarding Dog (LGD) program. They said that they had just lost their big dog and really liked dogs. Laurie asked Wanda and Jim if they might be interested in adopting Cheena, as she was not happy in the goat yard. There was one caveat though, we needed Cheena to have a litter of puppies, so we could keep her important bloodlines going.
A few days later, Wanda and Jim rehomed Cheena at their Ambassador home in Windhoek where she became an integral part of their family! Below Ambassador Wanda shares her story of Cheena.
We heard of Dr. Laurie Marker long before we came to Namibia and were eager to see CCF’s work to save the cheetahs. We had no idea that a dog would inspire us to sign on to the effort to save cats, but that’s what happened. That dog, Cheena, would also become our closest companion.
On a visit to CCF’s farm in 2011, we met one of the guard dogs who wasn’t doing well – she had skin allergies and was clearly in need of a change. My husband Jim jumped at the chance to adopt her and presto! – she was ours. Cheena flourished in her new home – where she had not only air conditioning but multiple people (including my house staff) to give her attention every day. And yes, we probably spoiled her terribly – but she loved it! We were thrilled when she gave birth to nine puppies at our home in Namibia — never mind that some people didn’t think that was an appropriate thing to have happen at an Ambassador’s residence — and every minute we had with them was great fun. A Peace Corps staff member in our neighborhood used to call me “Cheena’s mom” (instead of Ambassador) whenever she saw me walking with the dog, and it always made me smile.
Back in the U.S., we often encountered people who’d ask, “what kind of dog is that?” Anatolians still aren’t very common in the U.S. and Jim, in particular, relished the opportunity to tell people about CCF, about Anatolians in general and of course, how a dog born in Namibia ended up living in Alexandria, Virginia. Once she gave up trying to chase squirrels and terrorize small dogs, Cheena once again loved being the center of attention and managed to lure just about everyone into petting her.
As part of our breeding program, Cheena produced one littler of nine puppies, all of which went on to become livestock guarding dogs in Namibia apart from one beautiful female named Lady. Lady, carried on her mother’s legacy as a breeding dog, providing puppies for farmers to mitigate human-wildlife conflict across Namibia. Once Lady retired, we kept one of her puppies, Kuvvet, which has recently had a litter of seven puppies, all which will carry on the great work of saving the cheetah throughout Namibia’s farmlands!
Thank you, Cheena, for giving CCF, Wanda and Jim so many years of your life, and for being the best Ambassador for your breed. You were an amazing dog and best friend. We will always remember you. Rest in peace.