Dogs used to adjust lion cubs to life at CO animal sanctuary

(NBC) - Dogs and cats are known to be enemies, but at a Colorado animal sanctuary two lion cubs' survival is in the paws of a pack of rescue dogs.

Butchie the Bulldog and Wally the cat are teachers of a pair of homeless cubs who were only a few months old when they were found by Canadian police during a drug raid.

The mission: to get the cubs into one of the two Lion Prides resident there, but they can't join right away.

"The biggest part of the problem with the cubs like this is that they are not part of the Pride they weren't born into this Pride. So, instead of a zoo setting one male, a female or two females, we have actual Prides like they exist in the wild- where there's a whole group of lions. And they don't accept outside cubs. They would be killed right away by the male lion," said Sanctuary Director Pat Craig.

The cubs have to grow up and gain about two hundred and fifty pounds, as well as learning the ways of the Pack.

Their teachers consist of a half-a-dozen dogs led by Nellie, a pure-bred Komondor, also a rescue.

They love playing, but every match with the staff, and every tussle with the dogs is a part of a learning process in order for them to survive in captivity.

"Just playing by themselves would be like having a child that was raised in a closet and never seeing the outside world. So, getting exposed to everything from the dog pack to the human structure that we have here at the sanctuary. All these things make a big difference to these guys in getting them developed and getting them ready to go to the lion pride," said Craig.

Craig says there are lessons for the cubs from Butchie.

"Butchie's the go-to guy, because he's actually similar in a lot of ways to the lions. He doesn't look like a lion obviously, but he plays a lot in a similar way to how a lion would play. Lions compared to tigers or other cats are very physical. They crash into things. And Butchie plays exactly the same way. So, for the lions it makes perfect sense," said Craig.

Cain and Dian will move into the Pride in about nine months.

For now, they are just a couple of cubs ready to take a rest after a long morning of running with the dogs.

Copyright 2010 NBC. All rights reserved.