Sydney: An Australian Shepherd has been hailed as a maternal icon in the US after she adopted a litter of orphaned kittens.
Six-year-old Lakota is the Nesseth family's sole surviving pet after their cat was hit by a car only three weeks after giving birth.
Robert Nesseth called around to Seattle-area vets after the accident to see if anybody had a nursing mother available but nobody did, so the kittens were brought home and the family braced themselves for the hard work of hand-raising them.
"Then our Australian shepherd here latched onto them straight away and said 'they're mine' and she's been pretty much taking care of them," he was quoted by King5.com as saying.
"We do bottle-feed them but then she takes them and lets them suckle off her … she actually has a history of having another kitten that nursed off her and actually caused her to produce milk – we're waiting to see what happens here.
"If the kittens are out and about she's right with them and when we put them into a box at night to sleep, she's right there next to the box all night long, making sure nobody and nothing gets near them."
Lakota has become a minor celebrity after her story was first revealed on Mother's Day, but Mr Nesseth said it certainly wasn't fame or glory that motivated her.
"Just motherly instinct … she had a litter of puppies probably four or five years ago, that's all she had and ever since then she's just loved to be a mother," he said.
"She's a very good dog … she shows that you don't have to give birth to them to be a good mother."