Published: Aug 24, 2011 10:52 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 24, 2011 11:10 PM EDT

NAPLES, Fla.- Four abandoned coyote pups, rescued by the Naples Zoo, are finding motherly love from an unexpected source.

Meet Millie, a long-time shelter dog turned surrogate mom for a pack of young, orphaned coyotes.

The six-year old Plott hound went from pound pup to top dog two weeks ago, after being hand-picked by the Naples Zoo.

"We found Millie, thank goodness, to kind of be their surrogate mother. To help them feel safe, to help them feel secure, and also to show them by example how they can be more comfortable around people," Jayne Hardwick of the Naples Zoo said Wednesday.

Millie was rescued from Labelle Animal Control by Naples Humane Society, but she sat at the shelter for several months. Finally, she's finding an permanent home at an unexpected place.

"Sure, a home is what we typically get. The zoo, that's totally different but it's going to be a rewarding life for her," Karen Sesso of the Naples Humane Society said Wednesday.

The Naples Humane Society says Millie's cut out for the job. She's been a mom before and even helped foster pups during her stay at the shelter.

So far, zookeepers say she's playing the part...except when her hound dog instinct gets the best of her.

"She got a scent of our skunk who is one of our show animals just a little bit ago, and she just went crazy," Hardwick laughed.

Millie and her unorthodox offspring spend the majority of the day together, supervised for now in a pen. While the zoo's pairing is far from conventional, they're hoping to create a family worth wagging over.

"I think Millie won out as well as the zoo. I think it was a win-win for both of them," Sesso said.

Thirteen years ago, the Naples Zoo adopted a dog from the Humane Society to help socialize a tiger cub. That pup, Crystal, is still at the zoo, now serving as a surrogate mom for a dingo.