Posted at: 11/30/2012 11:46 AM
By: CARRIE ANTLFINGER, Associated Press
WEST BEND, Wis. (AP) - Tinker may be miniature -- as in a miniature horse -- but he's a big money raiser for the Salvation Army.
He uses his mouth to hold and ring a red bell and also picks up with his mouth a "Thank You Merry Christmas" sign. He can also bow and give kisses.
Crowds usually gather to watch the 13-year-old brown, black, grey and white horse and take photos, pet him and put some money in the red kettle.
"I actually save up all my donation and give it to Tinker because I have such a soft place in my heart for him," said Karen Hammen, who gave money while Tinker stood outside a West Bend craft show on a recent Saturday morning.
She's not the only one with a soft spot for Tinker.
Major Roger Ross, a Salvation Army commander, said Tinker brings in 10 times the amount of a regular bell ringer in the area.
"A good kettle for a couple of hours brings in about $250 and for the same time period (Tinker and his owners) have been known to bring in $2,500," he said.
"They line up to put money in the kettle," he said.
One of Tinker's owners, Carol Takacs, said she and her husband got Tinker 12 years ago. She said she went to look at a property and fell in love with the miniature horses and asked that one be part of the deal. She said she soon started training Tinker, who was a quick learner.
He usually goes out there spiffed up. She spends a half hour vacuuming his mane and fur and puts glitter on his hooves, a bell on his backside and a Santa hat on his head. And _ of course _ Tinker wears the Salvation Army apron.
Takacs said his name was Tinker when they got him.
"As fate would have it I could not have named him more appropriately if I had tried," she said.
Some don't believe he actually holds and rings the bell, she said.
"We don't do that with Velcro or glue. There's nothing on his bell. He knows that this is his job and he does it very well," she said.
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