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    Photo by Jessica Ebelhar

    SNOWFLAKE
    Aspiring Bingo Pooper

    Every May for the past 12 years, Germantown Baseball has held a picnic in a park on the St. Xavier High School campus to raise money for Germantown youth teams. The main fundraising event? Letting a cow loose on the diamond and waiting for it to, you guessed it, poop. The group’s vice president of baseball, Steve Brown, had the idea for Cow Patty Bingo, which has raised somewhere close to $40,000. Here’s how it works: Late in the afternoon, tick-marks on a baseball field form a grid 20 spots wide and 25 deep — 500 spots total. Attendees buy tickets that correlate to spots, and if the poop lands on yours, you get half the pot, with the other half going to Germantown Baseball. Sometimes it takes only 45 minutes. Once, the event stretched to 1:30 a.m. 

    David Neville has supplied a cow for the event every year. The 60-year-old owns and operates Capstone Farms in Henry and Shelby counties. He doesn’t raise as many cattle as he used to: a couple dozen now versus 300 at one time. This year, Neville commissioned a heifer from Jericho Acres Dairy Farm in Henry County (a heifer is any cow that has not given birth yet). The 16-month-old heifer (not pictured) was the youngest ever to attend the Germantown picnic, and it was clear that she did not enjoy the contest. Almost as if she knew people were watching and waiting for her to drop anchor, she repeatedly ran out of the roped-off, designated area. “She’s young, and like any teenager, she’s got her own mindset,” Neville says. 

    As exciting as cow dung can be, it’s something else that draws Neville to Cow Patty Bingo. “With these cows, we’d like to get our rural kids involved so they can understand what the urban world looks like, and also so the urban kids get to see what the rural is like as well,” he says. “When I come down the hill with the trailer, kids look up and start hollerin’. The kid that’s usually in the truck with me is like, ‘Man, this is a big damn deal. Are you serious? They make this much excitement over a cow?’ And then the kids have a hundred and five questions and want to pet the cow. And the kid that’s with me gets to interact with everyone and answer questions. So that’s what’s exciting for me. The looks on the kids’ faces from Germantown and the look on the kid’s face that’s with me.”

    — Thomas Elmallakh

     


    Photo by Terrence Humphrey

    TOFU
    Blood Donor

    Teresa Becker’s cat Tofu is very unhappy today. The six-year-old, gray with dark stripes, releases a hoarse yowl from inside his pink pet carrier. “I know, buddy,” Becker coos, filling out a medical form on the clipboard in her lap. “You’ll live, I promise.” What Tofu does today will ensure that other cats will, too.

    Three of Becker’s six cats — big, hearty cats full of plasma — donate blood a few times a year at the Jefferson Animal Hospital on the Outer Loop. Should the need ever arise, they will get free blood transfusions up to the amount they’ve donated. This is Tofu’s seventh donation, and at 53 milliliters per visit, that means he’ll soon up his total amount of donated blood to 371 milliliters. To collect blood, vets will sedate Tofu and draw from his jugular. His blood has treated five cats so far. Anemia caused by fleas is a common ailment for felines, and some surgeries require transfusions. The Jefferson Animal Hospital stores the blood of 30 different donors, comprising all three feline blood types: Nine cats, including Tofu, give the abundant type A; two give the rarer type B; and one cat donates the ultra-rare type AB. No feline universal donor type exists, so it’s important to seek donors of all types. 

    Tofu pulls his legs in close to himself on the exam table, shrinking, his pupils eclipsing mint-green irises. The founder of the hospital, Dr. Patricia Kennedy, pokes her head in and tells Becker she’d like to nominate Tofu for induction into the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Hall of Fame, which honors animal do-gooders like service dogs. “Wow,” Becker says. Tofu mewls bleakly, not so impressed. 

    — Dylon Jones

     


    Photo by Terrence Humphrey

    COLONEL BEAU
    Therapy Dog

    Colonel Beau was born for this. Cave Hill Cemetery president Gwen Mooney got him from a champion breeder out in Minnesota awhile after her yellow Lab, a therapy dog named Otis, died of congestive heart failure. Mooney put in a lot of research, watching videos of the breeder’s puppies. People are less likely to approach a black Lab, a trainer told her, so she searched for a “fox red,” that sort of auburn color beneath Col. Beau’s red work vest, which has a plastic window on it through which you can see his therapy-dog license, complete with doggy portrait, DMV-style. Mooney brings Col. Beau to work with her daily, socializing him, teaching him. “When you go through a door, the dog has to follow. You cross the threshold first,” she says. “When the vest is off, it’s Frisbee, it’s ball, it’s being a puppy. But there’s a whole new respect when it’s on.”

    She tells him to sit, he sits. Wait, he waits. “You couldn’t have done this six months ago,” she says with a laugh. Training takes up to two years, and later on the day we meet in the cemetery, where Col. Beau sometimes comforts the bereaved, he will start his monthly week-long stay with his local trainer. Just over a year old, Col. Beau works with terminally ill folks, and a girl with special needs, but he will get much busier at age two, working in hospitals, with Alzheimer’s patients, with kids. His comforting skills aren’t strictly professional. “One day, my month-old granddaughter started screaming,” Mooney says, “and Beau came across the yard and rested his head on the baby, worried about her.”

    — DJ

     


    Photo by Mickie Winters

    RADAR
    LMPD Mounted Patrol

    The idea of police on horseback feels antiquated, too Mayberry for modern times. Then again, it’s impossible to scoff at Radar. A 1,700-pound draft horse that towers mankind, his hooves clip-clopping like gallon paint cans, his mane trimmed into an equine version of the cop buzzcut, it’s no wonder any mischief in the making tends to retreat when the eight-year-old arrives for work.

    His job really just requires that he show up. Show up to Derby, Forecastle, the Pegasus Parade, Thunder Over Louisville, Waterfront Park on a busy summer evening. Crowd management, the cops call it. In other words: intimidate. Keep the clowns in line and the dangerous folks reassessing plans. Crowd control, that’s part of the gig too. When the University of Louisville men’s basketball team won the national championship in 2013, LMPD’s mounted patrol helped bust up the manic revelry clogging campus. 

    His eyes and body the color of black coffee, Radar’s all brawn. A few whiskers on his chin add grit and wisdom. Tiny splatters of white on his rear and a white mark — like a backwards No. 7 — between his eyes add character. Officer Justin Hardy, who rides Radar, describes him as “chill, pretty relaxed.” When the two are on duty, Radar usually keeps one ear pricked forward to listen to his surroundings and one ear swiveled back so he won’t miss a cue from his boss.

    Radar and his five fellow draft horses undergo years of training. “Obstacle work,” Hardy says. One session might include banging garbage cans, loud rock music, police sirens, gunshots or yelling. “Horses are preyed upon in the wild, so they’re naturally scared of everything,” Hardy says. “They want to flee until you overcome certain obstacles.” During training, volunteers crowd the horses and grope them. (Yes, a few volunteers leave with smashed toes.) Radar’s a pro now, nary a flinch at fireworks. (One quirk: Small birds do still startle him.)

    Radar can chase suspects if needed, but that rarely happens. When it does, he and another horse (the mounted patrol always rides in pairs) will go for the two-ton sandwich, flanking the target on either side, a move that usually scares the bejeezus out of whomever is in for the handcuffing. “First thing they say is, ‘Is he gonna bite me or kick me?’” Hardy says. “I say, ‘No. If you stay calm, they’ll stay calm.’” 

    — Anne Marshall

     


    Photo by Mickie Winters

    DASH
    Police Assistant

    Dash operates in two modes. On duty, the 85-pound giant schnauzer with a stout, powerful frame and a pitch-black, coarse coat is amped and hurried, displaying an MMA fighter’s intensity, speed and grit as he sniffs for drugs, sitting all proud and confident upon discovering the goods, his beard wet with gleeful slobber. Impressive, yes, but it’s his pounce, followed by a clench of teeth to flesh, that probably has suspects on the run wishing for wings. When his official police harness is strapped on, Dash views everyone as a bad guy. That’s how he’s been trained. When a woman in Prospect swallowed a handful of pills and ran from her home in a suicide attempt, Dash found her, sobbing and sick beneath a shrub, and barked at her like he growls at fleet-footed lawbreakers. She’s alive thanks to Dash. 

    The other mode: At home with his handler, officer Dennis Clark of the West Buechel police department, Dash splays his limbs out and sleeps in Clark’s bed, plays with a Jack Russell terrier named Duke, ignores doorbells (Duke does the barking) and politely begs for dehydrated chicken strips (his favorite treat).

    Clark appreciates Dash’s two modes. That’s one of the reasons he bought the then six-month-old pup from a breeder in Germany. Another popular breed for policing — the Malinois — is too high-strung, no turn-off button, Clark says. Retrievers and German shepherds can suffer from hip problems. Clark’s an expert on such things. Aside from policing, he trains law-enforcement animals. (Claim to fame: Clark trained a Lab named Bear to detect electronics. Bear earned his 15 minutes — NBC, Inside Edition, FOX News — when he helped the FBI find electronic storage devices used by Jared Fogle, aka “the Subway guy,” who’s now in prison for possession of child pornography and sex with minors.)

    Most of Dash’s work involves sniffing out drugs like marijuana, cocaine, meth and heroin during traffic stops. Clark says his three-year-old sidekick is consistent, always able to reveal well-hidden drugs accidentally left on door handles or through barely-there smells leaking out of car vents. Dash’s reward? A roughly 12-inch stuffed fire-hose toy. He clasps it in his jaw and shakes it like a grizzly with a river-plucked salmon. “They see a toy like a dog in caveman days would see a rabbit,” Clark says.

    On the clock, Clark — middle-aged and bald, with a bushy mustache — keeps it severe and professional with Dash. Commands come forceful and loud in German. “Platz!” (Down.) “Bleib!” (Stay.) “Fuss!” (Heel.) But toughness evaporates in private. “He’s so spoiled,” Clark says of Dash, adding with a laugh, “You can make fun of my wife and my kids. Just don’t make fun of my dog.” 

    — AM

     


    Photo by Chris Witzke

    WINSTON
    Companion Animal

    It’s not clear how “mini” Winston the miniature horse really is until you see him at home, in a little two-stall stable at Churchill Downs, just outside the Kentucky Derby Museum, where he’s spent nearly his whole life. Donated to Churchill Downs by a Shelbyville miniature horse farm as a foal, Winston serves as a companion animal to one of the biggest beasts I’ve seen, Twinspired, a big gray stallion who came in 17th in the 2011 Derby. Horses are herd animals, not built for solitude. “The horse will get upset if (Winston’s) removed,” says equine manager Alison Knight. Twinspired dwarfs me, and I’m 6’2”. At 34 inches tall, Winston barely makes it to my waist. The gangs of tourists and schoolkids that conclude guided tours at Winston’s stable often mistake him for a foal. “He knows he’s on the bottom end of the totem pole,” Knight says. That might be true in the horse world, but in the world of humans, Winston is a star. He has thrown out the first pitch at a Bats game (they rigged up a bucket so he could carry the baseball); kept the company of horses like 2009 Derby longshot winner Mine That Bird and fellow Derby runners Phantom on Tour and Perfect Drift; and, with the help of a saddle blanket that says “Will you marry me?” performed 10 marriage proposals. At age 24, Winston’s not exactly spry, but he’s not ready to retire just yet. “He can be a bully,” Knight says. “One time he chased (jockey) Calvin Borel. He had his ears pinned back and he was after Calvin.”

    — DJ

     


    Photo by Terrence Humphrey

    KILLJOY
    Hunter

    I’m standing in Michael Harman’s makeshift vet’s office in his backyard in Shepherdsville — a sort of shack with a small aviary made of big silver bars attached outside. A sliding dentist light elbows down over an antique vet’s table, and a microscope sits on a desk, ready to analyze bird droppings. Audubon-style raptor illustrations hang on the walls. Harman reaches into a freezer, pulls out a garbage bag and dumps out onto the floor — thud, thud, thud, like rocks — an alarming number of dead, frozen starlings, their little beaks like yellow icicles. He scoops up a few in his bare hands, grinning, his eyes crinkling behind round black glasses, and says, “This is food.”

    Just about everything the falconer feeds his raptors the raptors catch themselves. He’s working with a great bird right now, maybe his best ever in nearly a decade of falconry: Killjoy, a male red-tailed hawk, too young yet for the red tail. Harman shows me a photo of Killjoy taken shortly after he rescued him from a sign in which he'd become stranded. (The usual raptor trapping process is a somewhat grim affair involving bait animals like gerbils or small birds — Harman releases the bait birds that survive, and keeps the gerbils or gives them to friends as pets.) The hawk’s eyes bore through the screen and I feel like I might fall in. His chest is a feathered Victorian gown, puffed up to intimidate, his wings spread menacingly. Harman swipes the screen, and another photo of Killjoy pops up. This time, he sits serene, his wings tucked in like a suit jacket. Next to him, a rabbit lies belly-up, eviscerated. Harman took that photo a mere seven days after the first. “Believe me, that’s a record,” he says. It takes most birds more than twice that long to hunt with humans. Harman hunts with a hawk several times a week, but he also puts them to civic use, purging barns of invasive bird species — “Bloodletting,” he says, giggling — and clearing pigeons from the Shepherdsville courthouse. 

    In the backyard, Harman whistles for Killjoy, and the hawk swoops from tree to glove to fence to glove to tree, arcing above Harman, then sweeping close to the ground, vaguely following him. “The bird doesn’t love you,” Harman says, “It only wants food.” He’s adamant about this, but he’s sweet with Killjoy. When the hawk returns to him, Harman smiles at him. “Good boy,” he says. “Good boy.”

    — DJ

    This originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. To find your very own copy of Louisville Magazine, click here. 

    Cover Photo by Chris Witzke

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