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Wisconsin mini horse rings bell for Salvation Army

  • In this Nov. 17, 2012 photo Tinker, a miniature horse, rings a red bell for the Salvation Army outside a craft fair in West Bend, Wis. with his owners Carol and Joe Takacs. Salvation Army officials say Tinker  raises 10 times more than a regular bell ringer. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

    In this Nov. 17, 2012 photo Tinker, a miniature horse, rings a red bell for the Salvation Army outside a craft fair in West Bend, Wis. with his owners Carol and Joe Takacs. Salvation Army officials say Tinker raises 10 times more than a regular bell ringer. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

  • In this Nov. 17, 2012 photo Tinker, a miniature horse, greets crowds with a Thank You Merry Christmas Sign outside a craft fair in West Bend, Wis.  Tinker, a big money raiser for the Salvation Army, uses his mouth to ring a bell and holds up this sign after donations. Salvation Army officials say a good kettle for a couple of hours brings in about $250 and for the same time period Tinker has been known to bring in $2,500. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

    In this Nov. 17, 2012 photo Tinker, a miniature horse, greets crowds with a Thank You Merry Christmas Sign outside a craft fair in West Bend, Wis. Tinker, a big money raiser for the Salvation Army, uses his mouth to ring a bell and holds up this sign after donations. Salvation Army officials say a good kettle for a couple of hours brings in about $250 and for the same time period Tinker has been known to bring in $2,500. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

  • In this Nov. 17, 2012 photo Tinker, a miniature horse, rings a red bell for the Salvation Army with his owner Carol Takacs in West Bend, Wis. Takacs says his name was Tinker when she and her husband got him and they couldn't have named him better if they tried. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

    In this Nov. 17, 2012 photo Tinker, a miniature horse, rings a red bell for the Salvation Army with his owner Carol Takacs in West Bend, Wis. Takacs says his name was Tinker when she and her husband got him and they couldn't have named him better if they tried. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

  • In this Nov. 17, 2012 photo Tinker, a miniature horse, rings a red bell for the Salvation Army outside a craft fair in West Bend, Wis. with his owners Carol and Joe Takacs. Salvation Army officials say Tinker  raises 10 times more than a regular bell ringer. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)
  • In this Nov. 17, 2012 photo Tinker, a miniature horse, greets crowds with a Thank You Merry Christmas Sign outside a craft fair in West Bend, Wis.  Tinker, a big money raiser for the Salvation Army, uses his mouth to ring a bell and holds up this sign after donations. Salvation Army officials say a good kettle for a couple of hours brings in about $250 and for the same time period Tinker has been known to bring in $2,500. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)
  • In this Nov. 17, 2012 photo Tinker, a miniature horse, rings a red bell for the Salvation Army with his owner Carol Takacs in West Bend, Wis. Takacs says his name was Tinker when she and her husband got him and they couldn't have named him better if they tried. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger)

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.

Major Roger Ross, a Salvation Army commander, said Tinker is one of their biggest money-raisers in the area: He brings in 10 times the amount of a regular bell-ringer.

“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.”

The 13-year-old horse, who’s brown, black, grey and white, has been ringing for four seasons.

“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.

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, fell in love with the miniature horses and asked that one be part of the deal.

“About three or four years ago I was walking out of a store and there was a bell-ringer and I gave,” she said. “I started thinking ‘I wonder if I can, if I can help make this even more interesting.’ So I went home and I started working with Tinker.”

His name was Tinker when they got him, Takacs said.

“As fate would have it, I could not have named him more appropriately if I had tried,” she said.

Before appearances, 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.

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