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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.

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 there 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.

She also made pins with his face on it ? a gift for every $5 donation.


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I would most definitely give if I saw that.

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