Barn Buddies: A Calico Named Duane

by | 11.18.2016 | 4:40pm
Duane in her tree outside the Hendricks barn
Duane in her tree outside the Hendricks barn

Eclipse Award-winning photographer Barbara Livingston has captured some breathtaking images of horses in her time, but if her social media is anything to go by, a barn cat is one of her favorite subjects.

Livingston, who works for the Daily Racing Form, is well known for her love of cats generally but found a particular challenge in photographing the resident feline at trainer Dan Hendricks' barn on the Santa Anita backstretch.

“It is so much harder because they're fast and wily critters, and she mostly wants to get away from me because she's just sort of that type of cat,” said Livingston. “She's so calico. It's actually much, much more difficult, but when you get a good one there's a sort of satisfaction to it. You know where horses are going, usually, but you don't know where a cat's going. And she never goes where Dan or anyone expects her to.”

Hendricks ended up with the young calico earlier this year after someone brought her by the barn as a kitten.

“She was a very skinny little, unhealthy cat. Then, when I had her fixed, she lost weight and didn't really gain it back until Del Mar [this summer],” said Hendricks. “At Del Mar, she was real scared to go out of the office because it was her first new place. When she got back from Del Mar, she had put on some weight and she's healthier looking but she's still a small cat, which is good.”

He named the kitten Duane after Livingston (Duane is her middle name), but if that was meant to convince the cat to bond with the photographer, it didn't work.

“She likes Dan, but that's more of a Stockholm Syndrome thing,” Livingston joked.

Dan Hendricks and Duane discuss the Breeders' Cup

Dan Hendricks and Duane discuss the Breeders' Cup

Duane doesn't particularly like anyone else, Hendricks said. She doesn't fear people or horses but has little interest in socializing with them. The only time of day she is known to be cuddly is first thing in the morning, when she is fed and released from the barn office (where she spends the night for her safety), then it's off to patrolling. She isn't known as an exceptionally good mouser, and if anything, Hendricks' son Greg said, she seems to take a maniacal pleasure in startling humans and horses in the course of stalking birds. He recalled one incident when he was riding a horse back from the gap to find Duane stretched out in the walking ring, which spooked his mount.

Still, Duane is clearly a beloved member of the Hendricks shedrow family, as evidenced by her many and various toys arranged alongside her barn, a drawer full of treats, and the feline jungle gym which sits in the corner of the barn office. And all things considered, she isn't totally unfriendly. Dan Hendricks, who is wheelchair bound, has grown fond of carrying Duane on his lap during phone calls and occasionally helping her climb into her favorite hiding spot outside the barn. With a careful toss, he helps her scale the lower branches of a small, manicured tree at the barn entrance. The leaves are thick enough she is virtually invisible if she wants to be, and she can watch both birds and horses amble by, undetected. (For the record, she will also play with visiting humans who wiggle their fingers at her underneath the leaves. She is extremely quick at this game and should not be underestimated.)

No bird is too big for Duane's tastes, although she has learned some are harder to catch than others.

“She jumped on a duck at Del Mar,” recalled Hendricks. “The duck wasn't too happy about it, and I think it scared her when it flew off.”

Duane is decidedly unimpressed by Zelda, the Hendricks' barn goat. Zelda currently ‘belongs' to Autumn Flower, one of the Hendricks' fillies, who is significantly more attached to Zelda than Zelda is to her. Zelda is tied outside her stall because if the goat wanders off, the Thoroughbred screams until she returns. The filly had been running up the track in maiden races until Hendricks got her the goat as a companion, and she is now undefeated in allowances with the goat.

Zelda relaxes with Autumn Flower

Zelda relaxes with Autumn Flower

Zelda's fee is 10 percent of her friends' grain.

Duane was initially insulted by Zelda's presence, Livingston said, and the cat used to stare daggers at the goat from inside the barn office. Now, they seem to have come to a grudging acceptance of each other's place in the barn. Duane's place, obviously, is the non-equine resident celebrity.

“The funny thing is now, when I post a picture of Duane, people refer to her as ‘her,' I don't have to say that she's a girl because everybody knows her,” said Livingston.

  • ExactaGirl

    Thank you Natalie! I love this story and series. Duane is beautiful!

  • Marcia

    From Wikipedia about calico cats:

    Because genetic determination of coat colors in calico cats is linked to the X chromosome,
    calicoes are nearly always female, with one color linked to the
    maternal X chromosome and a second color linked to the paternal X
    chromosome.[2][3] Because males only have one X chromosome, a male calico would have to have a rare condition where they have three sex chromosomes
    (two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome) in order to be calico. In
    addition to other symptoms caused by the condition, these male calicos
    are often sterile.

    Most people who know and love calico cats know that most of them are female!

    • Judoon

      Yes, virtually always female. You might easily go your whole life never meeting a male calico. Some people don’t know that male calico cats even exist. imo, they’re the most beautiful cats!

    • ctgreyhound

      You’d be surprised how many people don’t know this. Just must not be cat people or don’t care. I would have to believe Calico cats are to felines what pintos are to equines. The patterns (or lack thereof) are endless. A beautiful sight to behold.

  • Ida Lee

    Love cats, love the article and photos. I have a long-haired calico and she is insane. She’s in love with my husband and if he pays attention to me when she’s around, she starts “screaming” until he starts paying attention to her. It’s ridiculous….if she wasn’t so damn gorgeous, I wouldn’t put up with her and her jealous fits. Maybe when my husband is not looking, I’ll send her to visit Duane where she can learn some manners.

    • Jbumi

      Sounds like your cat is related to Autumn Flower!! (So I guess, in this comparison, your husband would be Zelda!!) 😉

  • OopsyDaisy3

    Thank you Natalie and Barbara for the photo. Never had cats growing up, because we had large Labs and Chesapeakes. But when i married and found a starving cat in my garage, i fed her and realized they have amazing traits. 51 years after that first cat, i am writing this with a year old orange filly asleep under my left arm, her name is Rachel Rose Pearl, and another filly name Coalie asleep on my lap. Black cats are drawn to my address and i used to just number them as they came. And asleep in front of the fireplace is an Orange Tabby named Ditto who looks just like his giant father named Butterscotch that i brought home from a pasture where they were dumped. I check it often. Raccoons live along the Bayou behind me and in the trees, several i can hand feed apples when they line up alongside the cats to eat. I appreciate all who care for critters and it sounds like Mr. Hendrick’s has a giant heart. Nice story Natalie.

  • Audrey Gulla

    I forgot that Calico’s are almost always female. Saw the picture above & thought she was a he! Cute little bugger. Cats do make excellent listeners…..Good heating pads too. Greyt stories! I always look forward to them.

  • Rideonruffian

    “Zelda is tied outside her stall because if the goat wanders off, the Thoroughbred screams until she returns.”

    That’s awesome.

  • Rideonruffian

    How does one pronounce Duane? Is it “Dwayne” or “Du-anne”?

    • Barbara Livingston

      Duane is pronounced like Dwayne. One syllable…sorta. :)

      • reality check

        Your photos of Duane are always a delight, Barbara. You capture her personality so well!

        • Barbara Livingston

          Thanks so much….what a special, photogenic (and unusual :) ) cat…. And Natalie did a wonderful job with the article, as she always does. Quite an honor for the Hendricks barn, I know.

  • whirlaway

    Duane is a beautiful little cat. Definitely very photogenic, a pretty photo for sure.

  • Great story and wonderful writing.

  • Delrene

    Thank you Natalie. I just love the stories of the other animals that reside with the horses and trainers in the barn. I have two calico sisters – adorable rescue cats and one dilute calico – another rescue cat. They are all very spicy girls. Mr. Hendricks has such a kind heart.

  • Memories of Puchi

    Duane certainly is a celebrity. I am rooting for Barbara Livingston to publish a Duane calendar! It’s great every time Barbara goes to California – fresh Duane FB photos for us to enjoy.
    Thx Natalie for a great series.

  • Dennis Brown

    Having known Dan for 35 years, dating back when he had Mandellas second string at Galway Downs, by far one of the true horsemen around.

  • Erin Casseday

    Love these stories!

  • Anna Martin

    So sad to hear that Duane has gone missing :(

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