If you drop by trainer Bret Calhoun's barn at Churchill Downs and find the long-time conditioner away from his shedrow, you'll probably run into his assistant, Dennis Geier. Tall, burly and kindly-spoken, Geier is known by one and all at the track by his nickname “Peaches.” If he's not in the barn checking on horses or employees, and he isn't dealing with a hay delivery or an owner who has popped in to see their horse, you can probably find Geier in the office during the track maintenance break. If you look in and out real quickly though, you may not notice one of his best friends.
Benny Smith is an impossibly-small Chihuahua wearing a black sweatshirt who sits on Geier's desk, watching the hustle and bustle through the office's screen door. Geier looks after Benny during the day while his owner, Anne Smith, runs her equine therapy business. Geier has two Chihuahuas of his own, who are happy to hang out with the horses when given the chance.
“I don't want to let him do that, because he's not mine,” Geier said of Benny. “My two, I take out on the leash and they're fine, but I sure couldn't let anything happen to Benny.”
Benny gets cold easily, so he's often spotted wearing a coat and sitting on a towel on the desk.
“He's got plenty of [outfits],” said Geier. “I bought him three or four last year, and then he got a couple for Christmas.”
Benny isn't the only non-equid Geier is responsible for, and he's happy to have it that way.
“I like all animals, I'm just one of those type of people,” he said. “That big gray cat walking around here, that's mine, and then there's Trevor the goat.
“Trevor, my wife got him for me as a Father's Day present about five years ago. He was a baby then.”
Strutting down the aisle, sporting a blanket designed for a dog, is Trevor the one-horned goat. Trevor has a problematic tendency to head-butt humans in an attempt to play. Even though he rammed Geier a few days earlier in the back of his knee, Geier said Trevor means no harm. Trevor has slowed down his game since losing one of his horns. It got hooked on a screw eye some time ago, which caused Trevor to panic and pull it off. The accident was a traumatic one for both Trevor and Geier, who was sure the young goat was doomed, but a local veterinarian was able to save him.
Now, Trevor has Geier and one of the grooms in the barn to cater to his needs, which include very specific treat tastes.
“Early in the day he'll want the candy and then later on he'll want Doritos or salty stuff. He's very funny. He eats pretty much everything, but I guess the chips are his favorite. And the filled pretzels, he likes those,” Geier said.
Geier picked up the striking gray cat with long hair while the stable was at Oaklawn Park. The mouser was a stray who came into Geier's life just as his 19-year-old cat died. Like Trevor and Benny (and no doubt, others), he seems to know he's got friends for life in the Calhoun barn.
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