Watch now: Photos with mini-horse in Bloomington reining in funds for charity | Local Business

A Bloomington business is putting its best hoof forward to help sick children.

BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington business is putting its best hoof forward to help sick children.

The Barking Lot, a dog grooming, daycare and boarding operation housed at 1811 Morrissey Drive, is hosting photo opportunities with “Santa Hoofs.” That’s a 9-month-old Appaloosa mini-dwarf horse, which goes by the name Stuart Little when it’s not Christmastime.


Chumley, left, and Bodhi, middle, pose for photos with Santa Hoofs, right, on Sunday at The Barking Lot in Bloomington.

Brendan Denison

In exchange for photography sessions, The Barking Lot is collecting donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Additional times are scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18-19.

Owner Deenie Sullivan said a few years ago, she brought another mini horse in and took photos of all of her daycare dogs as gifts for clients. Aside from rescuing animals, she said, another big passion of hers is helping St. Jude.

Sullivan said she picked St. Jude because her great-great-nephew died of leukemia.

“My brother passed away when he was 42 from mesothelioma,” she said, ”and he would have been his great-grandson.”

While she’s personally donated to St. Jude for the last 10 years, Santa Hoofs is The Barking Lot’s first fundraiser for the hospital. Sullivan hopes to raise $1,500 and have her business match that amount. As of Sunday, over $500 has been collected.


Kate Moritz, of Bloomington, settles her pet dog Trixie before a photo shoot with mini dwarf horse Santa Hoofs at The Barking Lot in Bloomington.

Brendan Denison

And the response from customers has been huge, she said. Around six people showed up Sunday, most of them early and all at once. Sullivan said Saturday was busier.

“Kids, adults, whoever wants a picture with Santa Hoofs, they can come by,” she said. They’ve even had cats brought in for photos, and one girl called about bringing her ferret, Sullivan said.


Trixie the dog poses for photos Sunday at The Barking Lot. The Bloomington dog daycare and groomer provided photo opportunities with Santa Hoofs as a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Brendan Denison

Kate Moritz stopped by The Barking Lot to get a few snapshots with her dog, Trixie. She said the photo opportunity was a great idea and she’s glad to be a part of it and donate — even though Trixie was a little scared of Santa Hoofs.

“It was worth it,” Moritz said. “It was fun, great, and for a good cause.”


TJ Kuster, left, and Sherri Strandberg, right, pose for photos with dogs Chumley, lower left, and Bodhi, lower right, and mini-horse Santa Hoofs on Sunday at The Barking Lot in Bloomington.

Brendan Denison

Sherri Strandberg, a friend of Sullivan’s, also stopped by to add to the donation box and get some photos.

She owns Strand, a Bloomington hair salon at 215 E. Washington St. Strandberg said her office neighbor is attorney Chip Corwin, and his daughter had leukemia. She said they made trips to St. Jude for three years, and the daughter pulled through the disease.

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“They said they couldn’t have done it without it,” she said. So Strandberg is supporting the cause, including through sharing fundraiser flyers at her salon.

Don Massey, who also donated to the cause on Sunday, said he’s never met anyone who loves their animals as much as Sullivan.

“I know she’s the patron saint of rescuing animals,” Strandberg said of Sullivan.


Deenie Sullivan grooms her mini dwarf horse, Stuart Little, on Sunday at The Barking Lot in Bloomington.

Brendan Denison

Having all of Sullivan’s four mini dwarf horses visit the children’s hospital is another dream of hers, since they, too, share medical troubles.

She said all dwarf horses have health issues, and children cannot ride them like ponies. For example, the horses can have bad bites where their teeth don’t line up.

Additionally, Sullivan said Stuart Little’s hoofs have deformities because his previous owner didn’t put corrective shoes on him before his growth plate closed. She’s had to rescue other mini dwarf horses to save them from being put down.

“That’s why breeders hurry up and euthanize them,” Sullivan said. “They don’t want people to know that they’ve bred them.”

Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison