Over the years the Badge & Gun has profiled various HPD family teams – fathers and sons, twins, etc. – but has succeeded in discovering yet another “family first” in the Department.
You do recall Smash, the unique mount in HPD’s Mounted Patrol, right? Smash the paint, as many folks across the continental United States knows – is deaf but still able to perform his duties without the problems one might expect.
Make no mistake about it: Smash is a stud!
Yep, his daughter Kitty has joined the herd at the HPD horse barn out on Little York off the Eastex Freeway. She is in the final phase of her academic training and will meet her partner before too long.
Another Great Tradition
This means the Houston Police Department – always establishing meaningful policing traditions – probably ranks as the only big-city police department with four-legged father/daughter mounted patrol officers.
Recall that Smash became probably the most celebrated horse in the Mounted Patrol, thanks to “the Smash girls,” a group of young women with intellectual disabilities who adopted the horse with special needs. They have offered special grooming and undivided attention to the four-legged officer since his rookie year.
To get to the point, Smash’s original owner placed him on the breeding circuit and along came Kitty, whose spots are smaller but her enthusiasm for the job as ample as her father’s.
No one can verify this fact better than her trainer, Senior Police Officer Jesus Pena, who said, “She came to us about a year and a half ago and we started training her, to bring her along slowly. She’s doing really well with park rides and Special Response Training with the SRG response group.
“She’s been exposed to fireworks and loud noises. She’s already ready to go.”
At this point in her early HPD tenure, Kitty has not yet been assigned a partner. Nor does she have a sponsor, a situation which prompted many questions posed by the Badge & Gun. Currently, the Houston Astros sponsor one horse among the 36 in the Department’s stable. The Houston Texans sponsor three horses. The Houston Rockets have not yet committed to sponsor an HPD Mounted Patrol horse.
Pena is one of two trainers at the HPD stable, located at 5005 Little York. The other trainer is Officer Kerwin Washington.
Kitty is a registered five-year-old paint. Pena said there should be no problem finding her a partner since one sergeant and two officers are due to report soon to Mounted Patrol.
“She has a lot more brown and not as much of a splash on her coat as Smash does,” the trainer said, citing the differences in, shall we say, the uniform coat.
Pena pointed out that Kitty is “one of those horses that wants to be friends. She loves interaction with people. Some don’t have that wanting to bond. She loves human attention. Some horses kinda ‘tolerate’ you. No, she wants to have that interaction.”
A particular case in point involves Katherine Richards, one of the “Smash girls,” who has cared for Kitty in an extra-curricular way – in addition to the girls’ attention paid to Smash.
“She hears Katherine’s voice down the hallway when she’s walking to her stall,” Pena said. “This is not as common as you would think. The horse I’m assigned to, Maverick, doesn’t get as excited about me as Kitty does about Katherine.”
Like Father, Like Daughter
Kim Richards, Katherine’s mom and one of the leading supporters and backers of the Smash girls, loves talking “horse sense” when it comes to horses and police officers.
“Kitty’s just a tiny little version of Smash,” Richards said. “It’s very interesting and fun to watch them together. She’s really smart. I’m amazed at how quickly she’s caught on to everything. It took just two days for her to get acclimated to the barn and then just caught on so quickly.”
Richards speculated that Smash has enough horse sense to know that Kitty is his daughter.
Furthermore, Pena said, “In a crowd they will stand out as looking alike.” Before too long father and daughter will be a part of crowd controls during demonstrations, protest marches, special parades and, of course, daily patrols throughout Houston. She’s excited about doing her new job.”
Richards was excited about a scheduled meet-and-greet for April 24 at Discovery Green, a time in which the new father/daughter policing combination was to be made official. The event included representatives of both HPD four-legged crews, the horses and the canines – always popular attractions at community events.
And speaking of popularity, Richards also revealed that the meet-and-greet would be a celebration of sorts for the Smash girls. They now have more than 10,000 likes on Facebook, where they have a worldwide audience that speaks 45 different languages and who are probably aware of the book about Smash and his girls and an activities book as well.
Besides Katherine Richards, the other Smash girls who served cookies at the event were Meg Norman, Ashley Billard, Christi Roberts and Hillary Kern.
Oh, yes, and Kim Richards furnished the obvious information that everybody wants to know: “No, Kitty is not deaf.”
And she doesn’t let Smash’s deafness affect what has become a unique father/daughter policing relationship in the Houston Police Department.