Officer Jesse, beloved patrol horse for the Department of Public Safety (DPS), died Sept. 14, 2009 after suffering a stroke.
Jesse, who was owned by Officer Erik Little, became ill in Feb. 2009 with an unknown disease that caused intestinal damage. The 1,600-pound Percheron and Quarter-Draft horse lost 600 pounds during his illness.
With several months of medications to heal the wounds to his intestines, Jesse regained a weight of 1,360 pounds, but had lost much of his muscle mass.
Although Jesse recovered in July and patrolled the rest of the summer, he fell on Maple St. while Officer Little was riding him a week before his death. Jesse and Officer Little sustained only minor injuries from the fall.
Before his fall, both Jesse and Officer Little had worked 81 hours in an eight-day period in 80-degree weather.
“Jesse had a long, hard week,” said Little. “The veterinarian believed the fall was one of many strokes Jesse endured before his death.”
Jesse became colic, a symptom of digestive issues, and exhibited neurological damage and loss of balance the morning of his death. Jesse, 14 years old and in the prime of his life, was put down after several hours.
During his illness, the city of Big Rapids accumulated $4000 for medical and general care fees. Carleen Rose, from the Old Pioneer Store and Emporium, headed the Jesse fund.
Jesse became a patrol horse in 2005, although Officer Little had introduced the idea to DPS in 1999. When gasoline prices increased to $3.00 a gallon, DPS revisited the idea of a horse patrol.
“Jesse was an instant hit with everyone,” said Officer Little. “He was a good, strong horse who craved peoples’ attention.”
According to Little, Jesse saved DPS $58 per day for each patrol car. Horse patrol was more efficient for lower speed streets because the horse patrolman was not bound by traffic rules.
“Routine traffic in a car would usually take 8–10 minutes,” said Little. “With Jesse, it only took 4–6 minutes.”
Little also said he could do more police work in two hours than most cops could do in an entire day in a patrol car.
Although Jesse is gone, Officer Little is training another Draft-cross horse. Midnight’s Gentlemen Bob, or Bob for short, is expected to be ready for patrol in 2010.