Jenny, one of Palo Alto's beloved donkeys who called the Barron Park neighborhood home, has died. She was euthanized on Wednesday after a two-week decline, according to her handlers.
The standard-sized donkey likely had a tumor and had abdominal internal bleeding, lead donkey handler Jenny Kiratli said. She was in her late 20s or perhaps even 30 years old.
Jenny was the female companion of longtime celebrity donkey Perry (also known as Pericles), a miniature donkey who was the model for the donkey in the movie "Shrek." She died almost four years to the day that she was brought from a donkey rescue organization to join Perry after his longtime buddy, Miner Forty-Niner, died.
"It's been a really rough few months," Kiratli said, noting that Jenny was hardly eating.
Jenny was the first female, known as a "jenny," to inhabit the paddock adjacent to Bol Park in decades, which is located on private property leased from James Witt by the nonprofit community group the Donkey Project. She was a descendant of donkeys that roamed wild on Bureau of Land Management property after gold miners had abandoned them post-Gold Rush and was most likely found in the Mojave Desert, Kiratli said. She was adopted by an older couple and then lived in southern California after her previous owners grew too old to care for her. The Farm Sanctuary in Santa Clarita helped the couple find her new home in Palo Alto and transported Jenny.
Jenny was tentative when she first came to the pasture on Nov. 15, 2016. Two days after her arrival, the soft, gray-brown donkey with the classic brown "cross" of the Jerusalem breed across her back stood still in the middle of a fenced-in area as she tried to get her bearings. She had experienced a long period of isolation prior to her rescue.
The handlers initially separated her from Perry in an enclosed chain-link paddock so that she and Perry could sniff each other in safety and become familiar with each other. She soon warmed up and they bonded quickly, donkey handler Denise Sanders recalled. Jenny, who had unusually long ears and long, luxurious eyelashes, also soon warmed up to her many visitors, as did they to her, Sanders said.
Kiratli said the first time she saw Jenny go to the gate to greet visitors was when an elderly couple and their young grandchildren passed by.
"She perked up and went straight over there. We had a feeling she thought they were her people," she said of the older southern California couple who had owned her.
"She was a sweet girl. She just had such deep eyes. After I'd feed her or I'd walk her, I would put my arms under her head and she would put her head down and put her weight on my arms. She would look at me with those soulful eyes. It was very calming, like all was right with the world," Kiratli said.
Sanders said the donkeys have a similar effect on her.
"They just touch so many people. When you're having a busy day and you're stressed, you just go there for a half hour and you calm down. They're Zen-like, almost," she said.
Kiratli said she did not think Jenny was in pain. She was euthanized at around 7 p.m. on Nov. 18.
"She was not alone, ever," Kiratli said.
Perry also had a chance to nuzzle and sniff her through the night. Equines are said to need to see their companion dead in order to grieve, Kiratli said. Handlers stayed with Jenny throughout the evening and Kiratli's husband stayed the night to keep Perry company. Her body was removed in the morning and will be cremated, she said.
Sanders said that donkeys are herd animals, so Perry has had a steady stream of visitors to keep him company.
"Someone's always with him now. He's been braying for her. We're going to try to find another rescue donkey to keep Perry company."
Mike Hedblom, whose home is located behind the pasture, said he heard Perry braying loudly for about a minute on Thursday morning.
"He doesn't usually do that. He used to do that sometimes with Niner when they got separated and it's like 'Where are you?'" he said.
Jenny was the most vocal of the three donkeys he and his wife have experienced, which include Perry and Niner. Working from their home office, they could always hear Jenny braying. When the window was open, they thought she could hear their voices and had come to recognize them. When they walked by, she would come right over.
"We're going to miss her — especially hearing her. We could be on a conference call or in a Zoom meeting and it would be like, 'What's that?' and you'd have to explain," he said.
Of the three, Jenny was also the friendliest.
"I always used to scratch her chest. She really seemed to enjoy that," he said.
Kiratli said it's likely there will be a memorial for Jenny, perhaps on Zoom, but no plans are set yet. A valley oak was planted in honor Niner at the start of Bol Park near the footbridge. Jenny, too, will be honored in some similar way.
Jenny incurred many veterinary expenses over the past few months. Anyone who wants to make a donation in her honor can visit barronparkdonkeys.org.