Written by Shannon Yang
Senior Andrés Goldszmidt’s little sister’s first words were “Niner.”
Niner was the name of one of the two Barron Park donkeys who lived by Bol Park behind Gunn campus. Niner died last month. He and his companion, Perry, played a major role in the childhoods of neighborhood families. Goldszmidt’s family was one of them.
Having moved to Palo Alto, right by Bol Park, in second grade, Goldszmidt and his family would take a walk every day to the park. “Just adjusting to living here was kind of weird, but he [Niner] kind of welcomed me to Palo Alto in a way,” he said.
Goldszmidt and his sister would call out the donkeys names (which is why his sister’s first words were Niner) and feed them—even though it was against the rules. “Niner loves orange slices, so just bringing him orange slices every day and making sure the park rangers wouldn’t walk by because you’re really not supposed to feed the donkeys because it’s not really that good for them, but just the fact that you can call his name and that he’ll come when you call him is so sweet,” Goldszmidt said.
Senior Gabby Nelson, a Gunn student at Foothill Middle College, also moved down the street from Bol Park in third grade. She would bike to the park, go to the gate and say hi, and pet him a little bit. “He would always eat at my clothes and at my mom’s clothes,” Nelson laughs.
Nelson believes Niner’s presence brought the community together. “He was kind of a symbol of happiness to the community,” Nelson said. “Every time people would see him there, they’d be like, ‘Oh my god, Niner!’ and get really excited to see him. He’s just a really cute animal.”
Goldszmidt agrees, mentioning Niner’s love of people. “He’s such a domestic donkey,” he said. “They bring him out to let the kids pet him and stuff and he’s just so sweet, so gentle. He really loves little kids.”
Perry, the model for the donkey in Shrek, and Niner definitely had differences. Perry is a star, a celebrity. “But Niner is more humble, more down-to-earth,” Goldszmidt said.
Goldszmidt was devastated at the news of Niner’s passing. “I felt really sad because was such an icon for me,” he said. “A big part of me moving here, having to leave, just doesn’t feel the same.”
However, Nelson acknowledges the good long life Niner lived. “I felt really sad but at the same time I knew he was old so you kind of expect it,” Nelson said. “He was a big part of my childhood and he’s kind of an iconic animal, like everyone around this area knows him, so he’ll definitely be remembered for a really long time.”
Currently, the handlers of the donkeys may be trying to find a new pal for Perry. “I think that they should try to find another one [donkey] so that Perry has someone to play with,” Nelson said.
However, to Goldszmidt, someone like Niner can never be replaced. “I think there should be two donkeys, obviously, because donkeys need friends,” he said. “But I think Niner really can’t be replaced because he’s such an amazing donkey and he’s such a unique donkey and he’s such a one-of-a-kind animal, so I don’t think he can ever be replaced. Without him, it’s not the same at all.”