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first_img“I love Ruby,” said Jennie McNary, curator of mammals, who has worked with her for nearly 15 years. “She’s like a big goofy kid. She’ll test you. She’ll see what she can get away with. “We’re all going to miss her a lot.” Ruby has traveled much of her life. As a baby, she was taken from the African wild and shuttled to Circus Vargas. Later, at the the L.A. Zoo, she developed a close bond with Gita, an Asian elephant who died last summer. Ruby was separated from Gita in 2003 and sent to the Knoxville Zoo, where the once-timid pachyderm was kept in solitary for her aggression toward other elephants. Returning 18 months later to the L.A. Zoo, she became a symbol of strident animal welfare activists who say that elephants – social creatures who roam many miles in the wild – have no place living in zoos. Now, after about four decades in the public eye, Ruby will finally be put to pasture. At dawn Tuesday, she will be loaded into a temperature-controlled truck and hauled 350miles to join three African elephants at the PAWS elephant sanctuary in the Sierra Foothills east of Stockton. For her journey, she’ll be joined by her favorite toys – a “boomer ball” stuffed with peanuts and a hay ball – and some road treats, including her daily diet of 125pounds of hay, 75pounds of carrots, a box of apples and some romaine lettuce. And yams and potatoes, too. “The whole thing is to keep her calm, keep it fun,” Briscoe said. “We’ll all be there to comfort her – just talking to her, touching her, petting her.” “We’re ready for her,” said Pat Derby, co-founder of the Performing Animal Welfare Society, which has a 75-acre preserve in San Andreas. “We’re all excited about her coming. “She’ll have her own suite. She gets the Jacuzzi Pool Suite.” Until then, her three L.A. keepers are spending as much time as they can in her private, off-site barn and yard. They give her brushes dipped in water paint – for a dash of L.A. splash. They stroke her trunk. Speak to her softly. And vow to visit her often. “Hey, Ruby,” a paint-spattered Briscoe coaxed as the giant mammal lumbered from her barn and extended him her grizzled trunk. He turned on dinner music, some Prokofiev. He said she especially likes “The Elephant Song” from “The Jungle Book” film soundtrack, and she has been known to sling mud to country favorites Alan Jackson and Frankie Laine. Together, Ruby’s last zookeepers offered her a banana stalk, her favorite. They fed her carrots. Held forth an acacia bough, which she inhaled like a sprig of parsley. And rolled out a cut elm log for dessert. “They’re all our kids,” said Vicky Guarnett, who has been with Ruby 10 years. “These guys are not just animals we take care of, they’re part of our family, (and) we’re part of theirs.” “I’m sure she will miss us,” Briscoe added. “We intend to stay in contact. We’ll be in a long-term relationship, go up there and bring her stuff – new toys or special pumpkins. Maybe we’ll haul her a tree up. “Maybe Vicky will bake her some cookies.” [email protected] (818) 713-3730160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! She’s as flamboyant as Pollock and as wild as deKooning. This weekend, Ruby the elephant took abstract expressionism to even greater heights. She painted her zookeepers. “This is nothing,” said elephant keeper Vicky Guarnett, whose face and uniform were flecked with blue, green and pink splotches after she handed Ruby a paintbrush. “She has done better work on me than this.” Keepers at the Los Angeles Zoo will say goodbye to Ruby on Tuesday, when one of their dearest friends heads off to retirement at a Northern California elephant sanctuary. Jeff Briscoe, the zoo’s principal elephant keeper, had welcomed Ruby to the L.A. Zoo in 1987, when she arrived from Circus Vargas. Nearly 9,000 pounds and 9 feet high at the withers, she was squat, with a physique like a sumo wrestler’s. And she was as spirited as a seal and as friendly as a Shetland pony. She has been known to love the smell of her handlers’ new shoes. During the past 20 years, the 46-year-old African elephant has been a favorite of zookeepers, zoogoers and animal activists across Los Angeles. This spring, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called her “one of L.A.’s true greats.” last_img read more