A Broken-Hearted Goodbye to Jenny Lynn

Jenny Lynn and I first laid our eyes on one another nearly 12
years ago at the Cleveland I-X Center. It was not either of our
intentions to flirt, much less fall in love, though we did
both.

My wife, Bev, and I had gone to the I-X Center as we typically
did back then on the Friday the Cleveland Sports Show opened. Isle
traffic was more tame, the exhibitors less grouchy and the artifact
pickings were better. We weren’t really in a buying mood, just
window shopping. That was, until I spied Jenny Lynn.

Back then, though, Jenny Lynn wasn’t Jenny Lynn, not having a name
since she was a yellow-colored sprite of only about eight weeks.
She had the cutest face one could possibly imagine; the kind that
so warms the heart that it leads to love at first sight.

I suppose that her sibling brother shared in the family
resemblance, though at the moment it was difficult to say. The
reason being that Jenny Lynn was squatting on her brother’s head, a
quirky trait she’d engage in throughout her life.

It didn’t take long for me to say “yes,” especially with the gentle
approval of Bev and with thoughts that finally the time had arrived
when a companion for Miss Daisy had arrived and following a
sufficient period of mourning for the loss of Rebel, my first
Labrador retriever.

And so, the very first moment when Jenny Lynn and I made contact I
held her head in my cupped hands and then pressed our faces ever so
gently together. That would be how we would close our relationship,
too.

Oh, I knew that Jenny Lynn was growing old just as I knew the
odometer of my own life had collected its share of hard miles as
well. But a dog’s life burns more quickly and its flame is
extinguished all that more rapidly, though in Jenny Lynn’s case it
did burn twice as bright.

In so doing, her life helped illuminate my own.

Stories are more abundant than just numbers on a scorecard of how
many ducks, geese, pheasants, prairie chickens, and doves that she
fetched.

Almost so long ago I forget the date much less the year, Jenny Lynn
successfully culled a ribbon in a Hunter’s Trial Puppy Class.
Somewhere I have the photograph of her returning with the bird that
clinched her placement, although the trainer kept the ribbon as his
trophy.

Provided as proof that Jenny Lynn was a participant, the club
provided each owner with an aluminum leg band-type ring which still
dresses my multi-dog-whistle lanyard.

Oh, yes, another memory indulgence, if you please. On one our four
trips to South Dakota and when Jenny Lynn was a sprout, she had
chewed rather thoroughly the rocker of an antique rocking chair
built by the very much late uncle of the madam of the house.
Fortunately for me, the lady showed her feminine benevolence by
shrugging her shoulders and saying “she’s just a puppy.” It helped
that her own household included a retriever who likewise showed a
decided preference for wood furniture as convenient chew
toys.

Above all else, Jenny Lynn loved to fetch; maybe the best of the
four retrievers that have owned me. On one notable dove season
opener at the Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area, I noticed that my pile
of birds was gaining height, the size puzzlingly growing faster
than my shooting could claim.

It finally dawned on me that Jenny Lynn was sneaking off and
capitalizing on doves stolen from the caches of other
gunners.

Her very last bird was a dove, come to think of it, retrieved a
week before the start of the 2010 archery deer-hunting season. The
evening was warmish, the walk to the back of the pond was
blissfully short for both of us and with water aplenty for her to
cool off in.

Best of all, we were in a roosting area where the birds torpedoed
their way near nightfall and the shooting was fast and frequent.
The finding of doves was more problematic, though, as the field was
ripened with ragweed that tugged at the fallen birds’ scent.

It was Jenny Lynn who trudged through the thickest of the matting
and came back with the prize. I was oh-so-proud, and close to tears
with the foreknowledge that it would be her last-ever fetch.

By then, of course, Jenny Lynn could neither jump up nor jump down
from the back of the SUV. She need an assist, which Jenny Lynn got,
even if I vacated the various doctors’ orders not to lift more than
20 pounds. I am not unashamed at the confession, either.

Nothing was beneath Jenny Lynn’s dignity to retrieve. Not birds and
not even rabbits or squirrels. In fact, Jenny Lynn considered
squirrel hunting to be grand sport along the lines of waiting for
geese. She’d lay between my outstretched legs and gaze through the
forest in search of fox squirrels. If her ears cocked just so and I
downed an animal with my .22-caliber rifle, Jenny Lynn would run
out, pick up the squirrel, shake it once for good measure and then
return it to me as if it were a banded goose.

Please, don’t tell me that Labradors are not supposed to seek
squirrels (much less rabbits) but Jenny Lynn did not mind and
neither did I. And if the squirrels objected by filing an appeal
somewhere with the proper snooty bird-dog authorities I’ve never
been notified.

Toward the end, Jenny Lynn did little fetching. Just that last
dove. Mostly she would sit on a narrow strip of grass that lays
between my goose-hunting blind and the pond’s bank.

No way could she beat Blackberry to any goose that tumbled into the
water. The best Jenny Lynn could do was supervise the activity and
inspect Berry’s work when the much-younger retriever returned.
Jenny Lynn would sniff the bird, sneeze, and go back to her picket
duty at the cusp of land between blind and pond.

Maybe that is the image that burns most hot in my mind: Jenny Lynn
on guard, ever searching, always prepared. That image may fade as I
try to assemble all of the other mental sepia-toned
projections.

They will reemerge again, I can assure you.

Jenny Lynn will joined the ghosts of Rebel, Miss Daisy, Susie,
Munk, Rusty, Wendy, Pepper – a whole line of dogs that have come to
rest in their own parts of my now-broken heart.

Soon enough, the snows are going to retreat before the advance of
the for-sure-thing spring sun. It will take the ice with it, thank
heavens.

Returning with equal assurance will be the warblers, the mallards,
the geese, and the soft, sweet padding of regenerated grass.

That is I will return to the blind’s now skeletal PVC framework. I
will read Cory Ford’s Road to Thinkhamtown, arguably the finest
piece of outdoors writing ever penned.

When that commitment is finished, you can expect me to drop two
shotshells into the awaiting chambers of my over/under shotgun. The
gun with its timeless grace but aging bluing will come to my
shoulder and I will fire the two rounds; one by one, sending tokens
of Jenny Lynn’s ashes out over the water.

Around my neck will be draped the duel-dog-whistle lanyard. The
first and loudest of the two will summon the ghosts; all of them.
The lighter-sounding whistle will echo its notes.

Only at that point will I know with finality and certainty that
Jenny Lynn and I are together once more.

 

Categories: Ohio – Jeffrey Frischkorn

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