West Tisbury animal lovers turned out en masse last Thursday for a potluck supper at the Agricultural Hall honoring retiring animal control officer Joan Jenkinson. “For whom else but Joanie and where else but in West Tisbury would there be standing ovations of nearly 10 minutes for an animal control officer?” West Tisbury veterinarian Michelle Gerhard-Jasny asked rhetorically after opening remarks by Mrs. Jenkinson, who is retiring after 26 years. Selectmen Skipper Manter and Richard Knabel also spoke.

Mr. Knabel welcomed the many dog, cat, bird, turtle and horse lovers as well as the sheep, cow, pig, chicken, turkey, duck and goat owners who had come to praise Mrs. Jenkinson. Then he warned that it wasn’t quite time for her to hang up her hat.

“Before we go any further, Joanie, the communications center just called for you,” he said. “There’s a flock of turkeys blocking State Road, and they won’t move. And there are two horses eating rare plants over at Polly Hill. Then there’s some guy over on the Lambert’s Cove Road chasing a neighbor’s rooster with a hatchet. And there’s a really odd one. The communications center said an alligator has crawled out of the Mill Pond!”

Looking elegant in a brown silk dress, Joanie didn’t blink, or run out to her truck to save the Polly Hill rare plants and rescue the rooster, as she would have any other day. She smiled and quietly listened as Mr. Knabel asked: “How do you say thanks to someone who has taken calls like that, morning, noon, and especially nights for 26 years?” He continued:

“I doubt that there is anyone in this room who hasn’t, at one time or another, called on Joanie for help with an animal, or advice, or maybe had a call from Joanie asking if we could take a cat or dog that needed a good home or maybe an injured critter that needed some TLC. How often have we seen Joanie on a cold morning feeding the swans on the Mill Pond or protecting them from the traffic on the Edgartown Road, and I wish she were still doing it. The Mill Pond needs its swans. She has lived her love for the animal world completely. Chances are she knows not only the owners of all West Tisbury animals, but the names of the dogs, cats, horses, pigs, ducks, chickens and everything else. That is nothing short of phenomenal, and has been a big part of what makes West Tisbury the friendly and unique place that it is.”

In lieu of the customary gift, Joanie asked that donations be made instead to the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard.

— Phyllis Meras