If you ever walked your dog in Oak Park, you most likely met Pat Higgins. If you didn't own a dog, you probably saw an elderly woman with her gray hair loosely piled on top of her head in a bun, with a dog at her side. Pat loved dogs, all dogs, and took exceptional care of her own. You would see her out numerous times during the day walking her dog, no matter the weather. I would bet that in her lifetime she put in enough miles to reach from coast to coast.
Every day I'd see Pat walking with her Husky, Rowdy, and wonder, "Who is this woman and how old is she?" And then one day, I had the good fortune to meet her at Taylor Park while walking my dog. We talked dogs, exchanged a few pleasantries and parted ways. A few days later, we met again and discovered we lived on the same street just two blocks from each other.
Before long we began scheduling time to walk our dogs together, at which point our conversation would start out with the topic of dogs and end with the topic of dogs. But somewhere in the middle we started to share bits and pieces of ourselves with each other, and it was then I realized I had met one of the most fascinating women I would ever know.
I had a new friend, 28 years my senior, who had so many wonderful qualities one couldn't believe they could all be crammed into one person. To elaborate would make for a very long letter. She had a wide variety of interests, found joy in some of the smallest, simplest things that life has to offer, and anything you might give her she sincerely treasured.
Spending time with Pat and listening to her talk was like reading a good novel. Pat had the wisdom of a woman of later years but the effervescence that comes with youth. Not only did I continue to learn about her, but from her. She amazed me and amused me. Pat was truly a woman of substance.
One of the things she shared with me was her dream to have a golden retriever puppy. Pat had dogs in her life, but they were always homeless dogs she had taken in and were usually older. When the last dog she had died, her dream finally came true. Pat got her golden retriever puppy, whom she named Blue, and loved and nurtured her into a beautiful, loving creature, mirroring her own beautiful nature. Pat took Blue to obedience training and eventually on to training as a therapy dog, at which point they would visit nursing homes and schools for children with special needs. This was Pat and her best friend making someone else's day brighter.
Sadly, I learned a few weeks ago that Pat's health was failing, and her life on earth was reaching its end. Ironically, at the same time Blue, now 10 years old, was diagnosed with cancer. My dear friend passed away on June 3, a beautiful, mild, sunny day?#34;perfect for dog-walking.
I will miss Pat terribly now that she is gone, but it does bring a smile to my face when I envision Pat's new beginning after death, peaceful and content, surrounded by dogs, and waiting for her faithful companion Blue to join her.