I received word earlier this evening that a dear friend of mine, Pat Burda, passed away this morning from complications of diabetes. Pat and I shared a love for basset hounds. There was never a hound too sick or too old for Pat to give a second chance at a happy life. She volunteered for many years at local shelters before moving to Texas with her husband, Don. They lived in our neighborhood, and we met one day when they followed us to our house after seeing the BASSET ON BOARD sign in the window of our car. We had our dogs, Dolly and Patti, with us at the time, and their bassets were on board in their car, too. We were destined to meet. Pat and Don attended several of our Basset Hound picnics in the early 90s, and their basset, Greta, was prize winner in the Howl-off one year. She out-sang every dog there.
I never saw Pat again after she moved to Texas, but we talked often on the phone, mostly about our dogs. She frequently sent me lovely gifts. Every Christmas I could depend on a parcel from her, which was always so appreciated. Her greatest desire after she became crippled with her disease was to be able to walk her dogs again. She loved her dogs so very much and was so devoted to them. She never did get to walk them again, so this evening we walked our bassets in memory of her. There was a beautiful sunset tonight after the storm, the kind with rays of light that reach toward Heaven. I also saw a large, gray mourning dove sitting right on the stoop of our front porch before we left the house for our walk. It stayed there a long time. I know Pat sent it. I believe that birds are messengers from Heaven because I've seen them before, just after someone I care about passes. I saw a beautiful white dove on our roof the evening of the day when my dad died on March 30 five years ago. It stayed there a long time, then flew off into a brilliant sunset like this one did. A dove also alit on the exact spot on the lawn where my beloved little basset, Dolly, had last lain before she died so prematurely. The birds were a powerful symbol of peace, love, and reassurance at a time most needed.
Some of the shelter stories Pat told me gave me inspiration for my fourth mystery, due out in May. I'm sorry she'll never get to read it. Pat was a big woman with a great, big heart and such a loving spirit. I will greatly miss her kindness and friendship, but I know she's tending to all the bassets waddling beyond Rainbow Bridge.