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Pat Simkins and Tifi, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

“I kind of wish the world was populated with dogs, with people as pets. It would be a better world,” theorized Pat Simkins at the Santa Clara Farmers’ Market one sunny Saturday.

Simkins was sitting on a bench in Franklin Square mall, holding Tifi, her friendly, snow-white Maltese.

Two-year-old Tifi, full-sized at six pounds, stood on Simkins’s lap, wagging her tail and straining her neck to greet passersby. She was a people magnet, drawing strangers to her, all eager to pet her soft-as-silk hair (not fur) and chat about her with Simkins.

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Tifi, who travels in a pink baby buggy, yapped at other dogs going by on leashes or in buggies.

“She would bark at seven pit bulls if they came by. She doesn’t know better and just wants to protect me,” said Simkins. “We take care of each other. She’s my baby.”

Tifi, it turns out, is far more than a cute lap dog. Tifi is a life saver for Simkins, who lost almost everything in 2014. She left a job she loved at Foothill College to care for her husband, but he passed away the next month. Then Tuffy, their 16-year-old Maltese, died the same month.

Finally, after six years of coping with loss, she found Tifi online with the help of her computer-savvy married daughter, who is happy to share her mom with the new baby.

“She saved my life after I lost so much,” said Simkins. “She brings me new purpose, unconditional love and joy.

“Whether I’m gone for five minutes or three hours, she greets me with the same enthusiasm when I return,” continued Simkins.

Simkins, a New York native who has lived in Santa Clara since 1958, kept trying unsuccessfully to make Tifi stop barking at other dogs passing by.

“Tifi is spoiled rotten. She graduated from puppy school, but I didn’t,” said Simkins. “The schools are not teaching the puppies. They’re really teaching you what to do with your dog.”

Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a column where we casually interview people we meet in Silicon Valley. The column hopes to highlight what makes the South Bay special — the people who live, work and play here.

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