It is spring, but the Walking Man barely seems to notice. His tri-colored down jacket is still tightly zipped up to his chin, the North Face watch cap pulled snugly down around his ears. No scarf or gloves, and Nikes instead of boots, but he still shivers as the wind from the north cuts into him. Most of the snow has melted, but in shady areas, a thin layer of permafrost remains.
An "I Voted Today" sticker is pasted onto the Walking Man's jacket. Although the temperature is still Chicago Bear Weather cold, the calendar says it is mid-March. It is the first day of the coming spring season, and the last day of the bitterly fought, overly-spent, primary season.
The little dog is once trotting at his side. The pup seems keenly aware of the impending spring. He sniffs along the ground than raises his snout to the sky, inhaling all the scents that are just beginning to awake from hibernation. He arrived here in the dull drab winter, but now, despite the cold, the sun is shining and his terrier instincts tell him better times are ahead.
If the dog is more sprightly, he also seems better behaved. He responds to simple commands, sitting at intersections, then resuming at heel. He no longer barks or lunges at the other dogs out for their afternoon jaunts. Perhaps he has been to the neighborhood obedience school, hour-long sessions in a dingy gymnasium, following in line behind retrievers and doodles and Dobermans, as they learn their basic manners, learn how to socialize with other dogs.
The Walking Man and his little companion pause for a moment at the pond, settling on the bench as the Canadian Geese strut and honk around them. He notices that the feeder and nesting dock have been returned to the waterfront. Soon the swans will be delivered to their summer home, doing their limited best to keep the geese from feeling too much at ease. With the swans will come cygnets, and the Walking Man wonders if this year more than one or two baby swans will survive.
Man and pup step inside as the last dawdling dog walkers in the neighborhood yield the streets to the commuters driving home at the end of their workday. It has been a cold walk, but in their bones they know, spring is here.
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