Sparkle savors the University of Chicago

Sparkle is one happy pup as she pauses for a snapshot outside the brand-new Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, which features a dazzling glass-domed reading room and elliptical underground design to minimize environmental impact.

While daughter Betsy and I attended the admissions open house in the  morning, my wife, Cathy, took Sparkle and young Josh around campus and ventured into the adjoining Hyde Park neighborhood, where they scouted out a likely lunch spot.

After Betsy and I took the student-led tour, we all met up and ate on a sidewalk patio outside a row of shops and restaurants while Sparkle rested placidly at our feet. Since there was a rather high wall around our table, I don't think any of the other diners were even aware of Sparkle's presence.  I doubt anyone would have minded anyway, because the mood was rather laid-back and affable.

Later, everyone else begged off to explore an intriguing bookstore that we passed, so I took Sparkle solo and toured all around campus, admiring the buildings and meticulously kept grounds.

Capping off the day, we drove down to Navy Pier. It being a Saturday evening, the place was jammed. I'd never maneuvered a Seeing Eye pup through such thick crowds, but Sparkle never flinched. A few passersby threw comments our way. I remember one guy yelling "Marley & Me."  I can't imagine how John Grogan's rambunctious Lab would have behaved in that situation, but I think someone would have ended up in the lake. I can assure you that Sparkle is no Marley.

We rested on a bench near a large fountain where it seemed a little quieter, only to have a large contingent from the Chicago Fire Department roar past us, sirens and all. Curiosity finally got the better of me so we walked back through the throngs of people to the end of the pier, where we found the firefighters peering intently out into the lake, where boats and a helicopter were buzzing around. It turned out that a boat had wrecked on the breakwater, but a newspaper happily reported the next day that all nine people aboard were rescued.

 Again, Sparkle took the commotion in stride. I wanted to get a picture of her next to the fire department dive team's truck, but I had given the camera to Cathy so I wouldn't have to carry it while maneuvering through the crowds.

 After a night's well-deserved rest, we prepared to head to our next destination: Oberlin College in Ohio.