A veil of silver fog hovered across the horizon just before the warmth of a golden sunrise began dissipating it.
The early June air carried a slight chill, and all around was a peaceful quiet, broken only by the call of a nearby but out-of-sight bird.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman walked through the Eden Prairie neighborhoods with three dogs that trotted calmly alongside him, untethered.
The foursome, joined that morning a little after 5 by three visitors, arrived at an intersection.
"Show 'em what we do. What do we do when we get to the corner?" Spielman prompted the dogs. He directed attention to the second-oldest of the group, a white-and-gray mix. " 'Cozy, what are you supposed to do?' "
Cozy looked up at Spielman and slowly lowered her hindquarters to the sidewalk, joining her "siblings" in the seated position.
"Thank you," Spielman said with a proud smile. "OK, let's go."
Spielman and his wife, Michele, adopted all three furry friends – Cozy, Bones and Una – who quickly became a part the family.
View photos of Vikings GM Rick Spielman and his dogs Una, Cozy & Bones who are featured in a segment of Purple Pups.
The early morning walk is a ritual, something rarely missed throughout the course of a year, even during the demanding chaos of an NFL season and in the Minnesota winters.
"Zero degrees is our breaking point. Or, maybe, minus-5," Spielman said.
It's therapeutic. A way to clear his mind, gather his thoughts and reset for the day.
Just a man and his dogs.
And each one has a different personality and backstory.
The first of the three that were adopted from Mexico was Una, named for her single ear. She's afraid of storms and very loving but, as Spielman adds, is "the prissiest" of the trio.
"She thinks she's better than all the other dogs, so she will try to pull that card out on the others since she's older than them," Spielman laughed. "She's the one that gets the privilege of sleeping at the bottom of our bed. She won't let the other ones come close to that. But she thinks she's the alpha male. Female."
The family next adopted Cozumel, which they shortened to Cozy.
"She used to look like the GEICO pig – she had a really tiny head and a big body, and we had to put her on a diet," Spielman quipped. "She's probably the one [who is most] scared and nervous around people. But she's been a great dog.
"She's way closer to her brother, Bones, than she is to Una, because there's a lot of [sister rivalry] in that area," he added.
The Spielmans adopted Bones, a boxer-hound mix that weighed just seven pounds when he was rescued from the streets of Mexico. And now? The sweet pup checks in at close to 100 pounds and would be a "Hall of Fame therapy dog," according to his owners.
"He loves people; he's by your feet all the time," Spielman said. "No matter what you're doing, he wants to be there and be involved. It's funny – even if we have [people come to work on the house], they're downstairs eating lunch in the basement, and Bones goes down and sits right in the middle of the men.
"As big and scary as he looks, he's probably the most gentle, kindest dog we've ever had," he added.
Just like their "dad," the Spielman pups are creatures of habit and routine.
The dogs are let outside each evening, and it's not uncommon for Bones and Una to compete to be the first one out the door.
"They've got their little sibling rivalries," Spielman said. "But they never actually fight or anything like that."
And they have two-legged siblings, as well.
Rick and Michele have adopted six children – Juan, Luis, Ronnie, J.D., Omie and Whitney – and are passionate about the positive impact that adoption can have on families.
So when it came to adding pets into the fold, they approached with a similar philosophy.
"I think it starts with my wife and the size heart that she has," Spielman said. "These are dogs that, I don't know what happens to them if they don't find a home, and it gives us an opportunity to give them [a second] chance.
"They're the greatest dogs ever," he continued. "All the rescue dogs that we've taken in have been the best dogs around the kids, the greatest family dogs and probably the most loving dogs we've had."
Nearly every day, Spielman heads to work at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center where – depending on the time of year – he will study film, meet with scouts and the Vikings coaching staff or work on player contracts. Just to name a few of his responsibilities as an NFL general manager.
But during those early mornings in Eden Prairie, he enjoys the stillness … and the occasional moment of chaos, of course. Occasionally, he has to call one back from getting too far ahead of the group. The walk route includes a park, and it wasn't uncommon for Cozy to dash across the baseball field and run back proudly holding a taco wrapper or half-eaten hotdog.
"Most dogs want to chase things. But all she does is look for food," Spielman said.
" 'You guys are doing really good today with the cameras,' " he added, poking fun at Bones, Cozy and Una before turning his attention to us. "They're putting on a show for you today."
When the group departed the house that morning before the sky had entirely lightened, the trio had excitedly run down the driveway but stopped short before crossing. As if on cue, all three tipped their heads back to watch for Spielman, who followed just behind.
And then he lifted them up into his arms, one by one, over the edge of the driveway and into the street.
"They think they have a [shock] collar on, but they don't," Spielman explained. "So, they won't go past until they get lifted over."
On the walk's return trip, however, the group hurries home and up the driveway toward breakfast without hesitation.
"We trained them that if they ever got out of the yard, not to be afraid to come back," Spielman said. "They think they can't go out. But they know they can always go back home."
Sadly, Cozy passed away shortly after this interview and visit. She will forever remain part of the Spielman family.