A man and his pigeon

Lawrence Wolff

Photo By Larry Dalton

Apparently, dogs aren’t man’s best friends. Pigeons are. At least, that is the case for Lawrence Wolff, 81, who takes his pet pigeon, Buckey, on a daily walk. Without a leash, Buckey remains close to Wolff, walking when he walks and pausing when he pauses. A survivor of three heart surgeries, including two in a single day, Wolff is a former Navy man who worked on submarines during World War II. He moved with his wife to the Sacramento area in 1999. And two years ago, they added the newest member of their family: Buckey. This interview was conducted while taking a leisurely stroll with Buckey and Wolff through a quiet neighborhood in the Pocket area.

So, how did you come to have a pigeon for a pet?

We had a dove come when we lived in San Jose. There was a big rainbow with a dove in the middle. When I saw that, boy my ears went on end. Because that there is a covenant that God made with the Israelites, that the Earth wouldn’t be flooded—you know, with a bow in the sky. And here is a dove, which is the covenant of peace. That dove sat there for three days and didn’t move. And I talked that dove down off of their roof, and it flew over to my patio on my railing, and I fed it. And it was our dove for eight years. That dove, Baby, got a pretty good vocabulary. I could sing to it and play guitar. … We brought her up here [to Sacramento], and this guy Buckey came along a year-and-a-half, two years ago.

And Buckey is a pigeon, not a dove?

This isn’t a morning dove. This is a king pigeon.

I hear that you take Buckey on walks in the morning.

Oh, yeah. Maybe two, three times I go up the street here and down to that house there. All the neighbors know Buckey and can’t believe that this guy is like a little pet—come here, Buckey—and he will put on a pretty good fly show every now and then.

Do you feed Buckey?

Oh, yeah. He likes black sunflower seeds and then regular bird feed. But what happened to Baby was she was taking a bath and all wet, and a cat got in our backyard and got her.

How often do you give them a bath?

In the summertime, any odd day they like to take baths. This guy here, he took one the other day. … I can’t talk to him and say, “Go take a bath,” but I will point to the water and show him the water.

Does he have a little house in your backyard?

Yeah, I have a little house on a pipe, so the cats can’t climb the pipe. Oh, I put that up for Baby, before Buckey was ever around. He came flying in one time a year-and-a-half, two years ago, and they had a big going for a couple of days, because she was very independent, part of the family. … He was her suitor, but she didn’t want a suitor, so she fought him right for a few days. … She’s run more than one guy off in her years. Then they made it, so they had eggs, but the eggs were always broken. … We never got any babies out of them.

Would you have kept them?

Well, I don’t want a flock of birds. It was nice to have a pair, because they would fly together, and you know when white birds are flying in the sun, man, it is just beautiful. This guy, he kind of tumbles when he flies, puts on a little act.

Do you have any other pets?

No. We had a couple of cats, but we lost those in San Jose.

I have heard that you want other people to take Buckey for walks. Tell me about that.

I’d like to have the kids in the neighborhood get acquainted with him, because he cries and wants me to take him a lot. He is ready to go all the time. And I thought if they got acquainted with him, you know, they could just go down the sidewalk, call his name out, and he would come flying up there, and [they could] take a walk with him. Come on, Buckey. Do you want to go home?

What do you do when a car comes by?

I tell him, “Come here, Buckey.” He will generally come over toward me. Then we will stop and just wait for the car. If someone is coming through here like crazy, I will just step in the road and force the car to slow down.

He certainly seems to like you.

Oh, I can’t get away from the guy. He’ll sit up [on the roof] when I am doing yardwork and watch me work. And when I go in the house, he will go on the railing. He wants to go in.