Larry Zetterquist and Kathy Duffany are Doves of Love San Diego. So are their white racing and homing pigeons.
The Valley Center couple were prominently featured during Western Days events along with their progeny, in this case a flock of white racing pigeons that pass for doves. They transport the birds in small, airy cages draped with red-white-and-blue bunting suitable for release and return to home.
“We release them a lot for weddings, parties and Bar Mitzvahs, Duffany said, hand on cage at the Valley Center Library where their doves don’t have far to home. “We just did them at a game. Lots of professional businesses like them. Memorial Day. Funerals.”
Pigeons of a feather flock together when released. Depending on collective intelligence, whether they’re hungry or in a playful mood, they can circle the sky for a long period of time before returning home to Valley Center, 92082. Or boom, head licketty split right back to the lofts
This is how they do it
It’s not far from a stretch to say these Doves of Love racing pigeons return home in short order from anywhere in San Diego County. Zetterquist and Duffany test flight plans during training exercises by driving ever-longer distances from their home near Valley Center High School, as far as El Cajon, an estimated 30-mile range, releasing the pigeons to see how far they could go and still find their way home.
Apparently, it’s an indefinite distance because nothing around here has posed much navigational problem for the pigeons. Most of them return although a stray or two has been picked off by predators or accidents over the years.
“They have some kind of GPS,” Duffany said. “They know. They’re just flying around there happy.”
It was a tale of two bird releases for Doves of Love at the Valley Center Library and Western Days parade. At the library, the birds lingered as if reluctant before being prompted. Along Valley Center Road, they couldn’t get out of their cages fast enough.
“Sometimes, they’ll pop right out,” Zetterquist said. “Sometimes, they just kind of take their time.”
Zetterquist said the couple had around 200 pigeons. Feed and medical costs are about $200 a month. They are adherents of the American Racing Pigeons Union and bring educational material with them to events in case anyone wants to know more about homing pigeon logic and lore.
Moving on up
Zetterquist, 61, started becoming interested in racing pigeons at the age of seven in pre-Silicon Valley Silicon Valley. His father had racing pigeons, so it just ran all in the family.
“Four or five people in our block had pigeons,” Zetterquist said. “San Jose in the (19)60s..”
By age 20, Zetterquist owned racing 150 pigeons.
The affable Norcal native worked 40 years maintaining machines. He met Duffany, a retired school teacher, while out and about. Duffany, 72, had been widowed twice. Understandably, they’ve been a couple ever since, but maybe won’t tempt fate with marriage, she said.
In any event, Zetterquist retired in 2007 and needed a place in which he could fully enjoy his passion for pigeons. The Bay Area being what it’s become with rules and regulations, he looked around for a great place to roost and discovered Valley Center.
The couple moved here in 2008 and have been singing the praises of racing pigeons turned turtle doves ever since.
They house their flock at their “LaZK lofts” breeding, then training the birds from three months old on a daily basis for six months. The flock doesn’t return by happenstance, but by design.
“Our birds know they are flying back to a cozy home with plenty of food and water,” Zetterquist said, “and someone will be waiting for them when they return to the loft.”
As noted earlier, Doves of Love San Diego provides bird releases for a variety of occasions and is available for hire. Visit the website at www.dovesoflovesd.com or call (760) 751-4064 for more information.