During the pandemic, fourth-year Elma Ling Hoffman, an art history and religious studies major, adopts a feathered friend.
At the beginning of an unseasonably warm Autumn Quarter, Elma Ling Hoffman, Class of 2021, was occasionally seen studying on the quads with her pet dove, Pascal, aka PG Tips, El Greggo, and a growing list of sobriquets.
The Core tracked Hoffman down through Pascal’s Instagram account. He was present throughout the Zoom interview, either perched on Hoffman’s finger or wandering around his cage.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
You keep the cage door open?
Most of the time. When I leave, I’ll close it. Otherwise I let him wander as he pleases.
Could you explain the difference between a dove and a pigeon?
They’re part of the same genus. In French it’s colombe for both. He’s a bit smaller than a rock pigeon, like you would see under the 55th Street bridge.
He’s a ring-necked dove, which is a species that originated in Africa. These guys were bred to have a white variation. In the wild they’re brown.
How did you get the idea to keep a dove?
I nanny for the most wonderful family, and they have four parakeets. I tutor the kids in violin and languages—French, Japanese, and a little bit of Russian.
The seven-year-old is learning violin. When we play together, the parakeets sing along. So I was like, I’m a musician, I need a bird to accompany me. I’m also an art history and religious studies major. You see infinite paintings with the Virgin Mary and a little dove.
Where did you get him?
A rescue in Waukesha [Wisconsin] called CARE, Center for Animal Rehabilitation and Education. I have a friend who sews sails for boats. He was like, I’m going up there for work anyway. Let’s get you that dove for your birthday.
So we walk in and there’s birds everywhere. Macaws, cockatiels and cockatoos, lovebirds, parrots. It was super loud. All the parrots screaming.
I go over to the dove section, and I was like, oh yeah. This is a sound I like. I wanted the melodious coo.
How many were there to choose from?
He was number 19. Something in the face told me this is the right bird.
When people meet this guy, they’re surprised he’s cuddly. He’ll coo if he wants attention. He’s not that smart though. He’ll coo at anything that is vaguely his size and light in color.
Also, doves kiss. They’ll gently peck you with their beaks. He’ll do that to me, but also when I’m FaceTiming someone he recognizes. He’ll bow and coo and peck at them.
They’re really very warm pets. Also super inexpensive. This guy cost $25.
Did it take a while for him to adjust?
When I first got him, my roommate had a cat. He was in a separate room, but the room had a glass door, and the cat would come ... it was like cat television. I think that might have stressed Pascal out.
Doves tend to bond fairly quickly to their owners. They’re recommended for children and elderly people—almost like emotional support animals. He just sits and coos and loves. He can’t even bite if he tried. Which is a big thing with parrots, because parrots can nip.
How do doves wind up at a rescue?
Sometimes people are careless. If you own multiple doves and keep them together, you’re going to end up with baby doves.
And they are often pets for elderly people—like with this guy, his parents were at the shelter too. Their owner had died.
What does he eat?
Bird seed mix and mineral grit, which is crushed-up oyster shells, as a calcium supplement. Fresh fruits and veggies at least every other day. Carrots are good. Apple, lettuce, parsley. You want to make sure they get their vitamins A and C.
Where does his Instagram name, PG Tips, come from?
It started as Pascal. He’s elegant, he needed a French philosopher name. Then my childhood best friend texted me, “Name him Glove. Glove the Dove.” That became his middle name. So then, Pascal Glove, PG Tips, like the tea, of which I drink much.
He keeps getting new names. My friends took care of him for five weeks while I was living in an intentional community. They called him Greg. Gregory is a good theologian name, like Gregory of Nyssa or Gregory of Nazianzus. Then I saw the El Greco exhibition at the Art Institute, so El Greggo.
They’re all religious/artistic, but he’s kind of a dork. He falls off things sometimes. He’ll jump on my bed and get lost in the pillows, and then be so angry.
The intentional community—was that to do with your religious studies work?
Somewhat. I lived in Su Casa Catholic Worker in Back of the Yards.
The Catholic Worker movement is really beautiful. I’m a little bit too scholarly to live in it long term. Revolution happens in different ways I guess.
Does PG coo when you play violin, like you hoped?
Sometimes. Sometimes he’ll flutter his wings. Or he’ll sit down and be a little loaf of dove bread. Just very fluffy. He’ll squint as well. That’s a sign he’s happy.
I sing a lot, and he enjoys that. I also play the carillon at Rockefeller. He hasn’t heard that.
Could he go up there with you?
I’m not sure. We have a rule, no brides in heels, if you’re going for wedding photos. But I don’t know about doves.
What about predators? Peregrines and hawks like those tall buildings.
That’s fair. When I was in high school, I did hawk and owl banding. I would go out into the mountains with my physics professor, and we would put pigeons in little leather harnesses and have them—kind of like on a pulley system, and use them to lure in hawks. We would put the hawks in Pringles cans, weigh and measure them, and send the statistics in to the US government.
So I am well aware this guy is practically bait. I actually went to hunting websites to try to find the right harness for him. Leather harnesses for pigeons are surprisingly affordable, compared to a little fabric one. But the shipping was too expensive.
I think I’d be able to fend a hawk off. If you hold them by the drumsticks, like with their legs between your fingers like this, they can’t do anything. They’ll flap and turn themselves upside down sometimes, but they can’t get at you with their talons.