If that happens, he has told his wife, they’ll leave. Pack up Bacon, the potbelly pig, the horses and the lynx and head someplace farther out where they can live in peace.
Vitilio, 51, seems like a man born in the wrong era. It’s easy to imagine him living off the land in a time when kings and queens held jousting tournaments and hunted wild game for sport. Still, he has managed to make the whims of contemporary society work in his favor. And he has become wealthy in the process.
Most of his money has been made as a wedding vendor. He doesn’t take pictures or drive a limo or arrange flowers. He brings birds — white pigeons that swoop in elegant circles after the ceremony or a hawk that delivers the rings to the best man.
People eat it up. It’s not unusual for Vitilio’s company, Wedding Doves for Love, to do a dozen weddings a weekend. The hawk’s bookings stretch into 2014.
As engagement season hits its pinnacle over the holidays, Vitilio’s phone will start squawking as frequently as his parrot. Vitilio could retire today, he says, but why bother? He’d spend his time among the furry and feathered, regardless.
A lifelong affinity
Deb Wood thought her youngest brother would grow out of all this.
When he was 5, he discovered a litter of kittens born near their Kingsville home, 18 miles northeast of Baltimore. Don’t touch them, everyone told Vitilio.
“But Danny being Danny, he didn’t listen, and he came back to the house scratched like you would not believe,” Wood recalls. “Every inch that wasn’t clothed was torn up by the mother cat.”
A trip to the hospital did little to deter him. Neither Vitilio’s parents nor his four siblings had any special affinity for animals, but he was drawn to them intensely. He brought home birds, rabbits, dogs, squirrels. He built habitats in a nearby barn when he wasn’t allowed to keep them at home. He learned falconry.
“I was just kind of into the nature thing,” shrugs Vitilio, a chatty man with salt-and-pepper hair, a meticulously groomed mustache and several gold rings on his fingers. “It always fascinated me — the rhyme and reason why everything worked.”
After high school he became an iron worker and an auctioneer. He flipped houses and cars. There was always some new project, another side business. But his real love was falconry.
No one taught him how to hunt with birds of prey, but it seemed intuitive to him — and far more challenging than sitting with a rifle waiting for a deer to come along. He would earn the hawk’s trust, make sure it was hungry when it was time to go out, then beat the bushes looking for rabbits or squirrels. After the hawk dove, signaling a find, his hunting dog would chase down the prey.