Some bond with dogs, but Dan Dinelli, the superintendent at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Ill., prefers his two red-tailed hawks, Eyas, a 13-year-old male, and Merlyn (pictured), 17, a female. The only licensed breeder of red-tailed hawks in the U.S., Dinelli bristles when people call his birds of prey pets. "That's a demeaning term," says Dinelli, 40. "Eyas and Merlyn are companions."
The hawks reign in the Dinelli household. When Dan and his wife, Lori, moved in 1983, Merlyn got the master bedroom for three months while Dan built a permanent home, a 200-square-foot shed in the backyard. The Dinellis always take Eyas and Merlyn on family vacations "It's not like you can take them to a kennel," says Dinelli. Each year they breed one to two chicks, which Dinelli donates to institutions to promote hawk education. You can find Dinelli-bred hawks at Dolly-wood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., at the Minnesota Zoo near Minneapolis and at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Hawks aren't cuddly like dogs, but they chirp like mad to show affection. "When I take them to the golf course to exercise or hunt," says Dinelli, "they always fly back to me."