How Purchasing A Pet Parrot Almost Ruined My Marriage

by Erica Newport

The day I'm about to describe is not one most couples would dread, as few couples would ever find themselves in such an absurd emergency.

But we had, and now, there was no returning to merrier family times.

We were locked in our dated rental home's guest bath, while an adolescent parrot repeatedly rammed its head into the closed door, screaming out my husband's name in madness.

Chagall, a male Moluccan parrot, was a gift I got for myself.

He was purchased with the remaining funds my husband and I had towed to Florida (ideally meant to support us until jobs were secured).

Call it an emotional — OK, a totally impulsive — purchase.

Young Chagall was the largest parrot in the store on that lonely day when my job interview fell through, and a pet store, located next to where I waited, was open for business.

Taking a minor detour from job hunting, I found myself curiously examining the oversized parrot perches moved outside for sale.

I almost tripped over one particular parrot, which was stomping outside the store as I entered.

The owner quickly scooped the mango-colored parrot off the floor and returned it to a conglomerate of wooden displays, dangling with silly rope toys and little building blocks.

He suggested the baby parrot was likely heading out of the store to find me.


I knew that was not the case; the bird was already incorrigible.

But for the moment, I needed to believe this collision was fate.

Yes, me!

And just like that, Chagall was sold. I bought my first (and last) pet parrot.

Years later, the same store's owner refused to babysit Chagall for pay when we left town.

During an earlier overnight visit that year, Chagall had escaped from an evening holding cage and proceeded to unlatch all the cages of birds that looked like him.

“Liability” was a term people frequented over the years to describe our — turned to my — pet parrot.

Guests left early, fearing for their belongings Chagall would snatch up undetected and destroy.

Friends stopped calling. They couldn't hear me over the turmoil and squawking.

All this preceded the previously mentioned bathroom assault.

I guess we should have seen it coming.

My fingers fumbled over raised numbers on the wireless landline phone to dial our neighbor's home.

“Hi, Mr. Wade,” I said, masking the phone's receiver so he could hear me over the repeated mating calls.

“We need a favor. Could you come over and rescue us from our guest bathroom?”

I tuned out the escalating war cries outside the door and slid my back down the once cheery yellow wallpapered wall, which Chagall had shredded in several large sections.

I joined my husband, whose face was hidden in his hands, on the vinyl floor, which was ripped apart by Chagall's beak.

After sitting for a minute on the chilly floor in silence, without lifting his buried face, my husband told me what I already knew: We needed professional help.

The parrot — and this part is slightly embarrassing — was ruining our marriage.

A painting of the family in happier times

Days later, I had located a marriage counselor who agreed to see us in exchange for produce my husband grew in our yard.

Months later, Dr. Crumplee would admit he never expected our counseling needs to extend past two weeks.

We attended weekly sessions, which were, at times, tense.

Dr. Crumplee would cautiously ask my husband to describe concerning incidents related to the bird.

Then he would probe further to hear about how it made him feel.

The doctor took long pauses between our comments to study me; I was defensive and visibly dismissive.

At times, I just sat there texting.

Dr. Crumplee would subsequently ask me if I understood how my parrot's aggressive behavior made my husband feel.

I'd often shrug, answer, “No,” and then look away or return to my text message.

Weeks into the counseling sessions, on a Wednesday in late summer, the doctor interrupted my husband's story referencing a recent incident.

Chagall had pulled his hair into the cage and yanked it about repeatedly.

My husband felt violated.

“Erica,” Dr. Crumplee said.

His voice had dropped, and his eyes were set on mine while he stood to open the office door.

“You must make an important decision this week and choose one: Chagall or your husband.”

That was the last counseling session we ever had (about the pet parrot).

And I took nearly six months to contemplate the assigned important decision while Chagall's increasing possessiveness for me had ended in us living in one area of the rental home.

My husband had moved into a guest room.

It was located far enough away from the morsels of bird food that were flung from the cage at him and from the piercing dinosaur-like screams enacted when Chagall felt “boundaries” were crossed.

Shortly after the holiday season, I was home alone working from the kitchen table, and the doorbell rang.

A middle-aged man and woman stood in the outside corridor, nervously smiling and greeting me with what felt like overbearing, forced hugs.

It was like they had known me for years.

The couple had a large truck parked in the driveway, with a parrot cage fastened in the backseat.

There were climbing ropes and little building blocks along the interior of the cage.

They seemed so familiar, but I couldn't place their faces.

Moreover, I was overwhelmed and shocked by the surprise visit.

“We are here for the parrot,” said the woman, as they invited themselves in.

So, I did what any wife would do to save her marriage.

I cautiously retreated to the edge of an armchair, crossed my arms and gestured to the back porch with a slight lift of my head toward Chagall's cage.

Ten minutes later, the house was quiet.

That night, my husband moved out of the guest room.

I eventually figured out to whom the couple resembled: Dr. Crumplee.

And if you're wondering, no, we never had a conversation about Chagall's relocation.

Did a parrot almost ruin my marriage? Meh.