A 65-year-old Pennsylvania man says his emotional support alligator helps him tackle his depression.
Joie Henney’s registered emotional support alligator named Wally loves to snuggle and give hugs. Wally is now 5 feet long, weighs in around 60 pounds and may grow to be as long as 16 feet – he was only 20 inches long when he and Henney first met.
The York Haven man rescued the alligator outside Orlando in 2015. Henney intended to keep Wally as a pet but their relationship soon blossomed into something more.
Henney’s doctor gave him the green light to use the alligator as an emotional support animal after Henney informed his doctor that he was reluctant to use medication to treat his depression. The 65-year-old man who used to host a fishing and hunting television show, began dealing with bouts of depression after suffering the loss of several of his friends.
“I had Wally, and when I came home and was around him, it was all OK,” Henney said. “My doctor knew about Wally and figured it works, so why not?”
“The longer I’ve had him, he just grew close to me,” Henney explained. “He took care of the problem. So we got him registered as an emotional support. We got a letter from the doctor stating that it worked.”
Wally is now housebroken and lives in a 300-gallon pond in Henney’s living room where he dines on chicken wings with another alligator named Scrappy.
In addition to snuggling and hugging, Henney and Wally spend their time visiting schools, senior centers and other events in their community. The former television host has observed Wally connecting with others on their outings, including children with special needs. While the alligator has never attempted to bite anyone, Henney reminds them to keep their distance and not to try keeping an alligator as a pet themselves.
“He does well with me, but I guess now where I get a lot of my support from him is seeing what he does for other people.”
Wally, the big teddy bear who is afraid of cats, according to Henney, turns four later this year. All signs point to the two living out a long and happy life together.