Joie Henney, 65, said Wally, the 5-foot long, 60-pound alligator who resides in his living room, likes to snuggle and give hugs.
Henney, of York Haven, Pennsylvania, says the alligator, who was rescued from outside Orlando three years ago, when he was 14 months old, is
registered as an emotional support animal that helps him deal with depression.
When Wally is snuggling with Henney on the brown sectional sofa in his living room, it is plain that instead of resting his snout on the man’s lap, the beast could be tearing off his ear.
The York Haven, Pennsylvania man said he received approval from his doctor to use Wally as his emotional support animal after not wanting to go on medication for depression.
“My doctor wanted to put me on depression medicine, and I hate taking medicine. I had Wally, and when I came home and was around him, it was all OK,” said Henney. “My doctor knew about Wally and figured it works, so why not?”
Henney acknowledged that Wally is still a dangerous wild animal and could probably tear his arm off, but says he’s never been afraid of him. According to Henney, the alligator has never bitten anyone.
“Wally’s never bitten me and he’s never tried to bite anyone,” said Henney. “He’s pretty laid back. They aren’t for everyone. But what can I say. I’m not normal.”
He says Wally is afraid of cats, but there is a clue the man would be comfortable with creatures like alligators: Henney hosted a show called “Joie Henney’s Outdoors” on ESPN Outdoors from 1989 to 2000.
Henney became Wally’s owner after a friend in Florida asked if he wanted to save a gator who was about to be evicted.
Henney said a friend who rescues reptiles called him up a few years ago.
There was a population of gators living on land that was going to be developed, so the friend offered to rescue them to find the animals new homes.
In September 2015, when Wally moved in, he was just 14 months old.
Getting an alligator to adapt to new surroundings was a task.
At first Wally was afraid of everything, and Henney had to feed him with tongs. ‘Everything has a bad attitude at first,’ he explained.
It took time for Wally to calm down but Joie was patience embodied. Slowly, the alligator began to domesticate. “He was a like a little puppy dog,” Henney said. “He would follow us around the house.”
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