If you’re going to get an emotional support animal you may as well get something cool.
I guess it’s kind of like shopping for a car. You want a model that says something about you.
If this is the case, then a man from Pennsylvania, US, has shown he’s cool af because he’s got himself an emotional support alligator – and I’m all shades of jealous.
65-year-old Joie Henney from Strinestown PA, lives with two alligators – one is four-and-a-half feet long and a registered emotional support animal, called Wally.
Henney, who used to present ESPN‘s Joie Henney’s Outdoors from 1989-to-2000, became Wallly’s owner after a gator rescuing friend from Florida asked if he wanted one.
Joie and Wally have made a splash after the pair paid a visit to Glatfelter Community Center at the Village at Sprenkle Drive, an assisted-living development, the York Daily Record reports.
Residents and staff gathered to get a closer look, though not too close as the gator’s teeth were on display for all to see.
Joie assured the crowd everything was okay. Apparently he’s a pretty chill reptile.
One woman approached for a photo with Wally and said: ‘I’m not scared of snakes, but that thing has a lot of teeth.’
Explaining how he and Wally became friends, Joie explained how about three years ago, a friend who rescues reptiles called him up. There was a population of gators living on land which was going to be redeveloped. Not wanting to see the end of the gators Joie’s friend offered to rescue them and find 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 Joie 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,’ Joie said. ‘He would follow us around the house.’
Joie cleared out a kitchen cupboard to establish Wally a domain. ‘He still thinks that cupboard belongs to him,’ Joie said.
He started taking Wally to schools and senior centres to educate people about the animals, as well as the pressure on their habitats from property development and other human activities.
It was here Joie made a discovery. Children with autism or Tourette’s would become fascinated by Wally. He calmed them.
It clicked: Wally’s calming, healing powers could be harnessed. He looked into registering Wally as an emotional support animal, which basically involves going online and registering.
Wally’s never bitten me and he’s never tried to bite anyone. He’s pretty laid back. They aren’t for everyone. But what can I say. I’m not normal.
Do alligators grow in the UK? Asking for a friend.
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Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.