American Joseph Henney has a very unusual emotional support animal. While many people opt for dogs and cats, he chose an alligator to be his daily companion. WallyGator has lived with the man since 2015 and became an emotional support animal after helping the owner with depression.
“I was depressed and WallyGator started doing silly things to cheer me up. When I was on the couch, he would pull my blanket to the floor,” Henney told The Washington Post. It was upon hearing the stories of the sharp-toothed friend’s adventures that the doctor decided to suggest the record: “I said: ‘Have you lost your mind? An alligator is the most feared animal in the world’”.
The 69-year-old American’s statement comes from the experience of taking care of reptiles for about 30 years. It is often a temporary home for rescued alligators, snakes and iguanas and helps relocate them to wildlife sanctuaries and zoos. At home, he has separate enclosures to care for these animals.
It was on one of these aids that he found WallyGator. A friend gave him three alligators found in a pond in Orlando, United States, and he decided to keep one of them. “I bonded with him and committed to taking care of him,” he said.
Popcorn with cheese and nap in bed
Accustomed to taking care of reptiles, Henney offered specific foods for everyone and analyzed what they liked best. “He didn’t eat live mice and really showed a love for cheese popcorn,” the tutor said. “I thought it was different, but I was still very cautious around him.”
The man also remembers that he thought it was a good idea to release the animal around the house and soon he started following him, just like dogs do. Another sign that he was somewhat different from others of his kind is that he showed affection and liked to be held. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is a super cool, friendly alligator,’” he recalled.
Today, Joseph Henney takes WallyGator to the market, gives him hugs and the two sleep in the same bed. He reports that he always lets people hug the animal and that he is “super sweet”. “When he turns his nose at you, it means he expects a kiss.”
Although he loves reptiles and lives with an alligator, the American warns that caring for an animal like this is not simple. They can live up to 80 years in captivity, “can bite and are extremely difficult to handle”.