How an alligator became an emotional support animal: ‘They said it was a midlife crisis’

The video of Wally and Henney walking together in Park Love Philadelphia went viral and sparked a slew of headline news. Now, Wally, the emotional support animal, has become somewhat famous. But, Henney’s pet is not just an ordinary gator.

The tale of how the duo united is an extraordinary one.

Wally, affectionately given the name, was a pet alligator that made his owner proud. In Florida, a fellow animal-rescuer brought a baby alligator named Henney, who was only 20 inches long at that time. Unfortunately, Henney became lonely and depressed after some of his closest family members and friends passed away around the same time. This happened five years ago.

Henney expressed, “Within a span of fourteen days, I experienced the unfortunate loss of three relatives and four companions I had known for my entire life. This led me into a profound state of melancholy, causing me to withdraw from my usual activities.” Henney further stated, “I declined the offer of antidepressant medication from my physician as it did not align with my preferences. Consequently, after a month, I returned to my doctor for a follow-up assessment. To my surprise, he remarked, ‘Joe, what have you been doing? Your progress is quite commendable.'”

“I exclaimed, ‘I’m spending time with my crocodile.'”

“Henney explained to his doctor that he engaged in activities that alligators do not typically engage in. He mentioned that he played hide and seek with Wally, and Wally would frequently amuse himself by removing Henney’s blanket or snatching his pillow. Henney shared anecdotes about their hide and seek adventures.”

He constantly makes me laugh and keeps my attention, and he is constantly with me. He tries to comfort them and we have found that he can sense people’s emotions. He is famous for his hugs. People from all over the world come to get a hug from him.

Every year, he will need to apply for the extension – a classification as a therapeutic companion creature, Wally is a 5.5ft-long alligator, after all. To Henney’s astonishment, his physician was delighted to assist him in enrolling Wally.

“I exclaimed, ‘Doctor, you’ve gone insane.'”

However, up until now, there have been no issues with the remarkable situation.

Before Wally Henney made a living with animals too, he proudly reminisced about his days bull-riding in his late-teens and early twenties, when he traveled across the country to places like Houston’s rodeo in Texas and Calgary in Canada.

I was older when I actually participated in professional rodeos. I was only 11 years old when I used to ride bulls. I was born in Houston, and I am the son of my parents.

In the comfort of his living room, Henney fostered reptiles such as alligators, komodo dragons, cobras, rattlesnakes, and iguanas, while most people might choose to foster dogs or cats. He was ready to care for them in his own home until they found a zoo, park, or sanctuary to call their permanent residence. In addition to working at wildlife sanctuaries, Henney also built furniture and houses.

But Wally is unique, he insists. He is not a typical alligator.

“He doesn’t bite,” he stated. “He declines to bite anything living. We are unaware of the reason.”

It’s uncertain whether the “we” he is referring to includes himself and other individuals, or specifically Wally.

In total, when it came to the notion of possessing a pet alligator, some individuals attempted to dissuade him from it, Henney mentioned that people he was acquainted with exhibited reluctance about it.

“I was informed that it was a midlife crisis.”

He is optimistic about winning. Henney’s closest companion, Mary Johnson, recently put forward Wally for the America’s Beloved Pet accolade. Henney presently acquaints students in schools and children in camps with Wally, enlightening them about reptiles. However, individuals in Henney’s social group were prompt to alter their perspective.

Like many other emotional support animals, Henney also has grand aspirations for exciting escapades with Wally. However, irrespective of the outcome of the competition, he asserts that alligators are likely unsuitable for air travel.

“We’re willing to travel. I mean, there are ships, there are trains. We can drive. We can do it all,” he said.