This seems like a story that would be set in Florida. Unfortunately, it’s right here in Pennsylvania, my home state. And just knowing that makes the story even more frightening.
Joie Henney, 65, of Strinestown, Pennsylvania, lives with two alligators, one of which is a four-and-a-half-foot-long, registered emotional support animal called Wally.
That’s right, an alligator has been registered as an emotional support animal.
Here’s a video that provides some background on Joie and Wally.
This story has gone viral. In fact, the link above is from the Daily Mail, a British daily middle-market tabloid newspaper published in London. Here are some key excerpts from the story:
- Henney registered his pet alligator Wally as an emotional support animal in December 2018 after noticing his calming effect on people
- Henney received Wally from a gator-rescuing friend in Florida in 2015 (OK, so there is a Florida link)
- Wally was about 14 months old and just one and a half feet long at the time
- Wally now measures four and a half feet and is three years old (and could grow to be 15-feet long!)
- Wally and another alligator (Scrappy) have the run of Henney’s home, in which he’s built a 300-gallon tank in his living room
- Henney said Wally has never tried to bite him or anyone else and, like a dog, likes to have the top of his head petted
Here’s an excerpt from the York Daily Record, detailing Wally’s visit to an assisted living development:
Joie paused in the hallway while residents and staff gathered in a semi-circle, an air of curiosity mixed with the terror of seeing a huge reptile, its sharp teeth visible inside its powerful jaws, and kept their distance. Joie said it was all right. Wally — that’s the gator’s name — wouldn’t hurt them. He’s a pretty mellow reptile, and he likes people in the companionship way, not the potential food way.
And here’s a video of the visit:
My reaction to reading these stories and watching the videos is pure terror. I’ve written before about my fear of alligators.
If I was living in that nursing home, I would have started a protest to ban Wally from visiting. If that did not succeed, I would make sure I was out of the facility that day, even if it meant scheduling an appointment with my urologist for a cytoscopy. It’s bad enough that Wally is in the same state as me, but knowing he was in the same building where I slept – talk about nightmares.
I will admit there was one part of the story I liked – the alligator’s name.
Wally Gator was one of my favorite cartoons growing up, and likely the only reptile I’ll ever be comfortable being in the same room with…
*image from Yahoo News