Why Wally the ’emotional support alligator’ is taking the internet by storm | The New Daily

Razor sharp teeth, a leathery underbelly and a vicious bite do not typically paint a picture of comfort and support. 

We’ve heard of emotional support dogs and cats, even emotional support rabbits. But what about emotional support alligators?

While the cold-blooded reptiles may not immediately come to mind when thinking about a source of succour, that did not stop 69-year-old Philadelphia man Joie Henney.

Mr Henney adopted an alligator named Wally six years ago to provide companionship as he underwent cancer treatments. 

The now seven-year-old gator is Mr Henney’s emotional support animal and dear friend.

Mr Henney shares his close relationship with Wally on social media platforms. Photo: AAP

These days Wally and Mr Henney are true pals. They do everything together – grocery shopping, watching television on the sofa (cuddles and all) and even sleeping in the same bed.

The friendly gator recently caused a stir after a video of Wally at a Philadelphia park went viral last week.

Wally was well-received by park visitors, who took turns walking and posing with the amiable reptile.

Meet Wally the support alligator

The bizarre nature of their friendship is not lost on Mr Henney, who told The Washington Post and CNN that he has rescued reptiles for years and noticed a difference in Wally’s temperament when they first met.

“He’s a very special gator, but I wouldn’t recommend that anyone get one. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you will get bit,” Mr Henney told The Washington Post.

He told CNN he met Wally after a friend in Florida told him about an abundance of alligators the area. Also known as “nuisance alligators”, the unwanted reptiles are usually euthanised or taken into captivity.

Mr Henney adopted Wally and brought him home to Philadelphia, where it is legal to own an alligator.

“Wally has been quite different than any alligator I’ve ever dealt with in the past 30 years,” he told CNN. 

“He doesn’t show anger. He doesn’t show aggression. He hasn’t since the day he was caught. We never could understand why.”

Their effortless connection led to Mr Henney having Wally licensed as an emotional support animal to comfort him during his radiation treatments.

These days, he shares his close relationship with Wally on social media platforms, where users marvel at the cuddly four-legged reptile roaming parks and supermarket aisles on a leash. 

Wally’s TikTok account WallyGator has more than 74,000 followers. Mr Henney frequently uploads clips of Wally in costumes and interacting with any bystanders brave enough to engage with the sweet-natured reptile.

It appears as though this is only the beginning of Wally’s time in the limelight. Mr Henney has entered the alligator into America’s Favorite Pet – Animal Kingdom, an online competition for pets, with voting due to close on Thursday (local time).

The prize? A hefty cash handout and a two-page spread in a magazine.

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