(NewsNation) — You might have heard of WallyGator.
He’s the emotional support alligator that walks on a leash and gives hugs. Wally became national news when he got turned away from the Philadelphia Phillies ballpark.
Wally is a working emotional support alligator owned by Joie Henney of Jonestown, Pennsylvania.
Henney joined “On Balance With Leland Vittert” to discuss his love for reptiles, saying, “I love all animals, but I am big into reptiles, and Wally became really, really close to me.”
An alligator might seem like an unusual choice for an emotional support animal, but for Henney, Wally was a perfect fit.
“I’m not a huge dog person myself,” he said. “I never thought I ever would have an alligator as an emotional support animal. And he’s tremendous in what he does.”
Henney said Wally helps him deal with his depression and offers companionship like any other support animal.
“They are a lot more intelligent than a dog,” Henney said. “They learn their name a lot quicker. They respond to their name. They don’t take long to teach them to stay down and stay.”
Henney said at 8 years old, Wally’s behavior is akin to that of an 8-year-old child — curious and occasionally testing boundaries.
“You take your eyes off him, he thinks he can sneak and get away with things,” he said. “He does get time out. He does get in trouble when he doesn’t listen. But other than that, he listens pretty good — for an 8-year-old.”
Henney acknowledges the inherent unpredictability in all animals, regardless of their training. He stated that while he fully trusts Wally, he respects animals’ instincts.
“There’s never 100% guarantee on anything,” Henney said. “I don’t care if it’s a service dog, whatever.”
Henney says he frequently tests Wally’s behavior and diligently works on ensuring they both stay safe.
“I do work with Wally; I test him all the time,” he said. “So I know we’ve not found anything that makes him mad, gets him really angry. Do I fully trust him? I do.”
One might wonder what a day in the life of an emotional support alligator looks like.
Henney revealed that Wally enjoys a unique perk — they sleep in bed together, and in true alligator fashion, he likes to take a dip in a 300-gallon pond located in the living room.
However, Wally has a rather unusual favorite pastime: watching TV.
“If you start the music of ‘Lion King’, he ends up somewhere around the TV, and he will not move too much over,” Henney said. “And the second one is ‘Gladiator.’ He loved ‘Gladiator.’ I don’t know why.”