YORK COUNTY, Pa. (CIRCA via WHP) — Pets are often comforting to their owners. Dogs and cats are normally the animals people seek out, or perhaps another furry creature such as a hamster or rabbit.
But a central Pennsylvania man is getting global attention, thanks to a special reptile in his life.
Wally is an alligator that helped Joie Henney with his depression. Weighing in at 60 pounds, and spanning nearly 5 feet long, Wally brings Henney joy.
"He comforted me," Henney said. "I got over my depression."
Henney rescued Wally in Florida, when the gator was about 1 year old. He is turning 4 this year.
Henney realized Wally's potential to help him after a tough time in his life, when some friends and family members died in a short span of time.
"I lost three (people close to me) in a week, two in less than 24 hours," Henney said. "I was laying down one day (and) he literally crawled up on the cot with me and laid his head on top of my face."
Now, Henney wants to share Wally, taking him to nursing homes and visiting with people in the community. The pair have been asked to appear on television nationally, and even overseas.
"He is registered as my emotional support animal, but he has done a lot for others," Henney said.
Henney plans on using Wally's influence to continue helping others. Henney is selling autographs of Wally's footprint at a market in York to raise money to help a young boy with autism boy travel to see his dying mother. The boy lives in West Virginia, while his mom is in a hospital in Ohio.
The young boy loves alligators.
"He gets anxiety attacks when he travels, so we wanna take Wally, to see if Wally can help him to go see his mother," Henney said.
It's legal to have an alligator as a pet in Pennsylvania. Forgotten Friends, a local rescue, says alligators are better off in the wild. At least once a week, people call the rescue, wanting to surrender gators.
Henney says Wally has never bitten any person or animal. He advises people not to judge a book by it's cover.
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