If you saw an alligator walking down the street, swimming in your pool or crashing your wedding, you might try to run away. But alligator expert Joie Henney says his alligator, Wally, poses no threat.
Henney said Wally was found in a pond in Disney World. Since it’s illegal in Florida to relocate alligators to another spot in the wild, Henney agreed to take him in. Today, Wally lives on Cheetos and chicken legs in Joie’s house near Hershey, Pennsylvania — without a cage.
“I’ve never met an alligator that will not bite you,” Henney told CBS News. “You fool around [with their head], their instinct is to grab you. He does not do it. You can reach in there and rub his tongue. He refuses to close his mouth. We don’t know why.”
Henney doesn’t recommend finding an alligator of your own, as most won’t be so sweet or cuddly. But he said his bond with Wally is “very special.”
“He is my emotional support alligator,” he added.
Henney said after losing some people close to him, he fell into a deep depression. Around the same time, Wally stepped up to the plate and became more affectionate — as if he sensed his owner’s needs.
“I’d lay on the couch, and I’d wake up and he’d be laying on my head,” Henney said. “And I knew it was for a long period of time because I had his whole jaw print on my face.”
It also marked a new chapter in their relationship. Henney started bringing Wally everywhere, from the doctor’s office to the drive-thru.
They’ve been to a splash park together, and Wally was even a ring bearer at a wedding. Due to their strong connection, Henney said his depression has dramatically improved.
“I’ll get lonely and stuff like that and he seems to sense that stuff and he’ll come up and he’ll give me a hug,” Henney said, adding that Wally “makes me feel loved.”
To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com.