Other cities may be dealing with the urban legend that alligators plague their sewer systems. But in Philly, we have them in our parks.
Or, at least, in Love Park.
On Friday, visitors to the popular Center City tourist spot were able to see a real, live alligator surveying the park on a leash. But it wasn’t some wild animal, YouTube prank or Lacoste publicity stunt.
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He was an emotional support alligator. I mean, and we can’t stress this enough, it’s not a joke.
It turns out that cosmopolitan alligator was actually WallyGator, a real and legitimate emotional support animal owned by Jonestown resident Joie Henney. And the has followers on social media — particularly on TikTok, where Wally the Alligator’s account He has amassed more than 718,000 likes on 71,000 followers.
Henney took WallyGator to Love Park on Friday and caused an uproar on social media. But their relationship goes way beyond that. The Washington Post reports.
The couple first met in 2015, when a friend from Florida asked Henney if he could house some alligators rescued from an Orlando pond. For some reason, he said yes and took in three alligators, but ultimately sent two of them to New York and New Jersey. She stayed with WallyGator, who was only 14 months old at the time.
“I bonded with him and made a commitment to take care of him,” Henney told the Post. This alligator, he said, was different, noting that WallyGator refused to eat live rats and really enjoyed a bag of cheesy popcorn.
WallyGator eventually followed Henney around her house and enjoyed being cuddled up and cuddled up on the couch. As Henney told The Inquirer in 2019, her doctor at one point wanted to prescribe medication for depression following the deaths of three friends, but Wally seemed to fill the void, and ultimately the doctor approved of Wally’s role as a emotional support animal. .
“My doctor wanted to put me on medication for depression and I hate taking it. I had Wally, and when I got home and was around him, everything was fine,” said Henney, who was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and is undergoing radium treatment. “My doctor knew Wally and thought he works, so why not?”
Not that this requires a source, but alligators can be deadly animals and often don’t make good pets. a 2020 Notes National Geographic article. Between 1948 and 2018, Florida reported 410 unprovoked bites and 25 animal deaths. And in July, two alligators killed an 80-year-old woman after he fell into a pond at a golf course in the state.
Henney acknowledged in her Inquirer interview that Wally is still a wild animal. But, as the Post reports, Wally has never bitten anyone, and Henney always asks permission before taking him anywhere.
“He has never tried to bite anybody,” Henney told The Inquirer in 2019. “I don’t push him with people. I tell people to respect him, not to be afraid of him. He won’t hurt you.