In recent years, the sheer number and variety of emotional support animals have made jokes about these comforting critters hacky.
But it’s hard to let this heartfelt story of one man’s "emotional support alligator" slide without a few snickers.
While some people rely on dogs, pigs, or peacocks to help balance their emotions, Pennsylvania man Joie Henney says Wally the alligator keeps him steady. The former TV host says his unusual pet lifted his mood after the loss of several close friends.
Henney, 65, adopted the scaly sweetheart after he was rescued from a Florida construction site. At the time, Wally was just 20 inches long, but he has since grown to an impressive 5 feet long, and weighs in at 60 pounds.
"The longer I’ve had him, he just grew close to me," Henney told WPIX. "He took care of the problem. So we got him registered as an emotional support [alligator]. We got a letter from the doctor saying that it worked."
Wally, who is housebroken and lives in an indoor pond in Henney’s living room with another gator, actually completed a month-long training program to get his certification.
These days, Wally tags along with Henney on visits to schools, seniors’ homes, and other special events. Henney say his "laid back" pet’s gentle nature shows through in these encounters - Wally has never attacked or tried to bite anyone.
"He’s just like a dog," Henney told The York Daily Record. "He wants to be loved and petted."
Still, despite their cute story, Henney warns others that gators should not be kept as pets, and still considers Wally a wild animal.
When the pair are not out making new friends, Henney says Wally enjoys watching TV (he loves Gator Guys, Swamp Boys, and The Lion King) and playing hide and seek.
"They aren’t for everyone," he explained. "But what can I say, I’m not normal."