Wally the Gator was the man of the hour Wednesday afternoon at Rest Haven Nursing Home. 

He may look pretty scary with his big claws, and sharp teeth, but he’s great at making people smile. 

“It’s exciting for them,” said Becky Shettel, of Rest Haven Nursing Home. “I saw a couple of residents that we don’t usually get a lot out of, and I could see they were really involved in what they were doing when petting Wally.”

Wally’s handler, Joe Henney, reminds people the alligator is completely harmless.

“Wally, we put him through about any test you can do to make a gator bite someone and he will not do it. He goes and hides in the corner,” said Henney. 

Henney got Wally three years ago as a rescue from Florida. After losing three of his best friends, Wally was the answer to getting through hard times. 

“I’d be laying in bed – and it’s like he just knows – he came over and laid his head next to mine, and it just helped me so much. Next thing I knew, I was over my depression,” said Henney. 

Their story has gone global, and they visit places like Rest Haven at least once a week. Whether it’s a pet on the back or a close-up look, the gator is a guaranteed hit. 

“I’m not doing it for fame, a pat on the back, none of that, I just want to help families,” said Henney. 

Wally is unique in more ways than one. He is the only certified emotional support alligator in the country.