You could call Gwendolyn a cheap date. With food preferences that run a little toward the lowbrow—Chips Ahoy! cookies, pizza, rotisserie chickens from Costco (lemon pepper flavored, please)—Gwendolyn isn't the most discerning of ladies.
In fact, Gwendolyn isn't a lady at all, but a 47-year-old male alligator owned by retired firefighter David Van Buren. Gwen has been living with Van Buren since the critter was a baby, but now Florida Fish and Wildlife officials are investigating whether David's relationship with Gwen should come to an end. They say she's getting way too big to live in the front yard of his Coconut Grove, Florida home, where she's been happily settled for over a decade.
A scared neighbor recently reported seeing an alligator in the front yard of Van Buren's home. She evidently didn't know that he's been dubbed the "Alligator Guy" and has made the news before for harboring an alligator. The now 13-foot-long gator lives in a small, murky pool on Van Buren's property, where he chows down on carb-loaded treats given by his lifelong pal.
"Oooh, cookie monster," he called to his pet last week, according to the Miami Herald. "Do you want to split one with me? No? You want the whole thing?"( Van Buren says Gwendolyn understands four words: "Come," "Gwendolyn," "No," and "Hungry?")
Van Buren said that he acquired Gwendolyn when he was nine years old, during a vacation to Florida. He begged his parents to buy him a $2 gator baby, which not only survived the trip back to their home in New York, but it also went to college with Van Buren. When he moved to Florida later in life, Gwen came with him. For years, Gwendolyn lived indoors, sleeping in a bathtub, pooping on newspapers in the bathroom, chewing on dog toys, and napping on Van Buren's bed.July 14, 2016
More recently, Gwen has been living in a small pool in the yard of Van Buren's house, which is surrounded by eight-foot concrete walls topped with barbed wire. The frightened neighbor somehow got wind of the fact that an alligator was behind those walls and called the cops. Van Buren claims officers stormed his property and said the alligator had to go.
"It's under investigation right now," Florida Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Lorenzo Veloz told the Miami Herald. "Our real mission is to make sure that Gwendolyn has the proper care."
Back in the 90s, Gwendolyn escaped Van Buren's property and Florida officials got involved. Van Buren was arrested and a court battle ensued, which he won. Neighbors greeted the returning duo with signs that read "Welcome Home Gwendolyn." The alligator has lived happily in Coconut Grove, an upscale residential neighborhood, with the blessing of a FWC permit since then.
But now, Van Buren is awaiting a new review by the authorities. "If they had a problem with the judge's ruling, they should have said something 22 years ago," he said.
Meanwhile, Gwendolyn continues to enjoy his daily ration of junk food and bask in the heat of another steamy Coconut Grove summer.