Barry started noticing something off. These days, his son came home late after school consistently. Could he be hiding something?
The change happened when his boy no longer had pocket money to treat himself. This wasn’t good. Where did the money he gave him go? Barry would find out, finally, when he decided to tail his boy and see what was going on. What he found made him sick.
Barry’s son, Ken Amante, was a good eight-year-old who was responsible. The family lived in Davao City, Philippines. It was an impoverished area but they still managed to get by.
Ken would always walk to and from his school. It’s when he started arriving back late that his father grew concerned for his son.
Barry worked long hours to provide for his family. He was a car mechanic and owned his own humble business. Not all months were good for his business. In order to keep his family stable, he had to work hard.
Barry understood that nothing was for just given away out of the kindness of someone’s heart. But he’d soon relearn that when Ken started arriving home late.
Even though he had to work very hard to earn his living, Barry thought it was important to still give his boy a little bit of pocket money. Ken needed to understand how money works at his age.
Strangely enough, his son didn’t have the money his father gave him for the last two weeks. What was he doing with it? After figuring out what his boy was doing with his allowance, their lives would never be the same again.
Barry couldn’t take it anymore, his son had been late home for two weeks now. He had to find out what it was. The concerned dad decided to keep the garage door open while he worked on a client’s car so he’d see when his son came home.
Unfortunately, today when Ken got home, he arrived exactly on time. Barry observed his son as he slowly walked in through the gate. After ten minutes, he was surprised to see his son come back into view.
As Ken went down their road, Barry squinted and saw that he was still wearing his backpack from school. He noticed that the bag looked empty.
He waited for a minute and then began his pursuit. Barry followed him to a grocery store. When young Ken walked back out, curiously, his backpack looked full — very full.
As Ken kept walking, all the nice corner cafes started evolving into liquor stores, junkyards, and pawn shops. The area was getting worse as he kept walking.
Barry didn’t understand why he would be going into these neighborhoods. What was his kid doing? Barry feared the worst. No eight-year-old should be wandering into these places.
Barry started walking closer to his son in this neighborhood but he still tried to remain invisible to Ken. To his surprise, his son started walking down a side road. Then he observed Ken stop in an empty road.
As barry continued to watch his son, he slowly crouched down just above the cracked road. This is when Barry saw his boy take something out of the backpack.
Barry was so curious as to what his son was doing. Then, suddenly there was a subtle sound from the bushes. Barry saw movement out the corner of his eye. Then out of nowhere, three beasts jumped out of the bushes.
They slunk towards his son and surrounded him. Barry couldn’t comprehend what was going on. But he snapped out of it and let his intuition guided him — he sprinted towards his boy.
When Barry reached his son he started to scare the strays away. Then he looked down at the ground and saw cans of dog food on plates.
The strays weren’t in a healthy state. They looked starved and had tufts of hair gone. “I’m embarrassed to say I was pretty disgusted,” Barry admitted. But Ken was about to show him the kindness he never thought anyone had.
The pups, who Ken had named Brownie, Whitey, and Blackie, happily tucked into their food, tails wagging. Ken looked up to see his dad’s stern face. He owed him an explanation.
The little boy came clean, explaining that he had used his pocket money to buy as much dog food as he could. Every day for two weeks, he had come to this spot to feed the stray dogs. Barry was awestruck. He knew he had to share what he had witnessed.
In February 2014, Barry snapped the now-famous picture of his son feeding the strays and posted it on Reddit, where it soon caught the attention of animal lovers around the world.
“My son changed my perspective entirely,” he wrote. He was touched by his son’s selfless actions But, he was also concerned for Ken’s health. So, the father and son reached a compromise.
As the dogs are strays, Barry was worried that they carried diseases, such as mange. He told his son that he would buy the food for the dogs on the street on one condition: Ken would have to go for a rabies vaccine and carry disinfectant in his backpack.
Meanwhile, Barry’s post on Reddit was gaining traction. The father and son could never have anticipated the world’s response.
When Ken told his dad that his dream was to eventually open an animal shelter to look after the neglected animals living on the streets of Davao, Barry laughed at his son’s extraordinary ambitions.
He gently explained that it would take “a lot of money and 20 years” before Ken’s dream could become a reality. But then, the internet stepped in.
After seeing the incredible response to his Reddit post, Barry decided to create a website for Ken, called Happy Animals Club.
He also allowed Ken to bring Blackie, Whitey, and Brownie home to care for them, and soon, they were running a small shelter from their garage. Barry helped Ken post updates on his website, and the response was phenomenal!
“I love animals. I have one rescue dog and two rescue cats. Ever since I can remember I wanted to open an animal shelter to help the stray dogs and cats on the streets,” shares young Ken on his website.
“Happy Animals Club’s main goal will be to rescue dogs from the city pound. the official at the pound said most dogs are put down because only 20-30% of owners claim their dogs, and no animal welfare organization is doing something about it.”
Donations began to pour in from supporters all over the globe. Ken and his dad were able to lease a 1,000 square meter lot for a year, buy building materials, and hire carpenters.
After months of hard work, the full-size Happy Animals Club was open for business. The shelter now holds two large pens, two apartments, and an annex.
Years later, Ken is now a teen and he was able to sustain his project of helping animals. His no-kill animal shelter and sanctuary has grown bigger thanks to the volunteers who are helping Ken and his family run the shelter.
Happy Animals Club’s website is very active and everyone is being updated with what’s going on with the shelter and sanctuary, as well as the rescue animals’ progress. But now, the shelter isn’t just taking dogs in…
Once the proper facilities had been built and enclosures were erected, Ken also began to rescue kittens and cats from the area.
He also keeps a complete list of animals up for adoption on his website so that he can find all his rescues a loving home. There is also a link to donate to Ken’s shelter via PayPal.
On Happy Animals Club’s website, Ken wrote: “Please help me develop the animal shelter by volunteering, holding seminars at your school or company, or donating funds for dog food and veterinary care.”
He continued: “Happy Animals Club is a non-profit organization registered in the Philippines. Happy Animals Club is autonomous and independently managed by me with help from volunteers (currently my dad, he complains that he is an “involunteer”)”.