When he began to notice that his son was taking longer than usual to come home after school, Barry knew something was up.
Then, when his son suddenly didn’t have pocket money for toys or treats, alarm bells went off in his mind. But when he secretly followed him one day, what he uncovered left him appalled.
Ken Amante, who was only eight years old at the time, lived in the rural town of Davao City in the Philippines with his parents. Even at such a young age, Ken was remarkably responsible.
Every day, he’d walk to school and back. But when he started to arrive home later and later, his dad knew something strange was going on.
Supporting His Family
Barry Amante was a hardworking man. He ran a small business as a car mechanic, but some months were better than others. If he wanted to support his family, he’d have to throw himself into his work.
He knew that nothing in life was ever given for free. But when his son began to sneak off after school, he realized that he’d made a mistake.
Where Was The Money Going?
Even though the middle-class family struggled at times, Barry always made sure that he gave his son a small allowance. It was important to teach him the value of money from a young age. But, oddly, Ken had been broke for the last two weeks.
Where was the money going? When Barry discovered what his son was spending his pocket money on, he set off a chain of events that would change their lives forever.
Catching Him In The Act
After two weeks of his son’s odd behavior, Barry’s curiosity was killing him. Enough was enough. Today, he had slyly left the garage door open while he worked so that he could monitor exactly when Ken came home.
But he was slightly disappointed when he saw his son walking down the drive — right on time. He watched the boy quietly open the gate and rush inside. Just ten minutes later though, he reappeared.
Ken began to walk back down the road and Barry noted that he still had his school backpack on his shoulders. But why? The way it was sagging told the eagle-eyed dad that it was empty. After giving Ken a small head start, he began to follow him.
When the boy walked into the local grocery store, the curious dad watched from a distance and waited for him to reappear. When he did, that suspicious backpack was bulging.
A Dodgy Area
Then, Ken took a left turn and continued walking down the road. The corner cafes gave way to pawn shops, scrap yards, and liquor stores as he walked further and further into the bad part of the neighborhood.
Barry’s suspicions were running wild as he followed him. This was definitely no place for an eight-year-old boy.
When Ken turned into a side road, Barry followed closely behind, carefully staying out of sight. He peered around the corner and was bewildered to see his son standing in the middle of the empty road.
He watched the boy slowly lower himself into a crouching position. Then, he pulled something out of his backpack.
A Father’s Instincts
Barry watched, mystified. What was he doing? Then, he heard a low noise and saw a movement in the bushes on either side of the road. Suddenly, three animals loped out from their hiding places. They skittered and circled around the crouching boy.
Barry didn’t know what to make of what he was seeing, but suddenly, the spell was broken. His instincts kicked in and he began to run.
Barry reached Ken and began to chase the pack of dogs away, but then he understood. On the ground were disposable plates and cans of dog food.
The poor stray dogs weren’t in the best condition.
They were clearly malnourished and had patches of hair missing. “I’m embarrassed to say I was pretty disgusted,” Barry admitted. But his son was about to teach him a valuable lesson.
The Truth Comes Out
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.
A Change Of Heart
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.
A Little Boy With Big Dreams
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.
The First Step
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!
A Terrible Situation
“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.”
A Growing Support Base
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.
Making A Difference
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…
Not Just For Dogs
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.
A Helping Hand
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”)”.