Barry Amante thought he was a good father. Not only was he able to provide for his family, but he made sure that he spent as much time as humanly possible with his son, Ken Amante. But even the best parents can miss the signs that something’s wrong with their kids.
Eventually, he realized his 8-year-old son was disappearing every night and he had no clue about his whereabouts, so he set out to investigate, and what he found left him completely blindsided. After following him one evening to check up on Ken, Barry discovered where he was going every day after school.
Meet Ken Amante
Ken Amante was living in Davao City in the Philippines. And although he was only 8 years old, he was a great kid who never caused his parents any problems. This was the main reason why his dad didn’t realize something was wrong with his son.
He Was a Responsible Young Man
Ken walked to school and came straight home after class. This was a daily ritual that he never strayed from. But one day, he came home late and this pattern continued to repeat itself day after day. That’s when his dad started to worry.
Dad Was a Hard Worker
Barry Amante ran a car mechanic business from his home, but business wasn’t always so great. There were times that his job didn’t bring in as much money as he would have wanted. So, he started working extra hours to bring in more revenue. But he had no idea that this was an oversight on his part.
He Made a Mistake
He knew he had to work more to ensure he could continue to put food on the table every night for his family. But when he realized his son, Ken, was sneaking away after school, he started to doubt whether he should have spent more time paying attention to his family.
His Son Had an Allowance
Barry wasn’t rich, but he had more than enough to give Ken an allowance. He had always taught him the value of saving for a rainy day, but for some reason, Ken didn’t have a single penny. But what could an 8-year-old kid be spending his money on?
Something Was Off
Barry knew his son was a responsible little guy. He would have never spent his money on something frivolous like candy or comics. So, he started to wonder if perhaps one of his classmates was bullying him into giving them his money. That’s when Barry started to investigate.
Barry Kept a Close Watch on His Son
Between the money going missing and Ken coming home late, Barry decided to monitor his kid. One day, he left the garage door open while he worked on a client’s car. But to his surprise, Ken made it home just in time.
He Continued to Monitor Closely
While adjusting ignition coils and monitoring brake fluids, Barry kept a close eye on what Ken was doing. He saw his son open the gate and walk inside the house. But he took off again ten minutes later. Where was he running off to?
He Went After Him
Barry followed Ken, but was cautious about not drawing attention to himself. His son was walking down the road with his book-bag and judging from the way it sagged, it was obvious to him that the book-bag was empty.
The Boy Walked Into a Grocery Store
Barry watched as Ken walked into a grocery store in the rural town they lived in. He waited patiently for him outside. When the boy came out, he noticed that his book-bag was no longer empty. In fact, it was fully stocked. But with what?
He Continued to Follow
Barry continued to follow Ken past the coffee shop, the diner, the hardware store and pharmacy. Once he made it past the liquor store, he realized that his son was venturing into the shadier part of town.
Ken Was Heading Down a Dark Path
Little Ken was walking deeper and deeper into a bad neighborhood. This had Barry extremely worried. What was his son carrying in his book-bag? Was he a courier for a shady character living there? Could he be trafficking something illegal? All these concerns flooded Barry’s head.
His Son Pulled Something Out
Safely out of sight, Barry watched as Ken stood in the middle of the road and looked around to make sure no one was looking. Then the boy crouched down a bit, opened his book-bag, and started to pull something out of it.
He Heard Someone Coming
As Barry watched his son, he was startled by what sounded like movement in the underbrush by the roadside. Then the noise was followed by movement. Someone had been expecting his son, but who and what did they want from him?
Three Figures Popped Out of the Bushes
All of a sudden, three figures popped out of the bushes, but they weren’t thieves, gangsters, or even human. They were a pack of dogs and they seemed to have been expecting his son. Then, as they started to surround the boy, Barry’s paternal instincts told him to step in.
He Thought They Were Attacking His Son
Barry ran up to Ken and tried to chase what he assumed were wild dogs away before they could attack his son. But then he saw a series of paper plates and cans of dog food near them. What was Ken doing here?
The Dogs Were in Poor Condition
The dogs were stray and malnourished. In fact, their condition was so poor that they were missing patches of hair here and there. “I’m embarrassed to say I was pretty disgusted,” Barry explained regarding how he felt about the dogs.
The Boy Named the Dogs
Ken named the dogs Brownie, Whitey, and Blackie, and the pups were wagging their tails happily as they ate the food that the boy had brought them. Then Ken looked up and saw the stern look on his dad’s face.
Ken Fessed Up
Ken told his dad that he had used his allowance to buy a ton of dog food, which he stuffed in his book-bag and brought to the stray dogs. All of a sudden, it made sense to Barry what his son had been doing for the past two weeks. And he knew exactly what he had to do next.
He Shared His Son’s Story
In February 2012, Barry took a photo of Ken feeding the stray dogs in the middle of the street and then shared it on Reddit. Soon, animal lovers from around the globe caught wind of the 8-year-old's selfless act. And it definitely changed Barry’s point of view about strays.
Ken Changed His Dad’s Perspective
"My son changed my perspective entirely,” Barry wrote on the Reddit post. Ken’s selflessness touched his father’s heart and made him see the stray dogs as creatures in need instead of disgusting, diseased animals. But he was still worried about his son’s health.
He Had One Concern
Although his son’s actions were noble, the dogs still carried germs and could have possibly harbored diseases that could get his son sick. So, he talked things over with Ken and came up with an agreement.
His Son Needed to See a Doctor
Barry didn’t want his son to get mange or rabies, so he told his son that he would agree to continue buying food for the dogs if Ken agreed to get his rabies shot and carry disinfectant spray in his bookbag. And the boy agreed.
The Reddit Post Went Viral
Fortunately, Ken wasn’t going to get any viruses from the stray dogs thanks to his vaccination, but his dad’s Reddit post did spread like a virus in cyberspace. And soon, both father and son learned that Ken’s generosity and kind-heartedness was contagious.
Ken Had a Dream
Ken shared with his dad that he dreamt of opening an animal shelter someday so he could take in all the stray animals roaming around Davao. This revelation made Barry smiled because he admired his son’s ambitious plan.
It Would Take Time and Money
Barry wanted to be supportive of his son’s dream, but he knew that life wasn’t easy. So, he gently broke the news to him that it would take a lot of money and time for him to get older before he could make this dream come true. But he found a way to show his support in two special ways.
Barry Created a Special Website
Once he saw the way netizens were responding to his original Reddit post, Barry came up with a brilliant idea. He made a website for Ken called Happy Animals Club. But the site was just the first step.
Their Garage Was Now a Shelter
Barry and Ken turned their garage into a mini-animal shelter and used the website as a means to keep their followers in the loop about how the animals were doing and what their mission statement was all about.
Ken Loves Dogs and Cats
“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,” Ken wrote on the Happy Animals Club site. But what happened to the original strays he was looking after?
Barry Allowed Ken to Take in the Original Strays
Barry was so moved by his son’s kindness that he allowed Ken to take Blackie, Whitey and Brownie home to look after them. But this was just the start. The father-son duo planned on helping many more strays.
Their Mission Statement Was Clear
“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,” Ken wrote on the site.
People Started Donating to Them
Netizens from around the world started donating to the website and soon enough, Barry and Ken had enough money to lease a 1,000 square meter space, hire carpenters, and buy materials to open up a bigger and better shelter.
The Happy Animals Club Opened Its Doors
It took months to get everything set up, but both father and son were finally able to open up the Happy Animals Club shelter. And unlike their original setup in the garage, their new business had two apartments, an annex and two large pens.
The Shelter Has Continued to Grow
Ken is now a teenager, but he hasn’t outgrown his love for animals. In fact, the shelter and sanctuary have continued to grow with the help from volunteers eager to help the family run the no-kill animal shelter.
The Happy Animals Club Remains Active
The Happy Animals Club continues to keep their followers updated through their Facebook and Instagram pages. Many posts ask for people to send money through PayPal or Gcash to donate for emergency surgeries to repair animal injuries, and for food and medicine for the strays.
The Shelter Doesn’t Just Take In Dogs
The Happy Animals Club doesn’t just welcome stray dogs with open arms. They also take in stray kittens and cats, too. And there are fences in place to ensure that the felines can’t jump through to escape. But Ken doesn’t want the shelter to become these animals’ permanent home.
People Should Keep Donating
Although their website, happyanimalsclub.org is down at the moment, there’s a link on the About section of their Facebook page, Happy Animals Club, that allows followers to donate money to support the shelter.
Ken Made a Request to His Followers
On their site, Ken originally 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.”
Ken Has an "Involunteer"
Ken added: “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”).” But was Ken always such a fan of animals?
He Loved Animals From an Early Age
During an interview with HNGN, Ken shared with the news network when his love for animals began: “Actually, I always loved animals, even when I was young. I was fond of them even when I was small. My parents told me that before I could even talk, I was already sleeping with my dad's cat, Hajime-kun. Hajime-kun is 14 now, and he's still here.”
Brownie and Blackie Didn’t Trust Him
Ken also explained how he originally met Blackie, White, and Brownie. “I was walking my dog when I came across them. I saw Blackie first, but Whitey was the one who came close. Brownie and Blackie were very cautious, so I had to step backward after I give them food. Eventually, I found that Whitey can do tricks. And it all started there.”
It Took a Month and a Half to Bond
When HNGN asked Ken how long it took for Blackie and Brownie to feel comfortable around him, he responded: “A long time, I guess. Maybe after a month and a half, Brownie and Blackie trusted me enough to let me pet them. I felt sorry for them because they were sick, skinny and they had mange, a skin infection. I felt like I wanted to help them. Sometimes, strays have owners, but they are not really being taken care of. When I can, I try to persuade the owners to take care of them more.”
His Dream Started When He Was 6
When asked how old he was when he came up with his dream for an animal shelter, he explained: “I think I was about 6 or 7 years old. When I was young, I thought anything could be possible.”
He Balances His Time
HNGN was curious to know how he managed to balance taking care of animals with being a regular little boy, and this was his reply: “We did hire staff to take care of the animals. When I have soccer sessions, I always schedule them on Saturdays only. I actually stopped my soccer practices for now so I can focus more on the animals. I take the animals to the park during weekends, so they can run and play.”
He’s Just Ken
Most kids Ken’s age would have allowed all the publicity of his cause get to his head. But he claims his teachers and classmates still treat him like a regular kid. “My teachers treat me the same. Everyone knows about the shelter, but for my friends, I'm still Ken. Just Ken,” he told HNGN.
He Loves All Animals
When asked whether Ken had a favorite animal, Ken explained: “I'm fond of them equally. After all, each animal has his or her own story. For example, Whitey touched not only me, but other people too.”
It’s All About Funding
Ken also delved into one of the biggest challenges they were facing at the moment. “Our main problem right now is finding the people to donate so we can keep going - so we can buy more dog food. Right now we are feeding them dry food. We would like to feed them wet food too, but those are more expensive. We're planning on splitting the lot too, since we're running out of space in the shelter. At the moment, it really is about funding. Before though, it was hard to find people who wanted to adopt the animals too.”
Ken Has One Wish
HNGN asked Ken what his one wish for the animals was, and he eagerly replied: “To find them good homes and to give them a long and happy life. Just like my dad's cat, Hajime-kun, who is already 14 years old. He's actually older than me.”
He Wants the Shelter to Branch Out
Ken was asked where he sees the shelter going in 10 years and the little boy explained that he hopes it will be “A big shelter that will have branches around the world, with lots of animals in them and lots of people adopting them. I want people to see mongrels and pedigrees as equal. Most people choose pedigrees because they think they are better, so they get their pets from pet stores.”
He Doesn’t Want to Be a Veterinarian
HNGN was shocked by Ken’s response when they asked him if he wanted to be a veterinarian. “I actually don't want to be a veterinarian. Vets take care of sick animals and that's great for me, but there are times when they also need to put animals down. I don't think I can do that. I just want to do what I'm doing right now. I own the shelter, and I want that to be my career.”
Their Primary Objective is Clear
Ken had a simple and clear response when he was asked what the Happy Animals Club stood for. “To help the animals. To make them have better lives and to make them have good homes. After all, it's called Happy Animals Club.”