BUILDING A SPACE TO LEARN ABOUT ANIMALS
Text and photos by MANUEL YAP
Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp
Fins, Feathers, And Fur
Afew years ago, I wrote an article about pet influencers who opened my eyes to this wonderful world. I used to be influenced by friends, relatives, and neighborhood pet stores. Nowadays, influence is everywhere: Everyone posts their animal companions on social media. But how do we tell which influence is good? SHARING IS CARING — BUT DARING I have always been an advocate of educating oneself instead of jumping into caring for an animal through trial and error. Animals are not experiments. Beginner guardians are sometimes traumatized by their negative experience because of the advice they get from animal stores and influencers. I am an administrator for a Goldfish group on Facebook with about 38,000 members as of this writing. Based on my observation, there are many users willing to share their knowledge, but this comes with risks, as people’s experiences are different. ENVISIONING ANIMAL EDUCATION Before the pandemic, I envisioned a place for people where they could discover, enjoy, and share animal companionship. This would allow people to learn and immerse themselves before making any decisions. After all, getting an animal companion without preparing is like jumping into the swimming pool without knowing how to float. For my vision, the key objectives are the following. • To learn the fundamentals of caring for animal companions • To gain first-hand experience in setting up a home for animal companions • To discover different aspects of animal guardianship, such as designing crafts • To develop fellowship with others • To engage in different activities related to animals • To set up pet galleries that can inspire new hobbyists The vision needs three major parts to succeed. GOALS Dreams must have a deadline. These are actions that will take us to our vision one step at a time TEAM The heart of every vision is people with the right attitude and skills for the journey. Animal Scene has always been a great team to support each of my goals. SYSTEM These consist of activities to ensure that each goal is reached. With a system in place, we can tell which goal needs tweaking and which one needs to be eliminated, if appropriate. I then formed a great team that consisted of my family and friends: my wife Suzie, son Aaron, daughter Jamie, and Mandy Filart. With the system we had in mind, we can observe the engagement of the participants and compare with our expectations. We called our dream place the AZ Pet Academy. Merriam Webster defines academy as a “place to study or train in a special field.” For me, caring for animals is not about training animals but about educating humans. Our target age started at six years old. We invited nieces, nephews, and friends who wished to take part. It was a half-day event but felt short for time. We tried only one group of small animals: Hamsters, Rabbits, and Guinea Pigs. In the future, we might also cover Goldfishes and Birds.