So you finally have all the pets you wanted since you were a child? Doesn’t it feel like Christmas everyday?

I was raised with various pet animals and have never had a home without pets. One of my most significant moments after I started to earn was an imported German shepherd puppy. Thereafter, whether I lived abroad or here in Manila, my house always had pets. I consider myself lucky for having married someone who supports my hobby. After Grando, my first German Shepherd, the next one came when I was raising a family in San Francisco. I searched classified ads as well as dog magazines, and attended several dog shows. I acquired a beautiful male shepherd and put together a 35 gallon aquarium filled various live bearers.

I came home in 1990 to cherish the newly established freedom and democracy brought about by people power. With two daughters in tow, I was looking forward to raising more children in Manila. My only son was born in 1994; by then, my menagerie of pets had grown to epic proportions. My telecoms business introduced me to a neighbor who was not only as passionate as I was about the hobby but more importantly, was well read about the technicalities of maintaining mammals, reptiles, and avian pets. I started with two huge 180 gallon tanks from Dyords Javier and two Asian arowanas.

My wife was looking forward to red arowanas, and I kept promising her they would turn red but they never did until their demise in 1998. In the meantime, my neighbor Egbert Chan told me about the excitement of owning and caring for giant tortoises. He showed me his elongates, red foots, and radiates. I began to do research by reading magazines; in the late 90s, I found faster access to information via the Internet. My work eventually brought me abroad and soon, I had my initial colony of tortoises. Tung Choi in Hong Kong and the various pet shops in Taipei were Egbert’s and my favorite suppliers of books and torts. In 1997, Egbert and I bought four Aldabras from a Florida importer and we were able to secure their papers and bring them home in 1998.

This was the same year I finished my house behind Ateneo. By then I’d had years of collecting boxers, African love birds, budgies, chameleons, iguanas, and lizards. I was also enamoured with a mixed breed dog, the pomspitz which I still breed today. Moving to a large place in Quezon City gave me the space to keep 200 birds, a hundred guinea pigs, thirty imported Dwarf rabbits, and to continue my collecting of tortoises.

There were periods of focus though as each type of pet had to be carefully studied and understood. The large dogs (Dobermans, Goldens, and German Shepherds) were acquired from 1998 to 2000. The guinea pig era came at the dawn of Animal Scene, which had as its first cover the cavy! That was from 2001 to 2003. Then the birds, breeding and hand-fed: African love birds, parakeets, grass parakeets, and the ring necks proliferated at home from 2003 to 2005. With the dawning of the Philippine BPO era in 2007, my attention focused on arowanas, which at their height in 2009 saw a maximum of twenty two asian aros: RTGs, crossbacks, super reds, chilli reds, and a platinum. It was at this point that, with forty dogs, the overheads and veterinary expenses were running sky high. I had not crossed to the construction industry yet from financial consulting; thus, a thorough review led to a major dissipation of the Ark’s menagerie: number of dogs halved; only the five best arowanas retained (a breeder bought all my non-reds while a neighbor avidly snapped up whatever red arowanas I would unload); aviary emptied to zero; and the tortoise colonies kept to two dozen as were the cheapest to maintain (and recently started rising exponentially in popularity).

I have come full circle with my passion for pets. Recently, I bought three Chihuahua females to augment my breeding program. I got a female Golden in hopes I can breed again for my family, neighbors, and friends who enjoyed the dogs they got from me. I am still deciding whether to get a Corgi for my daughter after helping two friends acquire very nice puppies from an animal rights advocate who allowed them to adopt his dogs.

The passion continues and never leaves. At a recent fish show I visited, it was like a reunion of old friends and a chance to see how the pet industry has grown. After an absence of five years, it felt good to see the prices of fish go down to more affordable levels. Likewise, there was more variety in reptiles being sold. There are more choices in light fixtures, filtration, medicine, and pet food. As a newly minted senior citizen, I felt proud of the maturity the pet industry has achieved. I felt like I had grown in an entire industry and shared the success with an entire community of animal lovers.

I thank the Lord my pets are still around me. I wake up each day rushing to see how well they have done overnight and what food they need to get through the day. I look forward to getting home from a full day’s work to see how well my pets have gone through the day. It’s a feeling that you only used to imagine while growing up. You always wished good times would last longer, that Christmas would extend beyond December.

Being surrounded by your choicest pets is like Christmas everyday. Loving your pets and being able to appreciate them all the time gives you that longer-lasting “feel good” emotion all the time! Just as the advent season celebrates the coming of the Savior, keeping pets and loving them allows one to celebrate life to the fullest!

True life is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will be and will not be. The happiest people make the best of everything they have. Making the best of being surrounded by your loving pets is one of the secrets to a happy life. Make sure you enjoy them making it Christmas everyday!

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s December 2015 issue.