There’s that blistering midday sun, that long queue of more than 500 dogs and their owners—and then there’s Bunny, a white Frenchie seated comfortably in a stroller. The stocky little dog with drooping upper lips and underbite appears to be smiling, her round eyes lighting up at the sight of dogs and humans.
Bunny is a deaf-mute French bulldog. While many who showed up for the first National Geographic Doggy Day Camp came to have fun, she and her owner, Jeff Serrano, were there to collect a special award. Serrano was among the 20 chosen entries for the Doggy Day Camp writing contest.
“These are miracle stories with your pet. A panel of judges chose the most endearing stories,” said Adel Calma, senior manager/head, National Geographic Channel (NGC) Philippines.
According to Serrano, it was late at night when he suddenly blacked out while talking to his friend on the phone. When he regained consciousness, Bunny was standing on his chest, licking his face. His lady friend later told him she initially thought he had put her on hold until she heard Bunny frantically barking in the background. And that’s a lot, especially for a dog that rarely barks.
For that heroic display of love and loyalty, Bunny received a pat on the head, a hug, a kiss and a special loot bag from NGC and Pedigree.
Held recently at the BHS Centrale Amphitheater at Bonifacio Global City, The Fort, Doggy Day Camp gave away loot bags from Pedigree to all who registered and showed up, had free massages and grooming services, a free kibble buffet spread at Treats Café booth, and a doggy playground called Wilderness Pupplay.
NGC also set up a mini agility race together with the Urban Sports K9. There were also informational fora on proper nutrition and feeding by “Born to be Wild” host Ferdz Recio, dog behavioral issues by Pawsitive Education’s Joy Uy, and responsible pet ownership by Philippine Animal Welfare Society’s (PAWS) campaign specialist May Angela Felix-Razon.
“PAWS encourages people to take pet ownership seriously, because having a pet is a lifetime commitment,” said Felix-Razon.
There are five freedoms every pet owner should know, she continued: freedom from thirst and hunger; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behavior; and freedom from fear and distress.
The event, however, also received gripes from dissatisfied dog owners on its Facebook page. People complained about not receiving loot bags as promised (everyone was supposed to get one), about the venue being too small to accommodate such a huge turnout (the camp’s tent was packed with dogs and humans, and those who couldn’t get in were forced to sit outside under the sun), and about the time (noontime is way to hot—read: too cruel—for any dog, and human, to go out).
It seems that NatGeo’s first dog event lacked foresight and preparation, and organizers were quickly overwhelmed with the turnout of participants. Calma said all comments on Facebook will be taken into consideration to improve their future events.
“We are also currently devicing a pickup system for those who didn’t get their loot bags,” she said.
The Doggy Day Camp was created as a promotional tool for the NatGeo hit show, “Dog Whisperer,” hosted by the popular Cesar Millan. In fact, Calma said, they were supposed to bring in Millan as star guest of the Doggy Day Camp but the celebrity TV host was already booked for another engagement abroad. She said Millan may be coming to the country next year.
“Filipinos are generally dog lovers. We want to translate the message of advocacy of responsible pet ownership, and building and establishing better companionship with man’s best friend,” Calma said.
Two new seasons for “Dog Whisperer” will premiere next year. It airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on NGC.