Our life experiences shape our character, and for this 14-year-old girl who was adopted when she was a baby, her own history taught her the importance of giving back.
At nine months old, was left in a basket on a college campus in Pune, India. She spent a year in an orphanage before a couple in Mumbai adopted her.
“My parents tell me the story of when they adopted me at (age) 2 and they brought me to my grandparents’ apartment in Mumbai,” she told TODAY.
Back then, her parents worried about how to keep her amused in a small place. Luckily, the perfect opportunity came along – a dog there gave birth to a litter of puppies. Meena remembers spending hours every day watching and playing with them.
Her love for animals only continued to grow when they moved to San Jose, California. Almost every weekend, she would go visit the local Humane Society. When she was eight years old, they adopted a mixed-breed dog named Bambie. Meena adored the sweet dog and loved how calm she was. She also taught her several tricks, including how to hug.
“I just pat on my shoulder and she’ll come and actually like put her paws up and just stay there so I can hug her and stuff,” she said.
One day, while walking Bambie, Meena came across her neighbor Dr. Kathy Stecco, who was then walking her dog, George. The doctor told her that she has fostered many senior hospice dogs for Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, a San Francisco-based non-profit that rescues and re-homes dogs of advanced age. She also shared stories of how senior dogs are the ones often left behind in shelters.
Meena was intrigued and asked her parents if they could visit Muttville. They agreed, and that’s when the kid’s passion for helping senior dogs began.
“I love visiting Muttville,” she said. “The dogs may be senior and old, but they’re so friendly and cute, which is why I want to help them. They’re the most gentle and loyal creatures.”
As a baby abandoned by her biological parents, Meena understood what it’s like to be left behind. Life experiences can make you better or bitter. So she made it her mission to help senior dogs find the loving homes they deserve, just like she did.
“More people should adopt senior dogs,” she told CNN. “They give you the same unconditional love as any other dog.”
Meena was willing to put in the effort to help the mutts, however, there was one problem: she was too young to volunteer at the shelter. She was only 12 at the time, and Muttville requires volunteers to be at least 17 years old.
But nothing could get in the way of her supporting the rescue. Meena started offering pet sitting services and advertised on Nextdoor. She dubbed her small business Pet Fairy Services. The lass began pet sitting in her own home for neighbors and school friends. She charged clients $35 per day and donated all her profits to Muttville.
“You are never too young to start a business,” says Meena. At such a young age, she knows her life experiences can help inspire others.
After many years of hard work, Meena raised $7,000 for the senior dogs at Muttville. That number easily went up to $14,000, thanks to the matching donation program of Intel, where her father works.
Aside from her natural love for animals, helping older dogs was also Meena’s way of honoring her late grandfather who passed away last year at age 88.
“He was kind and caring, just like the Muttville dogs,” she said. “I took care of my grandpa very well and want to help take care of these dogs in some way because they’re old and just like my grandpa.”
Meena hopes that more people will welcome senior dogs into their homes, especially during this pandemic. “We need their love more than ever,” she said.
What a beautiful soul you are, Meena! We hope more people are encouraged to adopt older dogs after reading this story. We totally agree that they make wonderful pets too!
Founded by the 2016 CNN Hero Sherri Franklin, Muttville rescues about 1,000 dogs per year. The facility runs mostly with the help of passionate volunteers. Learn how you can help HERE.