When Meena Kumar was just 9 months old, she was left in a basket on a college campus in Iɴᴅɪᴀ, and subsequently lived in an ᴏʀᴘʜᴀɴage for about a year. Then she was adopted by a family who lives in San Jose, California.
“My parents tell me the story of when they adopted me at (age) 2 and they bʀᴏᴜɢʜt me to my grandparents’ apartment in Mumbai,” she said. “My parents were worried about how to keep me amused in a small place. Thankfully, a dog had laid a litter of puppies, and I used to spend hours every day watching and pʟᴀʏɪɴɢ with them.”
Meena’s love of animals continued to grow back home in Northern California. Her favorite activity was visiting the local Humane Society, and when she was 8 years old, the family adopted a mixed-ʙʀᴇᴇᴅ dog named Bambie. Meena adores the “sweet” dog and has taught her many tricks, including how to give a 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.
“I love dogs and I would like them to find a caring home and family just like I did,” says Meena. “The people who cared for me worked with the agency in the US to find me a lovely home and I want to provide the same support for dogs in need.”
One evening she met her neighbour, Dr. Kathy Stecco, walking an older dog named George. Meena discovered that her neighbour takes care of senior dogs from Muttville, and learned about the ʀᴇsᴄᴜᴇ’s founder, Sherri Franklin, a 2016 CNN Hero. Meena has since become one of Muttville Senior Dog Rᴇsᴄᴜᴇ’s “most passionate” supporters, says the ʀᴇsᴄᴜᴇ ᴏʀɢᴀɴization.
“I did some research and saw that most senior dogs have a tough time finding a forever home,” Meena shares. “I felt that no dog should feel unloved and ᴀʙᴀɴᴅᴏɴᴇᴅ, and wanted to help them in some way.”
Volunteering wasn’t an option beᴄᴀᴜsᴇ Meena was a little too young, so she began brainstorming other ways to help, ultiᴍᴀᴛᴇly hitting upon an idea: “I decided that I would take care of dogs around my neighbourhood and donate all the money I earn to Muttville.”
“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 crᴇᴀᴛures.”
“It feels grᴇᴀᴛ to know that I’ve sᴀᴠᴇᴅ many dogs’ lives and given them another chance to enjoy life for their last years of living,” she said. “I feel like all dogs should get a forever home just like I did.”
She’s already donated $7,000 of her own money, and Intel, where her father works, matched her donation to Muttville.
“When I first met Meena I knew she was something special,” says Muttville’s founder Sherri Franklin. “She has grᴇᴀᴛ passion for the plight of senior dogs, and her contributions have sᴀᴠᴇᴅ many lives! We are so grateful. It’s grᴇᴀᴛ to see a new generation picking up the ᴄᴀᴜsᴇ.”
Now working towards a $25,000 goal by the end of 2020, the teen has partnered with Pebble Naturals, a human-grade pet supplement company, for a fundraising campaign. 100 percent of the profits from each bottle sold will be contributed to Meena’s fundraising campaign.
“Meena is a living example of how a business can be a powerful fᴏʀᴄᴇ for good. We’re so impressed by Meena’s big heart, and we’re excited to be a part of her fundraising campaign,” said Dr. Kate Mezan and Nayoung Susie Kim, the company’s co-founders.
Meena’s mother, Jayashree Subrahmonia, is not only proud of her daughter but thankful. She herself was raised without pets and has found it’s a joy to have so many dogs visit their home, particularly during the c̴o̴r̴o̴n̴a̴v̴i̴r̴u̴s̴ ᴘᴀɴᴅᴇᴍɪᴄ.
“This entire journey of the love for animals in general and supporting senior dogs has been a gift to us,” she said. “I’m grateful to her for this gift that she has given us.”