At 14 years old, Meena Kumar is already a strong believer in the importance of second chances.
When she was just 9 months old, she was left in a basket on a college campus in India, and subsequently lived in an orphanage 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 brought me to my grandparents’ apartment in Mumbai,” she told TODAY. “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 playing 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-breed 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.
One day while walking Bambie, Meena met a neighbor, Dr. Kathy Stecco, who was walking her dog, George. Stecco has fostered many senior hospice dogs for Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that rescues and re-homes older dogs. Intrigued, Meena visited Muttville, where she developed a passion for helping senior dogs.
“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.”
When Meena’s parents said no to adopting more dogs, the then 9-year-old found a different way to help: She started a pet-sitting business called Pet Fairy Services and donates her earnings to Muttville.