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Many take up the job of a housemaid to take care of their family but A Meena does it to take care of her 14 dogs. The money that she gets from the three houses where she works is used for buying food for the dogs. Meena has been living with the dogs for more than 24 years, and there is a reason: She lost trust in fellow human beings, who according to her, are jealous and selfish.
Dogs are her best friends, a reason she remains unmarried even at the age of 41. “If I get married, my husband will definitely ask me to throw them (dogs) out, so I prefer not to get married. For me, they (dogs) are more important than anyone in the world,” says Meena, who has been living with her dogs at her two-room house in Mylapore’s Lala Thottam Colony.
Five months ago, Meena saw a female puppy being hit by a speeding car. The puppy was badly injured and broke one of its legs. When Meena took the puppy to the nearby hospital, the veterinary doctor told her that it would be difficult for the animal to survive. But Meena was hopeful and she took the puppy to her home. She started taking care of her and she called the white puppy “Cutie”. “It was not easy for me to manage her in the beginning. Since she was small, other dogs in my house would attack her. So I would take her to the houses where I worked. Her health has improved and she looks very cute now,” says Meena.
“If I get married, my husband will definitely ask me to throw them (dogs) out, so I prefer not to get married. For me, they (dogs) are more important than anyone in the world,” says Meena, who has been living with her dogs at her two-room house
Like Cutie, each dog has a disturbed past before reaching the hands of Meena. Nikhitha was found abandoned in Mylapore. “Whenever I see a dog struggle, I take it home. All the dogs here have a brutal past in that way. Some had serious diseases and others were starving. Like other animals, dogs also have a natural instinct to find food. But at times, if they are not able to do it, they will need our help. I mostly take care of such dogs only,” she says.
It was difficult for Meena to manage food for her dogs during the pandemic, but she swam against the tide, with her dogs. In 2020, four dogs died due to canine distemper. “I stopped going to the houses for work due to the pandemic-imposed lockdown. There was no money to buy food for my dogs. Some NGOs rose to the occasion and helped me. But I didn’t have money to get my dogs vaccinated to prevent diseases like canine distemper which is common today,” she says.
A devotee of Sai Baba (of Shirdi) and Lord Shiva at the Kapaleeshwarar Temple, Meena believes that it is through her dogs that she gets connected to her favourite gods. “I started taking care of dogs when I was 17. It was a kind of normal relationship. But soon I found my relationship with them more meaningful than other things. My mother would shout at me, but there was no use. I soon developed a great sense of intimacy and compassion with them. And it is the same link through which I connect myself with my favourite gods,” says Meena.
Meena doesn’t go anywhere for long, as there won’t be anyone to take care of her dogs. “I don’t go anywhere, barring a couple of temples nearby. No one in my family is interested in what I do. My mother left me long ago due to this. But I am happy with my dogs. I don’t want to miss them,” she says.
There are bite marks on her hands, but she has no regrets. “They fight and when I intervene, I also get bitten. They are not deliberately doing it,” she says without any regret. Even though Meena is happy, she is worried about her house, which may collapse anytime. “The door of my house has to be replaced. There are leakages during rains. I have borrowed some money to do some basic work,” says Meena. Despite difficulties, Meena is happy. “I feel that I am in a sea of compassion,” she says.
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