Southern Scottsdale resident Marika Meeks had her first taste of fleeting fame when a video she posted in November went viral, thanks to renowned dog trainer Cesar Millan.
Now, Marika is back in headlines: She was recently crowned Dog Mom of the Year by DOGTV, the first television channel scientifically designed to relax and entertain canine viewers.
“It’s quite an honor,” she said. “The other people who were nominated for this award were super high-caliber people that deserve to win as much as, apparently, I did. It’s quite an honor to be given that award.”
DOGTV had over 120 entries, and a panel of five judges narrowed it down to 20 before naming Marika, who had about 10 nominations herself, the winner.
“DOGTV is proud to recognize the bond women share with their fur kids. We are excited to present the Dog Mom of the Year Award to Marika Meeks for all she does to better the lives of dogs in her community,” said Gilad Neumann, DOGTV CEO.
As Dog Mom of the Year, Marika will receive a year of free DOGTV, a year supply of dog food from I and Love and You, a $150 gift card from Pet Krewe Pet Costumes, 30 servings of TEEF! dog dental cleaner; a matching collar, harness and leash set from Fresh Pawz; All Natural Pet Odor and Stain Remover products from Unique Marketing and Manufacturing and a copy of the book “In the Doghouse” signed by author Teri Case.
Marika is a foster mom to at-risk dogs in the community — she has fostered around 40 dogs — and is the founder of IncrediBull Stella.
It’s an organization aimed at not only educating the public about the benefits of pet ownership and adopting, but also helping to get as many pets spayed and neutered as possible.
“We just started a grant program where anybody in the country who has a pet they want to get spayed or neutered, but they can’t for whatever reason, financially, we will take applications and then each month we’ll choose individuals that we can send money directly to the clinic that is going to be doing the surgery,” she said.
IncrediBull Stella is named after her 3-year-old pit bull.
Stella, who was picked up as a stray after she and her sister were dumped in a field, came into Marika’s life after she was diagnosed with and beat stage 3 breast cancer.
Marika picked up Stella in Fort Wayne, Indiana at a much-needed time in her life.
“One of the things I struggled with after I’d gotten through treatment and had amazingly survived — because I really wasn’t anticipating surviving — is I was really in a bad place. I was depressed. I was very anxious. I had PTSD. I just couldn’t figure out what normal life was anymore because I had been through so much,” Marika said.
Marika was given a second chance at life, but because she didn’t know what to do with it, she felt a deep sense of shame.
“I was stuck, and that’s really where Stella came into the picture,” she said.
Marika brought Stella everywhere, and Stella quickly became what Marika described as “a conduit for human connectivity.”
“I really realized that the more places I took Stella, the more people I was all of a sudden interacting with. It broke down that isolation for me and made me excited about participating in life again,” she said. “That really was the biggest gift that she’s given me.”
The rest is history.
Marika, with her husband Brian Meeks by her side, is now on a mission to change the world one person and pet at a time.
As she works 24/7 rescuing and helping as many dogs as she can, Marika is also gearing up for the release of her first book, “Incredibull Stella: How the Love of a Pit Bull Rescued a Family,” which she co-authored with Elizabeth Ridley.
The book’s release date is Aug. 27, and it’s currently available for pre-order on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.
Presales have been so strong for the book, which tells the story of Marika and Stella, Marika said their publisher has asked them to submit a proposal for a follow-up book.
Marika is also working on a reality TV show series with Brian called “Adopt, Don’t Shop” where they travel the country with Stella and help people with their adoption process.
“It’s an overwhelming process. When a family wants to adopt and not shop and they go down there, not only is it a very chaotic environment, it’s a stressful place to be. The dogs are stressed out and it’s even more stressful for people,” she said, calling their services a “full adoption concierge.”
The Meeks will work with volunteers from different rescues, who will find two or three dogs that meet the prospective pet owners’ criteria.
“Then the family gets to meet each one of those dogs, and at the end of the show they make a decision,” Marika said. “It’s sort of like a dog version of ‘House Hunters.’”
They plan to get the reality show underway this year.
“We have already had some production companies that are interested in the show concept, and we have a set meeting with a producer in Burbank,” she said.
The projects don’t end there.
Marika is also working on a fiction book on which she hopes to get the movie rights.
The book is loosely based on Stella and Marika.
“[It’s like] a woman version of Jack Reacher. [She’s] not looking for trouble, but when it comes to animal welfare, if she comes into a situation where the animals are not in a good situation or something bad is happening to them, she steps in,” she said.
“I’m very excited about that project and I’m very interested to see where that goes.”
Marika is still in the early stages of writing the book; she has a couple of chapters written so far.
Her year ahead is certainly an exciting one, chock-full of projects, and she thanks Stella for it.
“If we could continue to encourage people to open their hearts and their homes to adopting a dog in need and we can pair the people that are struggling with the dogs that need a home, I think we can really make a big difference in the world,” Marika said.