Animals are wonderful loyal and loving companions, bringing untold happiness and joy and to their families. Their skills are unparalleled, used often to aid law enforcement. They also have huge depths of empathy, bringing comfort to the grief-stricken, the ill, and people with disabilities. But this dog is beyond special – blind and deaf himself, Piglet has risen beyond his challenges and now motivates children with difficulties to do the same.
Piglet, a Dachshund-Chihuahua mix, was born in Georgia in a hoarding situation. Piglet’s family started with three dogs, who were bred to produce even more dogs, resulting in an overpopulation of 38 puppies.
Most of the dogs in the group were dapple colored, meaning that they had distinctive white markings. Breeding dapple dogs together results in the dominant dapple gene of each parent appearing in the offspring, creating a double dapple. These dogs are mostly white, and have a number of birth defects, such as varying degrees of vision and hearing loss.
Fortunately, the dogs were rescued and sent to a shelter, where Melissa Shapiro, a Connecticut veterinarian, found and agreed to foster Piglet. After two months, she decided to adopt the blind and deaf puppy.
“It was quite a decision to make. He is a lot of work and he is like a full-time job, taking care of a little disabled baby. But he’s so cute, and we couldn’t give him away at that point.”
Piglet became the seventh in Shapiro’s pack of dogs. His transition was not easy though, given his condition. “He was so anxious, he was screaming constantly. He would play, then go to sleep, but when he wasn’t doing either of those, he was screaming. I couldn’t leave the house the first month I had the dog here.” Piglet has since come a long way, overcoming his anxiety and learning to enjoy his new family.
But Shapiro had bigger plans for Piglet. “When we kept him, I said he needs to have some bigger meaning.” His story soon got the attention of a third-grade teacher in Massachusetts, who used Piglet as a model to encourage students to always push forward, never give up, and treat struggles as a pathway to growth.
According to Shapiro, “She called it the Piglet Mindset. Piglet was so inspiring to the children that they decided as a class to use Piglet as their growth mindset role model and face each day in a ‘Piglet State of Mind’ to grow as students and individuals. When problems arise at home, the children’s parents describe their kids asking, ‘What would Piglet do?’”
This effort has led to the Piglet Mindset Outreach program, which teaches children to face challenges, work with their skills and abilities, and not worry about differences in capabilities with others. The program uses online learning materials that are now used in classrooms in Alabama, Connecticut and even Japan and Australia, and can be downloaded for free from Shapiro’s website.
Piglet is also featured on various merchandise, and earnings from these and social media ads have raised more than $30,000, which Shapiro donates to special-needs animal shelters. Piglet has also helped remove the stigma of adopting blind and deaf pets, and other animals with disabilities.
“People are afraid to adopt these animals, they think that it’s going to be too much work. But people see Piglet’s page and I get so many notes from people that because of him, they just adopted. It’s rewarding to know that people are taking the lead and being inspired by Piggy.”
Shapiro stated that Piglet’s story aims to: “Encourage spay and neuter of dogs and cats; educate about the severe consequences of double dapple/merle breeding; inspire and motivate others to adopt special needs pets; facilitate Piglet Mindset outreach to teachers and students; fund-raise for special needs dog rescues and other nonprofit organizations; put a smile on faces all around the world”.
There are future plans to expand into more classrooms and establish a non-profit organization to support rescue animals. And it all started with a blind and deaf dog, who has since grown into a symbol for acceptance, compassion, and inclusion.
To find out more about Piglet, watch the video below: