Piglet, a deaf, blind, pink , four-year-old dog, at six-and-a-half pounds, is a natural heart-stealer. He has almost half a million combined followers on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. He’s also been in People magazine and on TV with NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, Good Morning America! and CBS News. Westport’s famous Piglet was adopted by Melissa Shapiro, a local veterinarian (visitingvetservice.com), when he was just a puppy. She got a call that he was in a hoarding situation and needed fostering. He weighed less than two pounds. Melissa and her husband, Warren, already had six other rescued dogs and three rescued birds, but, of course, they took in the puppy and quickly developed a unique bond.
They shared a few social media posts, which took off—and kept soaring. Piglet, who loves visiting Compo Beach and Sherwood Island, made it to Insta-stardom blissfully unaware of all of the “Oohs” and “Awhhs” and moony eyes he caused. He was simply living his best life with his pack and exploring Westport despite his limitations, and that’s what cracks the shell of anyone who meets him. Piglet just goes for it.
The posts even inspired a nonprofit called The Piglet Mindset, which started from an elementary-school curriculum that helps kids embrace their differences, treat everyone with respect and face challenges with a can-do spirit. That became a new book: Piglet: The Unexpected Story of a Deaf, Blind, Pink Puppy and His Family, by Melissa Shapiro and Mim Eichler Rivas. It shares how the little dog became a big champion of facing challenges with a good attitude. Read on for Shapiro’s insights on her famous rescue.
The Piglet Mindset, by Melissa Shapiro, DVM
- Facing challenges with a positive attitude.
- Focusing on what you have and moving past what you don’t.
- Accepting individuals for who they are and including them despite their differences.
- Having empathy and understanding toward others and following up with positive actions.
- Being kind to all people and animals.
How did you hear about Piglet?
“We adopted our dog Gina from Colbert Veterinary Rescue Services in 2010 at an adoption event that took place in Norwalk. The founding director of that rescue group is veterinarian Dr. Gloria Andrews. We stayed in touch over the years, and I helped out with some of the veterinary needs of the stream of rescue dogs she placed in good homes here in Connecticut. When Dr. Andrews and her rescue group took in Piglet’s mom and his littermates, she contacted me to see if I knew of anyone who might be interested in the tiny deaf, blind puppy.”
What did you think when you first met him?
“My initial plan was that we would foster the puppy until the rescue group could find him his forever home. Piglet was adorable, so, technically, he should have been easy to place, and that was what I was hoping. But he had severe anxiety when he arrived, and he screamed uncontrollably for hours on end. So my initial thought that he would be here very briefly turned to complete panic over what we were going to do to help him and then place him.”
Why do people gravitate to him?
“Piglet is an extremely engaging little dog. Even in pictures and videos, children and adults are drawn to his intense positivity and determination. He is an extremely beautiful, precious, cute, little dog, which certainly enhances his charm. But whether it is the way he carries himself with confidence, shows deep affection for his favorite dad, his mom, his BFFs at the vet hospital, his enthusiasm for meeting new friends at events or while walking along the beach, or the way he quickly maps new environments, Piglet draws people in, and they can’t help but fall in love with him. What is most interesting though is that each and every person who connects with him does so on an individual level. They identify with him for personal reasons and relate to him in their own unique ways.”
What’s unique about your relationship with Piglet?
“Over my lifetime I have lived with, and cared for, over twenty dogs. Each offer something a little different which dictates very different and generally loving relationships. Piglet is different. He is my dog and I love him to pieces. But he is also my partner as we bring his message of positivity, acceptance, inclusion, empathy and kindness to children and adults all around the world through our Piglet Mindset educational outreach program. His social media pages provide a platform for fundraising and advocating for disabled animals and people, as well as animal welfare and rescue. I’m generally a very disciplined and structured person. Agreeing to foster the tiny, deaf, blind puppy was not out of the ordinary for me, but from the moment Piglet entered my life, moving forward, I have had to step back, accept the unexpected, become more flexible, and join in for the most exciting adventure with a pink dog who wasn’t even meant to survive!”
How was the Piglet Mindset Program born?
“Ms. Tricia Fregeau, a third-grade teacher in Plainville, Massachusetts, introduced Piglet to her third-grade students as a growth-mindset model because he faces his challenges with a positive attitude. She coined the phrase Piglet Mindset and our educational program was born. Over the past four years, we have added inclusion curriculum to our Piglet Mindset educational outreach program, which is housed on our website pigletmindset.org. Our lesson plans and educational materials are available for teachers to download and use for SEL and inclusion curriculum. We make virtual and in-person visits to enhance the program. The program is supported by our nonprofit Piglet International Inc. Piglet Mindset is unique in that Piglet is an engaging pink dog who faces his own challenges with a positive attitude. He inspires kids to do the same. Most kids gravitate toward animals and Piglet is an especially engaging little guy. Our other rescued dogs together with Piggy set an example of acceptance, inclusion, empathy and kindness. We call them Piglet’s Inclusion Pack and they are part of our program.”
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
“The book is a positive feel-good story about a tiny deaf, blind, pink puppy that is filled with vet medicine, animal rescue, dog training, family, parenting and lots of light-hearted humor. It is sincere, authentic and relevant to a wide range of readers. I hope readers will enjoy it and learn something that will be helpful in their own lives.”
BY THE NUMBERS
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