In the Suburbs: Celebrating Piglet - an awesome, inspirational dog with indomitable spirit

Veterinarian Melissa Shapiro and her dog Piglet at their home April 23, 2021, in Westport, Conn.

Veterinarian Melissa Shapiro and her dog Piglet at their home April 23, 2021, in Westport, Conn.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

For the past few months until last weekend, many of our Fairfield University Bookstore customers and staff were buzzing about the anticipated arrival of a very special guest — Piglet, a tiny, deaf and blind Dashchund/Chihuahua mix, whose story inspired veterinarian Melissa Shapiro to write the book of the same name.

Piglet came to Shapiro, his now rescuer and owner, as a special needs rescue in 2017 after being in a hoarding situation with some 30 other animals. It was an instant connection and eventual love fest for this Westport home-visit vet and her special family.

On Sept. 25, the waiting was all over and Melissa and Piglet, along with an entourage of some of the family’s other rescues (there are six) arrived a little before 1 p.m. for an outside event at the bookstore. Piglet, who now weighs about six pounds, travels in a small covered stroller, reserved especially for this amazing little dog.

Shapiro’s first task for our growing audience in front of the bookstore was to have Piglet demonstrate the unusual training skills she has taught him, which involve tapping various parts of his neck and chest area to get Piglet to sit or lie down or roll over. Since this little pink dynamo had an incredible sense of smell even at seven weeks when Shapiro rescued him, he began early on to navigate the Shapiro home with his nose to compensate for his lack of sight and hearing.

Little Piglet — named by Shapiro’s husband Warren because he literally resembled a little pink pig when he arrived at their home and seemed to be like Piglet in the Winnie the Poo stories by A.A. Milne — proceeded to charm all of us with his adorable antics of sitting, lying down, begging for biscuits and twirling around. With each tap, he followed a command .People arriving after Piglet had started his little show probably thought they were watching a little sighted dog. I was thoroughly in awe of this incredible little guy and really loved it when he tried to go after the biscuits in Shapiro’s pocket. For about a half hour, we were mesmerized by Piglet’s antics and mischievous behavior.

As she pointed out in the book about Piglet, her other dogs seemed to have a sixth sense about Piglet’s condition when she arrived home after picking him up at a dog adoption fair and had more accepting behavior about this tiny being about to invade their household. Shapiro had agreed to the rescue after her friend Gloria in Georgia, who regularly brought dogs to Connecticut for rescue, told her about Piglet, then named Bart, who was the offspring of two dapple (marble colored) Daschunds.

As Shapiro explained, “Although they didn’t know which dog was the dad, Gloria assumed that both of Bart’s parents were dapple...Some breeders intentionally breed two dapples together, hoping to get very splashy-colored puppies. But this results in a 25 percent chance that each puppy will get two of the dominant dapple genes, which is linked to a predominantly white coat and congenital eye and ear defects.”

Shapiro added that probably after a lot of inbreeding, Bart’s litter included three or four double-dapple puppies. He was the tiniest and was born deaf and blind. All except one of the other puppies were born deaf and with vision defects. Remarkably, little Bart survived, even though he was rejected by his mother.

The morning Shapiro picked up Piglet, she discovered him shrieking and her friend asked her to just take him since his shrieking was disrupting the adoption fair. Ironically, a friend Monica at Norwalk Animal Hospital was finally able to calm Bart when she put him in her arms and inside her uniform. Apparently the little puppy picked up Monica’s breathing and felt secure.

Once she had arrived home with her tiny bundle and introduced him to her other six dogs, all rescues, and the remainder of her rescues, four birds, Shapiro saw that Bart, soon to be Piglet, seemed to be welcomed warmly by all the dogs. Soon Piglet was snaking in and out of canine legs and eventually became mischievous enough to fit right in. From what I could tell in the book and from pictures, Susie, the Shapiro’s gray, furry terrier mix seemed to offer Piglet a secure blanket of fur.

Since Piglet has become a permanent part of the Shapiro family, his story, the website that Shapiro has created and the book that she co-wrote with Mim Eichler Rivas, a co-author of some three dozen books, have become an inspiration for children and adults alike.

I am nearly half-way through the book and haven’t put down my box of tissues since chapter one. I am very happy that Shapiro and Piglet and Shapiro’s husband Warren decided to pay the bookstore a visit last Saturday to promote the new book. It was an absolutely beautiful and unforgettable visit.

I am already working on a request for Shapiro to come to the charter school in Bridgeport where I teach. Of course, with Piglet’s schedule, that could take years, but I remain hopeful.

This last comment by Laura Schroff, author of “The Invisible Thread,” seemed to capture it all about Piglet’s impact on our world.

“Such a beautiful, inspiring story of Piglet, and his loving, patient human mom and veterinarian, Melissa Shapiro. This story will warm your heart and brings to life how this beautiful dog came into the Shaprio family with his own purpose. Through sheer love and dedication, Piglet no longer lives in a world of total darkness.”

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44@gmail.com.