By Josh Saunders
Meet the adorable puppy that looks like Piglet from Winnie-the-Pooh due to genetic problems defies the odds.
Little Piglet the Dachshund-chihuahua mix from Westport, Connecticut, USA, was born completely deaf, blind apart from partial sight of large objects from one eye and severe anxiety.
Caused by the double dapple/merle genes, when two dogs with it speckled fur have puppies they are at risk of being born with sight, hearing, organ and other problems.
Piglet’s owners left three dogs at home together that were not spayed or neutered, which led to over 30 puppies being born many of whom have disabilities – that they were forced to get rid of.
Colbert Veterinary Rescue Services picked-up puppy Piglet, who weighed only one pound and due to his anxiety would endlessly scream.
Later temporary foster carer, Melissa Shapiro, 57, adopted Piglet, the special needs pup who is now 11-months and despite his sensory problems leads a happy life.
He’s been compared to the famously tiny Winnie-the-Pooh character due to his pink colouring and because of his bravery, in regularly overcoming his fears as a disabled dog.
The mum-of-three has set out on a mission to use his story to raise awareness of the risks associated to irresponsible breeding, show the positives of adopting disabled pets and to make people smile.
Melissa, a home-visit vet, said: “When we got Piglet, he was one-and-a-half pound so was tiny, had a pink colouring because he had very little fur and looked like a baby pig.
“It was only later that we realised how similar he looked to Piglet from Winnie-the-Pooh.
“Piglet’s eyes work just enough to see large, dark objects in front of him, he can navigate our small kitchen area.
“But he can’t find his toys even if they are in front of him, whenever he walks inside he is always bumping into the other dogs because he can’t see them.
“At first, we struggled taking him anyway because he screamed and screamed, he needed a lot of handling and with a lot of reassurance and getting him into a nice predictable schedule, he’s much better.
“Piglet is very needy, and we spend a huge amount of effort taking care of him, we can’t leave him alone because of how disabled he is.
“He is also very kind, loving and very humorous, he’s so little that he’s always at risk of getting injured so we have to take care of him.
“But we love him so dearly so don’t mind at all.
“He is a very interesting dog he faces all these challenges that other pets don’t have and is such a happy puppy, that it gives him a whole new dimension.
“Piglet is very smart and responds very well to training, I’ve already taught him several tap signals – from sit to wait and more.
“He is an inspiration to all who meet him both in person as well as through social media, and is an extremely adorable, engaging little treasure.”
Piglet’s problems originate from double-dappling – when two parent dogs have the dapple/merle genes each puppy has a 25% risk of developed a wide array of medical problems.
Some people deliberately breed double-dapple puppies as a way to ensure a higher chance of the speckled or spotty coating – which is popular and sought-after look.
But the designer dogs also endanger the puppies’ lives, some of whom can be blind, deaf, suffer seizures, organ problems and other developmental issues.
Melissa said: “There are a lot of eye and ear issues, from blindness to deafness, it can affect the colour of their fur and some are completely unaffected.
“Pets with the double dapple or merle, can be predisposed to inflammatory eye issues and other problems, many lose them to glaucoma or suffer cataracts later too.
“People breed these animals as they are looking for the ‘cool colouring’ – it’s unethical breeding due to the risks, typically the disabled dogs are euthanised, killed or thrown away.
“Piglet came about because a young couple left three dogs in an apartment who were not spayed or neutered, their three dogs turned into 37.
“After Piglet was born, the landlord told the couple they had to get rid of the puppies, so some were put on craigslist, others were taken in by a rescue centre and we fostered Piglet.”
Piglet became a permanent addition to the Shapiro family, who have six other dogs, and since settling in does charity work, as well as trying to inspire others.
Melissa said: “When I arrived he was in a crate screaming at the top of his lungs, a tiny one-and-a-half-pounds, the size of a rat, I picked him up and even then he wouldn’t stop screaming.
“When he took him in, he couldn’t even hold his own chew toy he was so tiny,
“Over time he has gotten better, the routine is very comforting for him, it gives him the control over what will happened and builds confidence.
“He can see very dark, larger objects at just the right angle and lighting, but if he’s not paying attention misses things and could put himself in danger.
“He has no idea where he is going on walks, so I have to use the harness to guide and guard him, I’m a seeing eye for him.”
Piglet and the Shapiro have fundraised over $1,200 through the sales of phone case wallets for charity and have more planned for the future.
The adorable little pup also is taken to schools to talk about disabilities and overcoming adversity.
Melissa said: “The school used our video and took it very seriously, the schoolkids think of having Piglet’s mindset as a way to overcome challenges.
“It’s very adorable we received drawings of Piglet and messages that he is their ‘roll [sic] model’ which is adorable and amazing that he’s made such an impact.
“It gives me personal pleasure, when people are smiling or petting Piglet, it makes them really happy and they make me really happy.”
Encourage spay and neuter of dogs and cats.
Educate about the serious consequences of double merle breeding.
Inspire others to adopt special needs pets.
Put a smile on as many faces as possible.
You can find out more on: pinkpigletpuppy.org