A resilient, growth mindset is essential for children to develop in order to persevere through adversity. Meet Piglet—a lovable, deaf and blind dog who inspires children and adults with his uplifting approach to life’s difficulties. As a Dachshund Chihuahua hybrid, Piglet is a result of dapple to dapple breeding, which refers to the fact both of his parents had dapple coloring. The double dapple color pattern is associated with congenital eye and ear defects that can leave puppies either partially or fully deaf and/or blind.
In March of 2017, veterinarian Dr. Melissa Shapiro (pictured above) became a foster mom for Piglet and brought him to her home in Connecticut. The first two months were extremely difficult for the one and a half pound puppy as he suffered separation anxiety. Nonetheless, Dr. Shapiro, her husband and Piglet persevered. Eventually, Piglet found a comfortable routine of playing with siblings from his dog pack, going on house calls with Dr. Shapiro and interacting with other dogs at pet stores and the local animal hospital. Dr. Shapiro and her husband quickly fell in love with the enthusiastic puppy and in May of 2017, they officially adopted him.
Upon learning about Piglet’s inspiring story, a third grade teacher from Massachusetts developed a growth mindset curriculum plan centered around Piglet’s perseverance and positive attitude. She coined the phrase “Piglet Mindset,” which is defined as the following:
- Facing and overcoming 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.
- Being kind to all people and animals.
Soon after, Dr. Shapiro created the Piglet Mindset Educational Outreach Program. The program seeks to teach children the importance of acceptance, inclusion and kindness regardless of disabilities or appearances. A lesson plan and other learning materials are available on Piglet’s website. Dr. Shapiro encourages teachers and parents to use these materials to enhance growth mindset curriculum and educate children on inclusion. The Piglet Mindset Outreach Program helps children to develop a mental roadmap for how to approach difficult situations. In turn, they feel empowered to practice their agency in overcoming obstacles.
Dr. Shapiro and Piglet visit schools and classrooms around the country—both in person and via Facetime—to teach children the importance of kindness and acceptance. During school visits, the two use hands-on activity stations to help students understand how Piglet uses his three senses to navigate life happily despite his disabilities. A live Q and A session and demo of Piglet’s tap signals are also used during visits.
Piglet’s inspiring story and Dr. Shapiro’s advocacy work serve as examples of how we can teach children about inclusion, kindness and perseverance in a dynamic, unique way.