Blind, Deaf Dog Named Piglet Meets His 'Top Fan', Who He Helped Out of a 'Very Dark Place' (Exclusive)

Steph Bennett first found Piglet on social media shortly after she was told she would never walk again following a 2017 accident

<p>Melissa Shapiro, DVM</p> Piglet the dog during his meeting with fan Steph Bennett

Melissa Shapiro, DVM

Piglet the dog during his meeting with fan Steph Bennett

A meeting six years in the making occurred in March 2024, and it was just as magical as the participants had hoped.

It all started in 2018 when Steph Bennett was sitting in a nursing home looking for inspiration to help her face a mounting series of overwhelming challenges.

"I had a serious accident back in December of 2017 where I suffered a spinal cord injury and an above elbow arm amputation. Among so many other things, I was told I might never walk again. To me, that was like, 'Challenged accepted!'" Bennett tells PEOPLE. "After three months in the hospital and making literal strides in my recovery, I was then sent to a nursing home for seven months. The nursing home basically undid most of what I had relearned while in the rehab hospital because I had no rehabilitation."

"When you are in a situation like that, you're alone with your thoughts — and social media," she adds.

While scrolling through Instagram during one of her difficult nights in the nursing home, Bennett "happened upon the Pink Piglet Puppy page."

<p>Melissa Shapiro, DVM</p> Piglet the dog

Melissa Shapiro, DVM

Piglet the dog

"From that moment, I became a self-proclaimed top fan. Piglet encouraged me with his positive energy to pick myself up from the bottom of a very dark place, get myself in a wheelchair, and move my legs by going up and down the hallways," Bennett says.

Seven-year-old Piglet is "a tiny, blind, deaf dachshund-Chihuahua mix," according to his owner, veterinarian Melissa Shapiro.

Shapiro first met the dog in March 2017 when a fellow veterinarian was trying to find him a home and asked Shapiro for help. She agreed to foster the dog and, two months later, decided to adopt the pup.

Related: 'Pink' Rescue Dog Piglet Shares Story of Hope, Perseverance in New Book: 'It's About Finding Joy,' Says Owner

"I had been posting him on Facebook because I wanted to find him a home, and his Facebook page started to grow very rapidly. So by the time two months went by, he had a pretty healthy page," Shapiro says.

The veterinarian found Piglet's Facebook page filled with positive messages from animal lovers, celebrating the little dog's resilience and love for life despite his obstacles.

Shapiro expanded Piglet's social media presence and used the platforms to advocate for rescue animals with special needs, raising money for animal rescues in the process. Among Piglet's fans, Shapiro found a teacher who inspired her to create the Piglet Mindset, a program about inclusivity and resilience taught in schools.

<p>Melissa Shapiro, DVM</p> Piglet (fifth from left) with his seven canine siblings

Melissa Shapiro, DVM

Piglet (fifth from left) with his seven canine siblings

As Piglet's popularity grew, Shapiro received an increasing number of messages from fans who wanted to share how Piglet had changed their lives.

Among those messages were some from Bennett, who started writing to Shapiro in 2021 to let her know Piglet's impact on her recovery journey.

"I felt so strongly about being heard by Melissa because I wanted her to know that the impact Piglet has with elementary kids can also be felt by a 56-year-old. And perhaps hearing it articulated through my eyes was important for her to know," Bennett says of what inspired her to reach out to Piglet's pet parent.

In her letters, Bennett shared how Piglet pulled her from a place where she felt alone, powerless, and incapable.

"I found so much inspiration in that sweet little soul's resiliency. Here I was with all of my roadblocks. I had been living a life where I was extremely active and involved with my own two rescue pups, only to have my life as I knew it completely ripped out from under me. I thought if this sweet puppy could overcome and live a life with purpose, then I could do it, too! From day one, Piglet was my mentor." she adds.

Bennett and Shapiro kept in touch throughout the years, hoping to find a way to meet in person at some point. That day came in March 2024, when Shapiro was on the Positive in Pink 2024 Tour with Piglet. The tour, which covered much of the eastern U.S., consisted of Piglet and five of his seven dog siblings visiting nursing homes, meet-and-greets, and schools that use the Piglet Mindset program.

<p>Warren Shapiro</p> Melissa Shapiro (left) and Steph Bennett

Warren Shapiro

Melissa Shapiro (left) and Steph Bennett

One of the stops was at a school in Bel Air, Maryland, a few hours from the horse farm where Bennett lives. Shapiro decided this was the time to arrange a meeting between Piglet and Bennett.

Shaprio, her husband, and their six dogs, including Piglet, drove to meet Bennett at the horse farm. Bennett eagerly awaited the moment on the grass in front of her home.

Ahead of the meeting, Shapiro warned Bennett that, while Piglet is friendly, he is also "a character" that can be a bit picky about who he befriends.

"There are certain people that he is crazy about, and there are other people that he's lukewarm about, and then other people that he will walk away from and not meet," Shapiro says about Piglet's preferences.

Related: Woman Adopts Senior Dog and Spends Next 28 Days Spoiling Him Before Putting Him to Sleep (Exclusive)

Bennett says she told Shapiro she understood but was still excited to meet her canine muse.

"I brought my little dogs out one at a time. I had five dogs with me, and each of them met her, and they were just fine. I saved Piggy to last," Shapiro says of her meeting with Bennett.

Finally, Shapiro brought out Piglet and placed him on the blanket where Bennett sat.

"I bring Piglet over, and he goes completely crazy. He can't get enough of her. He's jumping around and wagging his tail so fast that you can't even see it. It was amazing," Piglet's mom remembers.

<p>Melissa Shapiro, DVM</p> Steph Bennett during her meeting with Piglet the dog

Melissa Shapiro, DVM

Steph Bennett during her meeting with Piglet the dog

Bennett was equally excited about meeting Piglet.

"Honestly, no words can fully describe the moment Melissa brought Piglet out of the car! I would say I am still smiling!" Bennett says.

"To my relief, it felt like a long overdue meeting between two dear friends who hadn't seen each other in years! And it felt full circle as if we were thanking each other for the support and love throughout the years. My heart felt so full!" she adds.

Piglet and Bennett spent about an hour soaking up each other's company before the dog had to get back on the road. Shapiro and Bennett both left the moment feeling changed for the better.

"While Piglet inspired Stephanie to be positive and move forward in her recovery and rehab, I am also inspired by her and many others who have reached out to me, letting me know how much my tiny pink dog means to them and how he has impacted their lives. Their heartfelt, heartwarming stories are also life-changing for me," Shapiro says, adding, "Meeting good friends like Stephanie gives all of our work an extra special meaning."

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The meet-up has left Bennett a bigger Piglet fan than ever before.

"I am still encouraged by Piglet daily—encouraged not to be ashamed of my differences but rather to embrace them. He's taught me to be patient with myself, to be creative, and to think outside the box. There's always more than one way to come to the same conclusion. Walking may not look like it used to, but that is okay! I'm walking when they said I wouldn't!" she says.

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