Just One Look

Rescue bulldog inspires children’s book

By Cathryn Rakich
March 2023

Piggie’s pink tongue dangles permanently out the left side of his mouth. His ears, mangled from a home crop job, are frequently infected. Arthritic joints struggle to maintain his 50-pound rotund body. His breathing is labored.

When Andrea Haverland and her partner Marc Morgan chose Piggie as their foster, the bulldog’s nails were curling into his paw pads. “But the biggest, most shocking thing was his nose,” Haverland says. A compromised immune system left his nose raw and scabby, in regular need of topical medication.

Haverland and Morgan, who live in Midtown, had already successfully fostered three dogs for the city’s Front Street Animal Shelter. When the pandemic hit and shelters moved out as many animals as possible, “We thought it was great time to grab another foster,” she says. “It was a no-brainer when I saw his photo.”

The English bulldog/Staffordshire bull terrier mix, named Piggie for his endearing grunt-like noises, was found wandering North Highlands. “There were so many physiological signs that indicated he was used for breeding for many years,” Haverland’s vet told her. Layers of calluses and scar tissue on his paws are an “indicator that he had been standing on metal caging for a significant amount of time.”

Haverland says he was a “disaster that could hardly walk.”

As part of Piggie’s daily routine, he gets a head-to-toe “spa” treatment that can include paw soaks, dental wipes, ear flushes, face cleaning, eye drops, and coconut oil and balm for his nose. “It’s bulldog maintenance on top of his specific needs from his years of neglect.”

Despite his medical maladies, Piggie made his way into his foster parents’ hearts. In June 2020, the couple adopted the canine. By July, they were spending thousands of dollars on emergency vet care. “He was having all these breathing issues,” Haverland says. “He kept trying to die.”

One last blood test showed Piggie was positive for heartworm disease. “On the chest X-ray, you could see the worm load in his heart,” Haverland says. A heartworm test at the shelter prior to fostering would have diagnosed the disease earlier and reduced the severity of his treatment, she adds.

Piggie underwent three painful injections into his hip muscles to kill the adult heartworms. “He didn’t lay down, drink water, or eat for 16 hours after each shot. He wouldn’t go to sleep. He was just miserable,” Haverland says.

The experience of fostering, adopting and caring for Piggie inspired Haverland to write a children’s book. “He is such a special guy, such a special lesson. He can be so positive and loving.”

In addition to telling Piggie’s story—and how Haverland imagined his past life—“Piggie Finds a Family” includes information on heartworm disease and the inexpensive medication to prevent it.

Haverland, who works in the marketing department at the Sacramento Zoo, has ideas for other books. “Rescue Pets Are Super” will be about animals with “different limitations, different abilities and special needs that make them super,” she says. “They’re all incredible with shining personalities.”

The special-needs animals “require more of your time and energy, but they will reward you tenfold with the most unbelievable, unconditional love,” she adds. “What you get from them, and what you learn from them, and what you can share with them in your daily life is so worth it.

“Every day we spend with him is a gift. He’s so easy to love.”

Follow Piggie on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok @piggiebully. “Piggie Finds a Family” is available at piggiebully.com and Leash and Collar at 1901 Q St.

The book is “dedicated to rescue bullies, pitties, and those dogs whose ears were cropped against their will. To the dogs deemed too shy, too old, too high maintenance, too dirty, or too unloveable. To the rescues and shelters and animal control centers who care for them and give them love they never knew. To the specially-abled dogs. The dogs who just needed someone to give them a chance.”

Cathryn Rakich can be reached at crakich@surewest.net. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:

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