This Tiny Dog (And His Mom) Are Making A Big Difference


They say never to bring a dog or a baby onto a stage because they will steal the show. In the case of a tiny mixed breed pup named Norbert, his human Julie Steines is totally fine with his getting all the attention.

“He's so quirky and charming and happy. He's such joy."

Steines, who is married to Home & Family star, Mark Steines, said despite having a high profile career that had nothing to do with animals, she soon found her life totally changed thanks to a little white dog she found in 2009.

“Norbert is my first dog," says Steines. "I knew I wanted to adopt but didn't know what kind. I looked for over a year. One day on Pet Finder I came across his photo and just had this feeling that he was going to be my dog. He was the only dog in the litter and was so tiny and needed unique home. I lived by myself in a small studio and it was the perfect fit. It felt like it was meant to be."

Because of his size and happy disposition Steines says she began taking Norbert with her everywhere she went. She eventually looked into him becoming a therapy dog so he could visit with people in nursing homes and in hospitals.

“He's so smart, he passed all his tests," says Steines with a laugh. “We started volunteering at a local nursing home and one thing lead to another. My brother said let's make a Facebook page, and we started with that."

With a long-time dream to publish a children's book and inspired by her pleasant pup, Steins decided to create a publishing company, Polly Parker Press. She wrote up Norbert's story, and her mother, Virgina, provided the illustrations for Norbert's debut book, Norbert: What Can Little Me Do?

"Norbert is a little nugget."

“We decided Norbert's story would be the perfect story to write," say Steines, who went on a book tour with Norbert. “It's uplifting and about finding your special purpose in the world. The book ended up winning eight awards, and we started traveling doing presentations and sharing Norbert's story. It was amazing to be able to work with my mother and Norbert. He went with us everywhere."

Service Pup

These days, Steines and Norbert are a tight knit team, focused on uplifting the spirits of those in need. They tour the country meeting with Norbert's fans, and they maintain a robust social media presence in order to continue spreading happiness, which is Julie's main goal.

“It's absolutely incredible for Norbert and for everyone," she says. “It's so rewarding because you go to these hospitals and nursing homes and it's such a welcome and happy moment. He's so cute and tiny. He can snuggle up on beds. He's known for giving high fives. It changes the entire mood of a room."

Norbert now has three books, including Norbert: What Can Little You Do?, and Norbert: What Can Little We Do?, which was written in conjunction with Lil Bub the Cat. There is also a Norbert plush toy (which is currently sold out) and other products like clothing, mugs and doggie gear. In addition, for every plush toy purchased, one is donated to Toys For Tots.

“Everything we do is to spread the mission to make people smile. You don't have to be big to make a difference in the world. Norbert is about 3.5 pounds but just by being his little self he brings so much joy to people."

Steines, who met her husband, Mark, because she and Norbert were guests on his Hallmark Channel show, says it's fun but not easy keeping in touch with Norbert's fans. Her husband, who is a photographer as well as an on-air personality, takes many of the photos, while Julie spends her time making sure images and captions are perfectly edited.

“This is something we feel that the world really needs. My life has changed in every way possible because of this little dog. I'm really grateful."

With who has more than one million social media followers, a community Julie calls The Norberthood, managing Norbert has become Steines' full-time job. In 2013 the brunette beauty quit her high-paying job in order to dedicate herself to her pup's career.

“I took a leap of faith to take this full time. in the end it was worth it," says Steines. “I know entrepreneurs are big on goal setting and vision but with what we are doing It's so unique and new, we don't even know what's around the corner."

When asked what a typical day is like Steines says it's always different, but one thing that is always consistent is her focus on authenticity when it comes to Norbert.

“I manage Norbert very carefully," says Steines. “We have the reputation for being very selective on whose work with, because we want to be sure anyone we collaborate with is in-line with our vision. We've said no to a lot of deals that could have been lucrative or big from a press standpoint but I value Norbert and what he stands for. It's one thing have a million followers but there's not a lot of value if people aren't being engaged. It's a bit of an art form combining images with videos. Every word is important."

Norbert's audience, according to his mom, is mostly women over thirty. Located all over the world, Steines says she spends much of her time interacting with Norbert's community via email, social media messages and regular mail

“I do my best to respond to all the emails and messages," says Steines. “When someone sends us something personal it means so much to us. Once a girl sent us a message that her mom was in the ICU and they both loved Norbert. She asked to send a message to her mother. We sent a message 'feel nor better soon,' it's a Norbertism. The girl reached out to us afterwards and said we made her entire life. Even something small like that is so powerful."

3 Min Read

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.