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."