How Norbert, the adorable high-fiving therapy dog, became a social media star
Written by SL on May 24, 2018
(NEW YORK) — Nine years ago, Julie Steines was looking on Petfinder for her first dog and stumbled upon a little white ball of fluff that was just 4 months old.
“I never had a dog before and just saw him and said, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s him!'” Steines told Good Morning America.
This adorable pup named Norbert would grow up to be a social media sensation. But the tiny, high-fiving therapy dog didn’t get to where he is today overnight.
The award-winning author said she knew it was meant to be and “he was just my buddy from the start and I took him everywhere. He was just used to being around lots of people.”
It was this level of comfort that made the little guy perfect as a therapy puppy. And that’s where his fame began.
Norbert started volunteering at a local retirement home, and Steines’ brother said she should start a Facebook page.
“He slowly started to get a following, mostly just friends and family at first,” she said. “Then I had this dream to publish a children’s book with my mother. We thought Norbert’s story of finding his purpose in life as a therapy dog would translate beautifully to a picture book. I was the author, and my mother was the illustrator. It did remarkable well.”
Norbert’s social media grew from there, and the family added an Instagram page as well. With more than 1 million followers on Facebook and 600,000 on Instagram, Norbert has quite the fan base.
“Now he has four books, and we just made a plush toy,” she said. “It wasn’t this overnight success-type thing at all. It’s been quite a journey, something I never anticipated.”
Norbert and Steines are about much more than social media; they are about making people smile. In addition to his travels to retirement homes and children’s hospitals, Norbert made a special trip to see a very special boy.
Steines said she got an email one day from someone in California.
“Their son had cancer, and they asked if Norbert could make him smile,” she said. “I just had this feeling I was supposed to do more.”
She went ahead and asked her husband if they could fly to the boy’s home and surprise him for Christmas.
“We went to their house, hung out for an hour and gave him high fives,” she said. “It was one of the most memorable things Norbert and I have done. Sadly, the boy passed away, but we are still connected to the family on social media. They are just such wonderful people, and it breaks our hearts that anyone would have to go through something like that.”
While Norbert has a huge platform, the foundation for everything the duo does is “giving back,” she said.
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