ETG - Norbert Bringing Smiles

October 09, 2021 00:24:24

Hosted By

Eric Kilbride

Show Notes

Norbert is a 3 pound pet therapy dog. His owner, Julie Steines has been working in children's hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc.for almost ten years bringing smiles to those who need them.

Julie and her mother, Virginia Freyermuth, Ph.D, had an idea to capture Norbert's contagious happiness and put it in a children's book, "What Can Little Me Do?". The book won several awards, even more hearts and has lead to a series of books since then. You can find more information about Norbert and their good works at

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:06 Welcome back to eliminate the gap where myself Delbar Christian and, uh, Eric Kilbride here. We're getting ready to bring you our most recent episode, which we're very excited about at this present time. Uh, Eric, you want to go ahead and share a little bit about our guests today? Speaker 2 00:00:24 Absolutely. Absolutely. And just real quick is I was just mentioning to Domar. This is our 18th episode, um, which is crazy to think about since we started at the end of January of this year, and we're already got a, this will be the 18th one, so that's pretty cool. I'm pretty excited about that. It does. Um, so we thought we would do something a little different, uh, for this episode. Um, we've been talking to a lot of folks out there in youth development leaders, people that have historically helped build the field and are certainly on the front line, um, doing the hard work every day. Um, and so we thought we would maybe step back and celebrate, um, some folks and a little animal, uh, who is out there everyday too, but in a different way, really bringing smiles, uh, to kids and adults and people really need a pick me up, um, during this time. Speaker 2 00:01:28 And so we are going to be speaking to Julie Stein S uh, Virginia prior mood, uh, and we will have as a special guest, their little three pound pet therapy dog, Norbert Norbert is quite popular on the internet. Maybe some of the listeners out there are familiar with Norbert and have seen some of his videos. Um, they've written several books again, geared at, uh, uh, prereading to, uh, early readers, um, all about this fun message about what can little me do and how can I continue to, to make a mark in, in society. And it's beautifully drawn. Uh, Virginia fryer most is the illustrator. Julie kind of is the writer. Um, and there are a mother and daughter team, which in and of itself pretty cool, uh, in the beginning they self-published. So there's a lot of interesting things there that, you know, from entrepreneurship. Uh, Virginia's a one time teacher had been recognized and teacher of the year, both in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Speaker 2 00:02:41 Um, so education, uh, again, working so much out there in the community. So we wanted to celebrate that and again, share, uh, them and their story a little bit with you. And then also maybe inspire you all to think, you know what? It doesn't have to be some big, huge, you know, community-wide effort just to make some difference in the community. Sometimes it could be as simple as what does it take to make another person smile. So it's a guest this episode we're looking forward to it. Uh, it should be a lot of fun. So, uh, there'll be with us here shortly. Alright. So as promised, welcome back to eliminate the gap. And as you can see, we've now been joined, um, by Virginia, uh, prior moot and Julie sinus. And that little guy in there that we talked about briefly is Norbert. And maybe some of you out there that just cracks me up. Um, so we'll get into why all three of the throttle, uh, while they're joining us this evening. So again, thank you all for joining us. We greatly appreciate it. You bet. Speaker 1 00:03:56 Well, I'm going to kick it off here and it just, first of all, thank you. And, uh, Julie, so what inspired you to begin, uh, doing pet therapy with Norbert? Speaker 3 00:04:07 Ah, that's a great question. So this goes back about 11 years, no, 12 years Norbert history. Uh, and remember it was a puppy and I lived in Boston, Massachusetts at the time and we were, I took him everywhere because he was tiny. I mean, he's small now, but back then he was like a handful. So we were in this eyeglass store shopping around and a woman in there looked at him and she was like, oh, he would make a great therapy dog because he was so just like calm and seemed really comfortable in different situations. And, uh, I had never even heard of that before. So I kind of like went home, looked it up and thought, wow, that would be a really nice thing to do. Um, and I kind of envisioned visiting people in like nursing homes or hospitals and so forth. And so, um, that kind of kick-started, everything was, it was just unexpected and changed the trajectory of my entire life really Speaker 2 00:05:03 Well, for sure. In, and just knowing, um, you, when you, you got Norbert, you always knew that there was something special about Norbert and maybe at that point it hadn't revealed itself what it exactly was. Um, so that's pretty cool, not surprising that somebody would have approached you in that way because, um, so just for those out there, and again, so much of our listeners are folks that work with young people work out in the community as teachers, as volunteers and as frontline youth workers, um, what's involved in, in getting a pet certified. I know we see, you know, lots of emotionally emotional support animals, but I know this was a whole different kind of level. Speaker 3 00:05:49 Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for mentioning that. So it is like a complete, completely different things. So we're considered a registered therapy animal team, um, and there's all, all types of therapy animals. There can be cats and birds and horses just, um, durables, whatever rabbits, uh, anyways. So we, there's several organizations we're registered with one called pet partners, um, which is great. And you have to kind of get reregistered every two years. Um, but it starts with passing several different tests. There's like a written test and then sort of like a, um, obedience. That's not really the word I wanna use, but type tests for the animal. And so Norbert, I trained in myself. I have no experience in dog training, but he's just like, as you can see, pretty chill, very smart and motivated by food. So he passed all the tests. Uh, and that's when we started volunteering. I should also mention though, you guys, that this is, I think really important that the animal should actually just really enjoy, like being around people and in that type of environment, and also be predictable. Cause a lot of unpredictable things happen when you're in such different situations like that volunteering. So that's just like a little, so that was, that was the path that we chose. And we've been with pet partners since I think 2011. Wow. Speaker 1 00:07:16 I was like, Hey, that, that test word, it scares so many people out there. So Hey, great job with that Norbert. Speaker 3 00:07:23 Like I got this Speaker 1 00:07:26 Awesome. Well, we got a great story condo going here. Oh, I got to get into a little bit more. Is there one moment that you can point to when you first decided to kind to do a bulk or, or what really kinda, how did that come about? Speaker 3 00:07:43 Yeah, so it was sort of like a dream of mine since I was little to publish a book with my mother, uh, as the artist and myself being the author and we thought Norbert story of kind of finding his way in the world and his special gift, um, and being a therapy dog and making people smile would be translate beautifully into a children's picture book. So that's kind of where, right. And, um, I remember leaving Julie's apartment one day in Boston, right after she had gotten Norbert and uh, thinking this must seem like an awfully big city for this little tiny dog who had moved from a farm, I think from a farm in the country, more rural setting. And I began to think, what kind of question might he be asking himself right now? What can little me do came to mind? As I walked through the Boston public garden, I started seeing a lot of other animals in the park. There were squirrels and there were pigeons and there were ducks and ducklings. And I could imagine Norbert walking through and looking at all of these other creatures and staying, they all seem to know what to do, but what can little me do? So Lee and I met in a coffee shop and we actually sketched out the idea for the book on an app skin in the coffee right then and there. And that's what started it. Speaker 2 00:09:11 Wow. You know, that all great ideas start on napkins or in garages that seem, um, uh, that's uh, that's awesome. And I know it's been a special bond for you all to, to, to share throughout this entire journey. Um, you know, one of the things that we ask a lot of, uh, our guests is, is about influences in, in my guess is, uh, asking Julie would be, you know, pointless, cause she's sitting next to one of her influences for sure. Um, but, but Virginia for you, you know, you're this amazing artist. Uh, and in fact, we're working on, uh, a mural just around the corner and I know you'd love to see it, but, um, there's artists inside there and I showed them one of your drawings and they're just like, oh my, you know, just a mad respect to around the corner. Um, but it's just, what's it in your life that really encouraged you to, to take that talent and some of your other talents and kind of reach your potential in that way. Speaker 3 00:10:17 Uh, well, thank you so much for that. Appreciate it. Um, I think, you know, through the course of a person's life, we have many different kinds of teachers and, uh, I've been blessed to have a lot of wonderful teachers in my life, whether they were family members or friends or teachers or teachers outside of school. So there's all different kinds of people that you can learn from as you journey on your life's path. And, uh, my first one was my mother who first put a pencil in my hand when I was just a preschooler and taught me to draw. And then she was showing me how to draw out little figures and people, I went to her and said, uh, do I have to draw it just like you? Or can I make up my own way of making faces and noses and eyes? And she said, oh, well, you can do it any way you want because you are the artist. Speaker 3 00:11:11 And I thought that was just amazing. And I would spend hours and hours and venting faces and characters and all kinds of things. Let my imagination run away with me. And I never lost that enthusiasm for creating and using my imagination. Uh, when I got into school, of course, my mom supported, um, my work has an artist and my development and I was fortunate enough for her to find me a, uh, a teacher who lived around the corner from us, who was a professional painter who agreed to take me on as a student when I was in junior high school and through high school. And with that influence, I was able to put together a portfolio that got me into art school. Um, but because of that influence of, of that teacher and also my mother, I realized how much a teacher can affect a young person's life and can really change the course of a life. So I decided then that not only did I want to be an artist, but I also wanted to be a teacher and hopefully encourage that enthusiasm in other young people. Speaker 2 00:12:21 It's, it's usually things like that. Isn't a Dell it's, you know, it's your mom, first of all, in, in, in this particular case, you know, recognizing and saying, no, you can be who you want to be, not too different than, you know, some, uh, Norbert's themes. And then, and then discovering just literally around the corner from you, a tremendous resource that clearly was important. Quick little side question. Did you name many of your characters as you were drawing your little characters? Speaker 3 00:12:52 Oh, I, yeah. I mean, I wrote stories to go with them. I made handmade books and, um, I had all kinds of characters and figures and it was Speaker 2 00:13:02 Character. And I guess that's what I'm after is that you remember back in the day, you love to draw it over and over and over again. Speaker 3 00:13:09 I, I did a little story about an elf that I love this little elf that I drew His back then. I was a little Elfie was actually very good at math and he could calculate all kinds of things and wrote a story about boating, but I remember illustrating it and coloring it all in with colored pencils. When I was in about fourth grade, I do, I do. Speaker 2 00:13:42 Um, that's, uh, you know, it, it's that kind of, uh, essence, you know, that, uh, you know, drive in, in, uh, propels, many of us continue to do the things that we're passionate about. And that's what, we're one of the things we're trying to highlight. Um, you know, so much of, I know you've, uh, Norbert spends time, uh, visiting the children's hospital out there in LA now that you all are out on the west coast and in nursing homes and these schools kindergarten places all over the place. Um, and then, you know, much like the rest of us, uh, COVID happened and kind of put a kibosh, especially going into hospital, um, and other places where folks are a little bit more vulnerable. Julie, tell us a little bit how maybe you all chose to combat that and still put Norbert out there in people's lives, especially when they needed, uh, him even more. Speaker 3 00:14:40 That's exactly what we thought like everyone needs, who likes nor but needs them now more than ever, you know? And so we stopped volunteering at the hospital because they, the program was shut down. Uh, but it was really nice because they developed like a virtual program. So people from the hospital would go into some of the children's rooms with iPads and they would FaceTime with like three or four dogs at a time, which was, which was really nice and special. And I guess, you know, the children really love that. So that's something we did from time to time. Um, and then we just kind of kept doing what we've been doing on social media and people would write comments to us. Um, every time we posted something, a photo or video, whatever, it was like, how, how much it meant to them. And, um, we also started sort of like a little side project where we offer just some like free, like fun resources for kids to do. Speaker 3 00:15:33 Like, um, we, we made one of our coloring books completely free that people could download and different activities. Right. Um, and that, so that lives on Robert's website and yeah, we just tried to do as much as we can to stay connected to people on, especially when they were, you know, not able to leave their houses for all of us, I should say so. Right, right. Yeah. I think that what resonated with people at this particular moment in time was, um, the importance of, of kindness and compassion and of, um, mutual respect, the importance of, of home. And, um, Norbert's message has been consistent over time and people appreciate that. Um, he tries to make people smile. And one of the questions that we would always have for children would we, when we would go into schools and do presentations is, um, what can you do to make people smile? We can all make somebody smile. What can you do to make people smile? And the answers that we would get would be, um, just so creative and so wonderful, even from children as young as kindergarten, um, they would all know how to make someone smile. So I think in this particular time, when people were just dealing with so much and going through so much, it was just always nice to know that there's a way we can all think of making someone else smile. Speaker 2 00:17:04 Yeah. And just real quick, Dell. Um, so one of the things I wanted to mention, because as much as during this past time, people were maybe not able to see Norbert in person. I mean, this is where the books in some of these other kinds of, with the social media, all these other ways that you've been able, uh, for folks to interact with Norberg come into play. And, and I just wanted to mention, um, how incredibly generous you all have been in providing places with books and coloring books and calendars and things like that. It just, you know, again, to just share, because as Virginia said, at the end of the day, it's about what can we do to make somebody else smile? Um, so I just want to celebrate that part of it as well. Um, you know, for y'all doing that with toys for tots and just, you know, all down the line. Speaker 1 00:18:01 Yeah. You guys are both obviously very giving, so we just really, you know, thank you for that. But on that note, I know you guys have been volunteering for quite some time in that capacity and giving people smiles and making people happy. So what, what type of advice would you have for our viewers out there that want to do something similar and in terms of volunteering? Speaker 3 00:18:29 Yeah. Well, I, I can speak to like the pet therapy side. I mean, like I said, at the beginning, if anyone's interested and they think they have a pet, that would be great for that. I would say, look at some of the organizations, like I said, pet partners, um, I think their website is pet It has all the information you need for that, for that avenue. And then do you want to see? Sure. And what I would say is that in something that I've always told my students is that, um, everybody has a special gift. Everybody has something, um, that they love to do, or that they're good at something that is their own particular genius. And, uh, if you look for that, if you look for that thing, that really brings you energy, uh, something that uplifts you and you try and think of ways to use that in the world to then also, um, uplift other people, uh, that can lead you towards, uh, directions to move in, uh, to, to work with others and to, uh, share your enthusiasm for the things that you love to do. Speaker 2 00:19:36 Right. You know, Delmar, we should really start trying to figure out what our creative geniuses. Speaker 2 00:19:48 Yeah, no, and I, I love that praising. Um, that's really a great way to put that. Um, so last question, uh, on this, that it just, we touched on it, um, in the answer, how you choose to, but, but there's a component of all of this. That's truly special from my standpoint. And that's the fact that, that you're mother daughter, uh, folks in and outside of, you know, sitting in a coffee shop and being able to sketch out, you know, a book or what have you talk a little bit about just that important part of being connected as a mother and daughter in maybe a way that's different than just a traditional role? Speaker 3 00:20:36 Well, I can start off with that. First of all, I feel just very blessed and grateful to be able to work with my daughter and to do what we believe is, um, good work in the world. Um, we take what we do with a great responsibility. We know we impact people's lives and that's, um, very important to us. So we take that role very seriously to be able to work side by side with my daughter doing that is just tremendously special. We started this from the ground up by deciding to actually form a company so that we could formalize the work that we do together as a mother daughter, a business, we call ourselves a kindhearted company, uh, because of that. But, um, to, to just see all of that, uh, she has done and how she has used her own talents in the world and how giving she is, uh, just really does my heart. Good. Speaker 2 00:21:36 I know. I'm like, Speaker 3 00:21:41 Yeah, Speaker 2 00:21:42 Sure. I know. Speaker 3 00:21:45 No, I mean, there's really not more, not much more to say then, you know, then when she just said it's, it's, it is every day, like it's so much fun to be able to work together and such a creative capacity, uh, and hopefully maybe inspire other, you know, mother daughter teams to collaborate. So I don't think we ever sort of envisioned we'd be where we are. Can you finish that sentence? I don't think we, we really envisioned we'd be where we are today. You know what I mean? Just from the start, it was just life-changing so Speaker 2 00:22:20 Yeah, absolutely. Um, well, w what's up number, um, so it's, it's so good of you all to, to give of your time for us, uh, uh, today to be able to, to again, share some of, um, what you all been able to do and how you've been able to do it. And more importantly, inspire some other folks to, to look within themselves, find their own creative genius and say, you know, what, how can I make somebody else smile? How can I give what it is that I have to give out in the community? And we may not all have cute little three pound dogs as our vehicle, but we have something within us, for sure. Um, and so that message is, is exactly what we wanted to be able to bring to the listeners today. Dell, you have a parting thought. Speaker 3 00:23:13 I would just, I would just say, um, my, myself that, um, I think if you can change the life of one person for the better, even if it's for one day, then you have done a lot. So for people who look at large projects and businesses and say, well, what can little me do? Um, I think that it's important to remember that we can all do something every day, even if it's just to change one person's life Speaker 2 00:23:42 And keep doing what you're doing, you Speaker 1 00:23:45 Guys are, are doing a great thing for many people, and we all need that, right. They'll, you know, come into off of this pandemic and we're still not through it yet. Like, you know, that that's what people need right now. They need hope right now with so much time that we've been apart. So just again, keep doing what you're doing. We thank you. Thanks guys. Speaker 3 00:24:08 You're so grateful for your support and you keep your doing that. Speaker 2 00:24:13 Thanks so much. And, uh, we look forward to catching up with you later.

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