For some pets, their list of daily duties includes sleeping, eating, playing and greeting their humans when they come home from a long day at work. But there are those that have taken on another layer of responsibility—pet therapy that goes beyond the occasional cuddles, nuzzles, tail wags and purrs given freely to their pet parents. We’re talking about cats and dogs with jobs of their own, whether it’s weekly visits to spend time with senior citizens, working alongside their persons as office helpers, raising money for pet charities, or bringing smiles to a children’s hospital. Not only are they making a difference in the lives of others, but therapy dogs and cats benefit from all the extra love and attention, too. Let’s meet some of these pet therapy superstars.
Norbert: Little Norbert is a larger-than-life 3-pound registered therapy dog in Los Angeles. In 2009, this mixed breed Chihuahua/Cairn Terrier/Lhasa Apso came into this world as the only dog in his litter, so he’s truly one of a kind. And it’s really only a matter of time before he pops up in your social media channels, welcoming you to “The Norberthood” with his big smile and charming peekaboo tongue. This little guy has a big job—spreading love to kids at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles several times a month, plus visiting nursing homes, schools and special events. “One of my favorite things about Norbert is watching how people react when they meet him for the first time. Most people are in awe of his tiny size, sweet and quirky personality, and loving heart. One time, a lady even cried happy tears when she first saw Norbie,” says Norbert’s mom, Julie Steines. Norbert was trained by Julie herself, and at the age of one, he became a therapy dog. Some of his favorite tricks are “Love” (paw), “Zen” (lie down), “Namaste” (stay), and of course, his signature high-five. According to Norbert’s mom, “You don’t have to be big, to make a BIG difference in the world.” He certainly does make a difference, and if you ask Julie, he’s “got the best gig out there. He gets pats, belly rubs, dog treats, compliments, the privilege of making people smile, and lots of love every day. And Norbert gives that love right back.”