Norbert, a ridiculously cute 3-pound therapy dog, has given a 6-year-old fan with a rare disorder a reason to smile.
The boy, named Ethan, has a neurological disorder called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, or CMT, which impacts the peripheral nerves and can cause weakness, numbness and problems walking. For Ethan, who has CMT 4J, it is very rare, began at a very young age and has progressed. Like Lou Gehrig’s Disease, it is neurodegenerative diseases. Currently, there is no cure.
“I have watched my nephew take his first steps, go back to crawling, to using a walker, to needing a manual wheelchair, to now needing a power wheelchair,” says Ethans’s aunt Elise. “He cannot raise his arms. He cannot turn himself in bed. He fights desperately for every ounce of independence he can hold on to as it is slowly ripped away from him.”
She adds, “My nephew has an energy about him that is infectious. He is a beacon of light.”
And one thing that lights up Ethan is Norbert.
Ethan’s Aunt Elise introduced Norbert and , his owner, to Ethan. “We knew immediately that Norbert could not only make Ethan smile, but help bring more attention to Charcot Marie Tooth Disease” she says.
So, they decided to arrange for a special meet-and-greet with the pint-sized dog. Ethan’s aunt reached out to Norbert’s mom.
“Since Ethan lives in Washington State, and I am about to have a baby, we rushed to help orchestrate an amazing trip for Ethan and his family to enjoy in Los Angeles,” says Steines.
Norbert’s family and friends found great partners to help sponsor his activity wish list. Norbert’s human daddy, Mark Steines, hosts a show on Hallmark Channel called Home & Family, which “welcomed the opportunity to have Ethan, his family, Norbert, and me on as guests to help bring national attention to Charcot Marie Tooth Disease,” says Steines.
After having a private play date with Norbert and enjoying hanging out with the adorable pup at a park, Ethan’s other activities included going to the beach, spending a day at Universal Studios Hollywood and attending a Los Angeles Dodgers game against the Mets. For both Ethan and the pup, the trip was memorable.
In addition to ongoing visits to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and special events, Norbert volunteers several times a month at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He supports variety of charitable causes such as, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Los Angeles Mission, Lil BUB’s BIG FUND for the ASPCA, and Boot Campaign, a military nonprofit. Norbert is the star and inspiration behind the picture book series Norbert: What Can Little Me Do?
“Norbert’s mission is to inspire kindness, spread smiles and show that you don’t need to be big to make a difference,” says Steines. “As a therapy dog and advocate for various nonprofit organizations, we try and do things that make people happy and help make a difference.”
This article has been updated in terms of discussing CMT and ALS.