We were delighted to interview Mike Bridavsky and Julie Freyermuth this week, owners of internet sensations Lil Bub and Norbert, the two larger than life animals adored by millions of fans worldwide. We wanted to talk to Mike and Julie about their collaboration on the book ‘Norbert & Lil BUB: What Can Little We Do?’ And of course, find out exactly what life is like living with these two adorable characters in real life.
You guys are the proud owners of Lil Bub and Norbert. Tell us a bit about their stories and how you met.
Mike: I met BUB after my friends text me a picture of her as an 8-week-old kitten. She was found the runt of a feral litter in a tool shed in my friend’s mom’s backyard. Being abnormally small and exceptionally unique looking, it was hard to find her a home. As the owner of four other misfit rescue cats, my friends came to me. As soon as I met BUB we were best friends. She fell asleep purring on my chest and I took her home. We’ve been best friends ever since.
Julie: Norbert is my first dog. After over a year of searching for a pup, I spotted Norbert’s photo on PetFinder. He was dark brown, with curly fur, and a head that looked too big for his tiny body. I fell hopelessly in love. When I called the woman who listed him, I got a synchronistic feeling that this would be my dog. He was a mixed breed and the only dog in his litter, making him one-of-a-kind. Norbert, whose name at the time was Charlie, was born in California. Just like in Norbert’s first book, Norbert: What Can Little Me Do?, he flew from California to Boston where I met him at the airport. Right away, seeing those little dark eyes staring back at me, I knew he was special. And so began our grand adventure together. Over time, his fur turned white, which was quite a surprise. His full-grown size is 7” tall, and he weighs about 3 ½ pounds.
Lil Bub and Norbert have millions of fans from all over the world – tell us a bit about their sensational rise to fame – why do you think they’re so popular?
Mike: BUB is a one-of-a-kind magical space cat. Her rise to fame was all her own doing. I have never sought out an opportunity for BUB. Everything has happened naturally and organically ever since one of her photos went viral over three years ago. Obviously BUB is a very unique cat – and very cute, so obviously that is part of her appeal to people. But I think beyond that she is an inspiration. She has overcome so many challenges in life and with such unflinching determination. She is a force of undeniable positivity and good, and that resonates with people.
Julie: While I knew Norbert was a special dog, I never anticipated he would become such a symbol of joy, hope and inspiration to so many people. When Norbert was just a puppy a woman saw him and told me he would make a great registered therapy dog, something I had never even heard of. I immediately looked into it, and when Norbert turned one year-old, he passed a test to become a Canine Good Citizen. Soon after, Norbert became a registered therapy dog with Pet Partners® and also a R.E.A.D. dog with the Intermountain Therapy Animals. We began by volunteering at a nursing home to bring comfort to those in need. Norbert and I also volunteered at a children’s hospital in Boston for a year-and-a-half. Simultaneously, for fun I started sharing photos of Norbert and his positive messages on social media.
Norbert is incredibly smart, adorable and sensitive to the needs others. He makes people smile wherever he goes. He is a small dog with a huge heart. Norbert’s journey of becoming a therapy dog was a beautiful story to translate into a children’s picture book. One of my life-long dreams was to publish a picture book with my mother, Dr. Virginia K. Freyermuth, an award-winning fine artist and art educator, as the illustrator. My mother and I formed a kind-hearted independent publishing company, Polly Parker Press. The message of our first book, Norbert: What Can Me Do? is that “you don’t need to be big to make a big difference in the world” and that we all have special gifts that can make others smile.
Our first book won 9 awards. The second book in the series, Norbert: What Can Little YOU Do? was published in March 2015. We have donated hundreds of books to hospitals and charitable organizations, and we sell our books online at www.PollyParkerPress.com.
We are now thrilled to be collaborating with Lil BUB and Mike on the third book in the series, Norbert & Lil BUB: What Can Little We Do?. Mike and I will be co-authors with my mother as the illustrator. It is remarkable how things have unfolded and one thing just led to another… with Norbert remaining his ever humble, tiny, cute little self all the while.
Lil Bub is a special needs kitty. How does her life differ to that of a regular moggy?
Mike: BUB has a variety of special needs. She needs to be taken to the bathroom regularly, or else she may go on the rug. She takes special diet supplements for joint health and eats prescription food for urinary health. She sometimes steps in her poop and pees on her tail – so she often requires some clean up, and a monthly bath. She gets special non-invasive treatments twice daily for osteopetrosis, a very rare bone condition. She also requires special attention and encouragement to move around, play, and stay physically active (which is why traveling is actually very good for her). She also requires a certain level of special proprietary attention and intuition that I have just developed after caring for her for the past 3+ years.
Norbert is 7 inches, and weighing 3lbs, he’s a therapy dog. What does this entail and what work does Norbert do?
Julie: Norbert’s work as a therapy dog extends across many channels. Norbert and I are a registered therapy animal team with the Pet Partners organiation. Becoming a therapy animal team requires passing tests and assessments, continuing education and re-registration every two years. The registration allows us to volunteer our time towards bringing joy and comfort to those in need. We have volunteered at a nursing home, hospitals, a local school and personal visits. I believe Norbert’s picture book series and presence on social media is an extension of his work as a therapy dog. He has a remarkable ability to make others smile just by being himself. Of course, Norbert believes everyone can make others smile just by being themselves””which is an important message for young and old!
You’ve just reached your initial target to kick-start Lil Bub and Norbert’s brilliant children’s book, ‘Norbert & Lil BUB: What Can Little We Do?’. For those who haven’t yet heard about it, tell us a bit about the story, and why the book’s message is so important to children in particular.
Mike: BUB and Norbert are teaming up to show kids that being small or different is not only ok, it’s something to be celebrated. The book also shows that what makes us different is what makes us special, and if we can appreciate each other for who we are, we can all work together to make something extra special, like this book. BUB is a magical space cat, and Norbert is a down-to-earth fuzz ball. Together they are a force to be reckoned with!
Julie: This is how we describe our story: “BUB returns to planet Earth on a mission to help animals in need. Norbert, who is on a mission to spread smiles in the world, encounters BUB’s spaceship. Initially, they don’t quite see eye-to-eye. BUB, a space cat with magical powers is skeptical of this down-to-earth dog with a big heart. But soon they realise that they have more in common than they thought, most importantly they share the same ultimate goal – to bring joy, inspiration, and hope to both animals and people alike.
Norbert and BUB have shown us that their personal differences are their superpowers. Together they can combine their superpowers to show us that despite our differences, we can all work together to create something otherwise unattainable – a collaborative effort full of love, magic and inspiration.” – from our Kickstarter Project copy, lilbub.com/BUBandNorbert
A very important part of this book is that a portion of the proceeds from the sales will be donated to Lil BUB’s Big Fund for the ASPCA to help animals with special needs. More information about the Fund can be found here as well as on our Kickstarter Page.
What’s a typical day-in-the-life for Lil Bub and Norbert?
Mike: BUB wakes up, screams for food, eats, runs back to the bed, screams to get into the bed, and then naps. She then wakes up and screams to eat. Then naps. Repeat.
Julie: Norbert doesn’t have a “typical” day, so that makes every day an adventure! One constant in all of our days is the endeavour to make others smile. We accomplish this through giving Author Talks at libraries, schools and other organizations, communicating with followers on social media, volunteering, doing random acts of kindness, and working creatively to develop the Norbert book series. Other constants for Norbert are treats, belly rubs and occasional snoring during nap time.
What’s in the pipeline next for the famous duo?
Mike: As far as the book is concerned, I hope that BUB and Norbert can team up to do a few appearances and book signings once the book is out! As for BUB’s own personal endeavours, she is always up to something. We are currently working on a Nintendo style 8-bit video game app, a full length LP record album featuring original music from her videos (written by our good friend Matt Tobey, and recorded and produced at my own recording studio), several appearances around the country including headlining the very first CatConLA, a postcard subscription service, and of course more fundraising projects for Lil BUB’s Big FUND for special needs pets.
Julie: Norbert is very excited to meet Lil BUB and her ‘Dude’ Mike. We plan to fly to Indiana very soon to meet and do a photo shoot of these two amazing creatures. After that, we’ll be focused on creating an exquisite, magical, and inspiring Norbert & Lil BUB picture book to share with the world. We are open and excited to new opportunities that may transpire and maintain a sense of wonder and appreciation for the present moment.