Need a hug? Head to Chelsea, where you can find Louboutina (Loubie for short), the hugging golden retriever that has taken social media by storm.
“It makes me happy to see some joyful moments from strangers that I don’t even get to know their names or anything,” said Cesar Fernandez-Chavez, 45. “She’s a big symbol of love.”
Loubie started by holding Fernandez-Chavez’s hand about two years ago — just before Valentine’s Day — and then gradually started hugging about a year later. The pair has been a family since Loubie was only a few months old in 2011 and was a birthday gift from a friend.
Fernandez-Chavez never trained Loubie to hug people. In fact, he said she trained him — in the art of patience.
He said one of her first brushes with fame was a run-in with actor Gerard Butler. The photos blew up on Fernandez-Chavez’s Facebook account.
“He saw us holding hands on of the corners here in Chelsea and he came over and he was like ‘no, this is not happening, this is not for real,’” he recalled. “That’s when I got a lot of ‘likes’ ... I cannot believe Loubie was just kissing and licking Gerard Butler.”
Now, Loubie, named for designer Christian Louboutin, gives affection to strangers during every walk.
“Sometimes [I’m] in a rush, I’m running late for work. But I learned to maybe try to get some more time for her during her walks,” said Fernandez-Chavez, who manages language and interpretation services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, adding: “She’s very affectionate in general.”
But Loubie can sometimes take a little time to warm up to someone and she doesn’t just hug everyone she meets.
On Tuesday, several people walked by as Loubie stood on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 19th Street, many remarking about the golden retriever’s online presence and asking for a hug.
Washington Heights resident David Love, 42, was running an errand in Chelsea and recognized Loubie from her Instagram fame. She was bigger than he thought she would be.
“This dog hugs professionally,” said Love, a musician who declined to get a hug. “It’s kind of like in New York when you see a celebrity: OK there they are, that’s good, I don’t want to bug them.”