Pets & Animals

This hugging pup is spreading joy on the streets of New York City

Who doesn't love a good hug?

If you're ever in New York City, you should try to get one from Louboutina, a friendly golden retriever who's famous for her warm embraces and firm handshakes, and a rising star on social media. Maybe you've even seen her in action: posing with strangers on the city streets, her paws wrapped around their legs and a big furry smile on her face.

"She's just a love bug," Louboutina's owner Cesar Fernandez-Chavez told TODAY. "She loves people and she likes to please people."

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He's had Louboutina for about five years, since she was a puppy. She was a gift from a friend with a penchant for Christian Louboutin's iconic red-soled shoes, hence her name, Fernandez-Chavez said.

But she wasn't always a hugger. She started standing on two legs first, about two and a half years ago.

"We were walking and she stopped and started shaking [my hand] and she put a lot of strength on the grip and I held her paw and then suddenly she sat up," Fernandez-Chavez said. "I was like, OK, this is weird, but I let her do that and she was there for a good two minutes before she went down."

Now he jokes about the peculiar experience, which happened about a week before Valentine's Day in 2014: "I'm a gay, single man, so at least I have someone to hold hands with!" he said.

Jordi Serqueda
Louboutina with his owner Cesar Fernandez-Chavez

The pause-and-stand became routine, and Louboutina started to do it every time they walked. Then she progressed to hugs, perhaps mimicking her owner.

"I'm a hugger," said Fernandez-Chavez, who is originally from Lima, Peru, and manages language and interpretation services at Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital. "When she was little, I would hug her like a person. I would kneel on the floor and hug her and she would put her paws on my shoulders. So maybe she picked that up."

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But now Louboutina is making a name for herself with her hugs, and the pair is often stopped in their Chelsea neighborhood, or photographed by giggly bystanders.

"Sometimes she's hugging me and I can hear the camera from behind and there are a lot of people taking pictures," Fernandez-Chavez said.

Not that he minds — he's got big plans for his beloved dog.

"I hope one day we hear from Ellen DeGeneres," he said. "That's my dream!"

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