The Story Behind Social Media Sensation Louboutina: The Famous Hugging Dog of NYC

Meet Louboutina, the famous hugging dog of New York City. This affectionate 5-year-old golden retriever has taken social media by storm, spreading love and touching the hearts of many. Known as Loubie for short, her owner Cesar Fernandez-Chavez named her after the French fashion designer Christian Louboutin. The two can be found walking the neighborhood around Seventh Avenue and 19th Street in Chelsea, Manhattan.

As a huge dog lover myself, I’ve wanted to meet Loubie for the longest time. I always enjoy looking at photos of Loubie on Instagram giving hugs to people on the streets of New York City. They never fail to warm my heart and bring a smile to my face. So I decided on a whim to reach out to her owner Cesar via email. As an aspiring journalist, I thought it would be a great idea to write a story on Loubie. Luckily, I was able to set up an interview with Cesar and Loubie within the next month and found out the whole backstory on how Loubie came to be the famous hugging dog of New York City.

Loubie and Cesar first met in the beginning of December in 2011 when she was just three months old. Given to Cesar as a birthday gift from a friend, Loubie was his first dog here in the United States. Originally from Lima, Peru, Cesar has been living in New York for 16 years and always wanted to get a dog that would keep him company in the Big Apple. Loubie came just at the perfect time.

Although he suspected that the pup would give him a hard time and be crying from day one, “It was so the opposite, she never cried,” said Cesar. From the start, he knew she was a special dog. “In a way I think I always knew from the beginning I was very lucky and blessed. She was very smart since she was a puppy.” But he never would have thought “to the point that she would one day do these funny postures.”

It all started with Loubie holding hands with people who stopped on the sidewalk to say hello. She would sit up and cross her paw over, and that became her regular thing to do on every walk. “Already from that moment I would see people taking pictures of her,” said Cesar. About a year later, this gradually turned into hugging strangers that passed by. “Out of the blue she surprised me,” said Cesar. “Sometimes I think she picked that up from me when I was always hugging her on the floor, and then she moved that to the streets.” Cesar thinks another reason she’s so affectionate might be because “she’s been raised part Latina,” and says they are very “very touchy, touchy” with each other. Not only is Loubie part Latina, she is also multilingual, and responds to commands in five different languages, including English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Dutch.

For about a year, Cesar kept an album on his Facebook called “Loubie by the eyes of strangers.” He created it because people kept telling him that they were seeing pictures of Loubie online. “She was already on social media,” said Cesar.

It was when they ran into actor Gerald Butler during one of their walks that Loubie had her first surge of fame. After Cesar posted photos of Loubie and Butler on his Facebook account, Cesar started receiving several calls and text messages from friends gushing about how “Loubie was kissing Gerald Butler.” One of his friends recommended he should start an Instagram for Loubie, since there were already so many photos of her on social media.

Loubie’s Instagram account, @louboutinanyc, which now has over 165K followers, is mostly reposts of photos taken by other people. Cesar explains how it’s more about other people talking about her “than me saying how cute and wonderful my dog is. A lot of the pictures are happening in a very organic way, it’s not staged… I think that’s the magic of her page. It’s not me trying to create a celebrity dog, it’s her nature of being a loving dog, and being told by other people.”

There were two big incidents that escalated Loubie’s fame worldwide. The first media coverage was Mashable, a global media and entertainment company that published a story about Loubie on August 22, 2016. The morning after the story was published, Cesar received over 10-15 media inquires via email from all over the world, one of them being The TODAY Show. Just a few days later, TODAY covered another story on Loubie and their video went viral. The following day, Jimmy Fallon talked about her on The Tonight Show. TODAY in total has done three videos on Loubie. Two of them were picture-based and one was a story on a visit Loubie made as a therapy dog to New Alternatives for Children, a New York City-based child welfare agency, where she brought joy and hugs to children with disabilities.

The second media coverage, the one that he says “was really crazy,” happened in the first week of February of this year. It started with a story on Loubie from Rover - a blog about dogs based in Seattle - that went viral. A week later, Time Out magazine picked that story and that’s when “craziness started,” according to Cesar. The month of February was “insane with media coverage” and people in the streets were constantly stopping them.

Already Loubie has been on several news and television shows, such as Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, Telemundo, PIX 11, CBS, NBC, and countless blogs and news websites. When I asked Cesar if Loubie ever gets camera shy, he told me “She loves attention and people coming to pet her. She’s a peoples’ dog. “Before all this, she was always trying to go to people, trying to say hi. Now people are coming to her to say hi. So she’s in heaven.” When it comes to visiting professional TV sets with large audiences, Cesar says that Loubie stays surprisingly calm. “We’ve been to different TV sets with cameras and cables all over, people screaming, really strong bright lights, and she’s fine. Somehow I think she knows what she’s doing.” In fact, when they concluded one of their segments on Rachael Ray, Cesar said that somehow she knew they were finished and immediately went running toward the audience. He recalls, “everyone was screaming and touching her, it was very funny.”

Although Loubie loves the attention, every dog still needs their freedom and downtime. Cesar treasures his quiet moments alone with Loubie, whether they’re just curled up on the couch watching TV, walking in a park, running along a beach, or off exploring someplace new. Cesar says those are some of his favorite memories with Loubie. Loubie especially loves to travel with Cesar, and has no problem getting on a plane. The two already have plans for an island getaway this summer, where they will be able to relax and have peaceful, one-on-one time together.

“Everything is happening in a fun way,” said Cesar. “I’m not pushing her to be a superstar… if it happens, it happens. At the end of the day I still want her to be a dog and just have our time together, to get away whenever we can, and enjoy life.”

Through hugs, love and companionship, Louboutina touches the heart of everyone she meets and never fails to make someone smile.