Man’s Best Wingman

Photo: From left: Courtesy of Allen Salkin; Courtesy of Cassie Slane; Todd Selby (3)

I’d always heard dogs are chick magnets, but I’d never gathered any direct evidence while occasionally dog-sitting Benji, a midsize mutt who doesn’t exert one gauss of magnetizing action. Then, shortly after a broken engagement left me suddenly single, a friend asked me to look after the sort of animal I have always considered useless: a quivering, rat-faced toy poodle.

Well, Hugo cannot herd sheep or scare off intruders or catch a Frisbee. But, Lord, he pulls human females. Fifteen seconds after I hit the pavement with Hugo, women were positively yelping with pleasure at my little friend. In Columbus Circle, Hugo leaped onto the lap of a sweet-faced German college student. Later, he worked his trembling-dog magic on Julia, a public-health grad student. (I don’t know why he always seems so nervous, but it works.) “This dog really is pretty cute,” she allowed, as Hugo showed her his pink tongue and nuzzled her left breast.

The Hugo-Benji disparity left me with several questions: Could Hugo be topped? Would an even bigger poodle exert an even more forceful draw? Which dog is the most effective chick magnet of all? I decided to hit the streets with a half-dozen of them to unscientifically settle a matter much debated at dog runs.

Field observations
Lila, the standard poodle:
With a show-quality dog prancing by my side on the Upper West Side, not a single person of either gender looked me in the eye. After a half-hour of nothing, I pulled aside a woman with curly hair and a Sandra Bullock smile. “If you see a guy with a poodle, you think he’s married,” said Allison, 23. “Plus, the dog is poofy.”

Roo, the Australian cattle-dog puppy:
In the lobby of Animal Care and Control, Roo immediately pressed his front paws onto me and licked my face. On East 86th Street, my pointy-eared wingman elicited a shriek when he tried to lick the face of a woman selling books from a card table. But then Kristina, a doe-eyed 21-year-old brunette, stopped her stroll and giggled, “Hello, baby” to Roo and “Hello” to me. If a woman likes being licked by a puppy, she’s my sort. Overall, the adoption-ready Roo (for information, call 311) wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t Hugo either.

Moca, the golden retriever, and Ernie Romeo, the long-haired dachshund:
With little reaction garnered from the fairer sex, both purebred dogs offered good looks but little charm.

Rudy, the three-legged mutt:
Please do not consider sawing off a dog’s leg—but if you did, you’d improve your luck. Rudy, a mix of German shepherd, Airedale terrier, chow chow, and Rottweiler, has pretty much every scary dog in his pedigree. But sans a leg, he’s a female sympathy sponge. As we limped toward the dog run in Union Square, I heard from a bench, “Ooh, look at the poor fellow,” and turned to meet Alexandra, 29, a dimple-cheeked publishing intern visiting New York from Berlin. “He’s cute,” she said. So was she. Rudy’s drawback is that he inspires everyone, landing me in conversations with deliverymen, homeless folks, and megaphone preachers. He also did what a lot of dogs do: sniff indiscriminately at the genitals of other dogs.

Disco, the great dane:
Convinced no dog could out-magnetize Hugo, I tried a most unlikely rival: a pony-size Great Dane with a metal-spiked collar and bridge-cable leash. Three steps into Washington Square Park, we were surrounded by a group of female NYU undergrads, pressing in and petting Disco without fear. When I finally broke away, one called out, “I could ride him like a horse!” A few steps later I met Casey, a skinny, brown-eyed anthro major whom I wish I did not find so devastatingly attractive because she is 21 and I am barely still in my thirties.

“Physical or cultural anthro?” I asked.

“Cultural,” she replied. I always go for the cultural types, the ones who prefer living people to bones, who want to travel and live with the !Kung or Solomon Islanders for a spell. I felt guilty asking for Casey’s phone number, but she gave it to me all the same. Damn that Disco—he fetched trouble.

Walking home from the park, dogless, I talked to zero females. Maybe that’s better: no 21-year-old temptations. Some dogs make meeting women easier, but only if one wants to sniff indiscriminately. I’m probably better off with Benji.

Man’s Best Wingman