Welcome to the second edition of Scrubs & Pups. (You can meet our first healthcare hero and hound, Andy Nguyen, MD, and Dasher, here.) We’re sharing the stories of healthcare professionals and their dogs during the pandemic, to understand and keep record of how our lives intersect at this pivotal time in history. We’ve always loved uplifting members of our community, and we’re excited to bring our essential workers to the forefront in a socially distant way. If you know a healthcare professional who loves their dog, you can nominate them via email to be featured in our interview series. We’ll send an Argos & Artemis silk twill scarf and bag of #ArtemisApproved treats over to them. We also want to encourage wearing the mask. For every photo of yourself wearing a mask and your dog on Instagram, tagging @argosandartemis and hashtagging #ScrubsAndPups, we will donate $1 to Americares, providing critical care and emergency supplies around the world.
Katleen Lozada, MD, is a doctor doing her emergency medicine residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. In April 2020, when fourth-year medical students would normally be celebrating and relaxing, she graduated early from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in order to help treat COVID-19 patients, and was featured in the New York Post alongside other classmates for her work. Today, she lives in Manhattan with her 88-pound rescue mutt Bailey, and her rescue cat, Isabelle—two foster fails who keep each other company while Mom is working another 12-hour hospital shift.
Did you grow up with dogs?
I’ve always been an animal person—any animal. I got a Pomeranian when I was 13, which was my first dog. Bailey was my next dog, so there was a bit of a halt.
Tell us how you got Bailey in medical school, especially with how busy you were.
I got my dog in 2014 when I was doing a post-baccalaureate pre-med program. It’s for people who aren’t on a traditional pathway to medical school, to help them get it together for applications. I did the program at Columbia, and it was difficult—very emotionally taxing. At the time, I knew I needed something to get me through this. I started looking into fostering dogs, and that’s how I got Bailey, through Foster Dogs NYC. My roommate and I picked him out and took him home for three weeks. And then, I took him to an adoption event. There were people who were very interested in adopting him, and I was like, “Actually, you can’t have my dog. I’m going to adopt him.” So, I signed the papers.
You already had a cat, right?
Yes, I had a cat named Isabelle before I adopted Bailey. I foster failed on Isabelle, too. She was not into him whatsoever. Bailey would lick her entire body after she had spent an entire half hour grooming herself, and it would upset her. Eventually, they began to co-exist. Sometimes, they even hang out together on the dog bed. I think it’s comforting for him to have her. I don’t think she could care less.
How did you know Bailey was The One?
I just couldn’t see myself not having him. He has such a funny, quirky personality. He’s half-Pit-bull, quarter-Husky, quarter-Malamute. All of these dog breeds have very interesting personalities. He’s extremely lovable—he’s a big mush—but he can be scary to some people. He has these very human-like eyes. He’s just very expressive. And you know, I was going through a hard time trying to get into medical school. Bailey is human-size, so I could just lie in bed and hug him. I saw myself getting happier when I had him.
How did you and Bailey deal with the transition to medical school?
It was very stressful, initially, because most people were living in a dorm, but I couldn’t do that because I had a dog. I had to find my own living arrangements and pay a lot more rent than the people around me. I had to pay someone to walk my dog even though I was living off loans and in a more expensive place. It was a very big financial commitment. On the flip side, my dog really helped me keep my head on straight during those four years of medical school.
He forced me to do a lot of things that were good for my mental health that I wouldn’t have been doing otherwise—like going on a walk at least twice a day.
Absolutely. No matter how expensive my dog gets, it’s always worth it. How did the pandemic change your plans as a doctor?
It changed my plans immensely. Early graduation from medical school is very different from the traditional route. Normally, we’d be traveling and partying and celebrating before graduating. Instead, I graduated early and worked with COVID patients in the hospital. I started my residency in emergency medicine in July, and I’m working in the emergency room at Mount Sinai and Elmhurst Hospitals. I’m a baby intern—so I have a lot to learn.
Congratulations! What inspired you to go into emergency medicine?
Long story short, I went to undergrad at the New School, which is a liberal arts school downtown [in Manhattan]. I grew up with two parents that are pediatricians, so I was always exposed to the world [of being a doctor], but I actively rejected it. I wanted to be different. So, I took this class that integrated feminism with science, and I was like, “I like this. I get it.” It sparked my interest. While I was in medical school, I was exposed to emergency medicine on a global health trip to Haiti, where I taught emergency medicine to medical students there to supplement the curriculum. I like emergency medicine because there is a lot of camaraderie and peer learning involved. Hierarchy can be a huge thing in medicine, but in emergency medicine, we’re a team. And being a New Yorker, I really care about giving everyone nonjudgemental healthcare access. In emergency medicine, you see in everyone that comes through the door, and you’re the first person to shepherd them through the system and help them get the care that they need. And now with COVID, I’m definitely scared and worried about the toll that it’s taking on us, but I’m very motivated to be part of the response.
How has daily life changed for Bailey and you since the pandemic began?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. During the early days of the pandemic, I was home with him, a lot. He’s actually a very good apartment dog—he doesn’t ever have accidents or break things or chew things. So, I can trust him to be good at home. But I do worry that while I’m at work, he’ll get depressed being home alone all day. I work 12-hour shifts, which are long work days, but I work fewer shifts during the week. In a way, that’s nice because I can spend more days at home with him. On the days that I’m working, I have a dog walker.
Because now we only hangout with people outdoors, I get to bring Bailey to my social events, which is really nice. He can come to Central Park or to an outdoor bar.
How big is Bailey?
He’s 88 pounds.
I love that you went all out and got not just a dog, but also a big dog. Tell us about Bailey’s zig-zag leash.
It’s the Zee Dog Ruff Leash. The squiggly thing that you see is actually rubber encasing the leash, and it’s supposed to help with shock control. He’s a big dog, so every now and then, he takes a toll on my arms when he sees something that really needs to be sniffed. The shock absorbency is helpful for both him and me because my arm feels better, and the force is less difficult on his neck.
That’s a really great tip for strong or big dogs. Thank you! What beds do you recommend for big dogs like Bailey?
I got one of those beds that look like sheepskin rugs from Paw.com! I got it with a sweet discount, though—normally they’re too expensive for me, but its very comfortable and stylish.
As a doctor, what do you wish people knew about the pandemic?
I wish for people to wear the mask and not think of it as a political statement. As a doctor and citizen of the world, I just want people to wear the mask when it’s appropriate. We, in medicine, talk about germ circles. When you’re hanging out with the same people, you don’t have to practice social distancing—because you have the same ideas of how to be safe. As a dog person, most of our interactions with others are already at a safe distance. We’re standing a couple of feet away from each other at the dog run or Central Park. It’s nice to think that this community doesn’t need to be disrupted as long as everyone is wearing their masks. Maybe we should be encouraging more people to get dogs so they can join a community where social distancing is norm.
What’s your stance on people petting your dog—aka, not social distancing from your dog?
I’m still waiting to find out if there are any studies that show some sort of transmission tracing related to dogs. We know that dogs probably don’t get infected the way that cats do, but there may be surfaces that transfer infection. If people—like everyone—are doing appropriate hand hygiene, like hand sanitizing before they come into the park and being cognizant of that, then it’s fine to pet the dogs because, theoretically, your hands should be clean. Of course, I would not recommend having other people kiss your dog. That’s where I would draw the line. But I think petting is okay, if people are using the right kind of hand hygiene before they come into the park and while they’re at the park.
Absolutely—that makes sense. I feel like everyone should just carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer everywhere. How does Bailey play?
He’s very adaptive to other dogs. He’s happy to run around and he’s happy to wrestle. When he sees a dog from far away, he gets really low on the ground and waits for the dog. He gets along with everyone—he’s never been in a dog fight.
He’s a gentle giant. What do you feed him, due to his allergies?
We feed him Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Recipe with Real Lamb. Again, the food allergies.
What is Bailey’s wellness routine?
Bailey’s wellness routine mostly consists of making sure he doesn’t eat things off the street. He’s really bad about that. I’ve actually had to to do the Heimlich maneuver on him because he choked on a chicken bone on the street. Because he has food allergies, he gets itchy and scratches his face when he eats something he shouldn’t.
How do you give Bailey a bath at 88 pounds? My dog, Artemis, is 15 pounds and she’s still a nightmare to bathe.
We use Burt’s Bees Itch Soothing Shampoo with Honeysuckle because of his sensitive skin. I used to put the leash on him and drag him into the tub. I tried that trick about putting peanut butter on the side of the tub, and it actually worked very well. I also bought one of those shower heads that detaches and is a hose. It’s very helpful, but I still end up getting completely soaked throughout the process because he shakes the water off and tries to leave the tub. But it’s not a terrible scenario—I think it’s better than taking him to the groomer because he’s challenging, and I know the tricks.
What is your biggest extravagance for Bailey?
My childhood friends are all obsessed with Bailey as well. We do a camping trip upstate on an island campsite every year, and we always take Bailey. I think I started this tradition because when I got Bailey, I was scared to let him off-leash unless we were on a tiny island. You can bring all the dogs to this island, and you don’t have to worry about them running into the woods. That’s my biggest extravagance every year. It’s for me and Bailey.
Photography by Tayler Smith