Mexico, Mountains and a Bike

At the top of Desierto de Leones

At the top of Desierto de Leones

For Christmas 2006, Max bestowed upon me bike. A beautiful, red mountain bike so that I would be able to accompany him on his mountain biking excursions.  We were living in Mexico City at the time, and while the city itself certainly did not lend itself to safe biking, wondrous green spaces abounded just on the outskirts of the city.  Some of our favorite places for a good bike ride (or hike) were Desierto de Leones, Ajusco, and Toluca.  Because Mexico City is a valley amongst the mountains, it is no metaphor that we were actually mountain biking.  My previous biking encounters consisted of riding my 10-speed to and from swim practice in Jr. High, so needless to say I wasn’t too prepared to ride a mountain bike literally up the side of a mountain on a scrawny path strewn with leaves, holes, branches and boulders.  Max, in “training” me for our first trip to Desierto de Leones took me to a small park near our apartment in Polcano, threw some branches and rocks on the grass and told me to ride over them.  It was terrifying, I’m not gonna lie.  After a few failed attempts, and a complete failure to ride up over a curb, Max declared me “ready to go.” (on what grounds I’m not sure, but it was similar to his training on driving a stick and on scuba diving!).

We rode back to the apartment and commenced the lengthy process of dismantling the bikes, loading them into Max’s jeep, packing a backpack, stopping for water (tap water is undrinkable in Mexico), and driving the 40 minutes (in no traffic) to Desierto.  We arrived to a beautiful, winding road which led to a path leading up the side of the mountain.  We reassembled the bikes, strapped on our helmets, and were off!  Well, Max was off –  I was swearing and getting pissed off while struggling to even stay on the bike while at the same time stay on the path and maneuver over and around boulders, mudholes and giant tree roots.   After about 10 feet I dismounted (or maybe fell off…) and told Max I couldn’t do it, that he was a mean cruel person for taking me somewhere so difficult on my first trip biking, and that his training had been far from sufficient.  “Get on the bike, let’s go.  You can do it.” — And he was off.  I had 2 options – get back on and try to follow him, or wait, seething and annoyed, at the bottom of the mountain – watching teenagers fly by on their street bikes.  I got on — I have, after all, always enjoyed a challenge, and I wasn’t going to let this mountain have the best of me.  After about 10 minutes I got the hang of it, got the feeling for my bike, and started enjoying both the ride and a sense of accomplishment.  It took us over an hour to ascend (it pretty tough!), and in true Mexican fashion, a sweet old lady was awaiting tired bikers and hikers at the top with a little stand of tacos and coke.  We rested briefly, and I relished the feeling of having overcome the hard part, and could now enjoy the smooth sailing back down the trail.  WRONG!  Little did I know, but descending is actually more difficult than ascending, especially for a beginner.  Picture a beginner skier, on a hill too difficult, headed straight down without being sure how to turn or slow down, and you’ll have a good idea how I felt (and I’m sure how I looked) on that first descend.  Hit the brakes too hard, and you’re over the handle bars, turn the wheel to sharply and your on the ground with your bike on top of you.  Hit a root too slow, and again your on the ground, but fly down too fast and you’re not able to steer.  My hands ached with the deathgrip I had on the handlebars, and my neck and my back screamed in contracted concentration.  Max patiently (and infuriatingly) rode circles around me – he probably made it down and back up 3 times before I finally coasted to the trailhead (over an hour later).  I was pissed off and overjoyed at the same time.  Pissed that something seemingly as simple as a bike ride had been so demanding, and overjoyed for the same reason.  I was now a mountain biker!  I even took off my own tire to load my bike into the car.  The 2+ hour excursion had been a success! 

We frequented Desierto de Leones many times (and saw some pretty funny stuff, as guaranteed to happen anywhere in Mexico), as well as multiple other mountain trails in the stateS of Mexico and Toluca.  Unfortunately our bikes couldn’t make the journey with us to South Africa, which would have been the ultimate place for mountain biking, but GA offers some decent riding as well, and I’m proud to say that I can now fly down a trail with the best of them — look mom! No hands!  Thanks Max!

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Land O Lakes

Sledding at the Gust home in Maple Grove

Sledding at the Gust home in Maple Grove

I love Minnesota.  I was born and raised in the lovely, peaceful, beautiful suburbs of Minneapolis, and can’t think of a moment in which I wasn’t content with my surroundings.  Of course I didn’t know any better, but looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I still wouldn’t choose any place other than Minnesota to have had my formative years.  Though I haven’t lived in MN for 12 years now (OMFG – I’m old), I still love going back and Minnesota will always hold a near and dear place in my heart.  My parents are still living in the house in which I grew up, and most of my high school and some of my college friends are still living there as well.  I just returned yesterday from another lovely, albeit somewhat chilly, weekend in the Grove.  Maple Grove that is (Go Osseo!).  I can’t think of enough wonderful things to say about Minneapolis and St. Paul, or about the state itself.  Of course everyone knows it’s the land of 10,000 lakes, and if you didn’t grow up on a lake, you had a cabin on a lake, and if you didn’t have a home or cabin on a lake, you had 10 friends that did.  I personally was lucky enough to grow up in a home on Eagle Lake, and not only did we have the lake as a continuation of our roomy backyard, but we also had a pool (though we were never granted our wish of installing a waterslide from the 2nd story deck to the pool – so deprived!).  Our winters were filled with snowmobiling, sledding and ice skating, and our summers were filled with tubing, skiing, swimming and jet-skiing.  If we weren’t enjoying these activities on a lake somewhere, we were enjoying the 1000’s of miles of walking and biking trails, or canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, stepping over the rocks on the little stream that constitutes the beginning of the Mighty Mississippi, or attending concerts, plays, and theaters in the only city that boasts as many venues per capita as New York City.  I still miss the sound of snow crunching beneath my feet, and the smell in the air when it just snowed or is just about to.  Minnesota is clean, expansive, friendly and modern.  The sky is huge and the trees are gorgeous.  The wildlife abounds, even in the city.  In fact just this weekend in my parents suburban backyard I saw Canadian geese (shitters!!), fox, deer, and rabbits.  A few blocks away is an eagle den, and the lake is filled with aquatic creatures (when it’s not frozen!).  A few miles away, I find myself in downtown Minneapolis in one of the trendy, upscale neighborhoods like Uptown, or in Historic St. Paul, or perhaps on the banks of the Mississippi in St. Anthony Main, looking across the river at the skyline while sipping the latest martini concoction.  Despite my 18 years of living in Minneapolis and my subsequent 12 years of frequent visits (including my awesome wedding!), I’ve yet to see and do much of what the cities and state have to offer.  Beyond the sights to see and the endless things to do, this entry would be far from complete if I failed to mention other notables – including mouth-watering cheese, down-to-earth residents, and great infrastructure!  The cheese is delicious, and so are the milk and the butter.  If you don’t think there is a difference, you’ve obviously never tried the brands in MN – just try a glass of Land O Lakes milk and see how it compares!  The steaks are juicy and the potatoes plentiful, and you’d be hard pressed to find a Minnesotan who wouldn’t offer you a home cooked meal.  It’s not called Minnesota nice for nothing, don’t cha know. 

Despite all of the wonderful things about Minneosta (many more than I can describe here), plus the nice people and the funny accent, I do have to say I just don’t see myself moving back.  Now I’d never say never, but I can say with some certainty probably not ever.  Why, you ask?  My Colombian husband’s blank stare one -25 degree night in MN is one reason, but there are others.  MN is definitely on the conservative side (and I’m not talking politics – it’s a blue state!), and I always get the feeling that I can’t really be my true self when I’m there.  Minnesota is sensible and organized and continuously ranks in the top 10 states for healthcare and education.  I, on the other hand, can’t always claim to be sensible nor organized, and I have a passion for working with people who have never been recipients of good or even mediocre healthcare or education.  My skin is dry and it’s just that much drier in MN, my lips get chapped within a day, and my hair resembles the haystacks that clutter the landscape just on the outskirts of town.  Temperatures routinely drop to -20 in the dead of winter, and it snows in April.  I’m somehow drawn to chaos, change and risk, and MN is a place where none of these is a frequent visitor.  I love to travel and discuss travels; the more unknown and unique the place, the better – however most of the MinnesotansI know in don’t even have a passport, and don’t really care to obtain one.  The world is a big place, and I’ve decided to chase my pipe dreams across the expanse of the globe rather than settle in my hometown. 

Despite these facts, I am fiercely proud to be Minnesotan, and being away makes each visit that much sweeter.

Birthday Suit Beach

Free-balling at Little Beach

Free-balling at Little Beach

 “Really? There’s a nude beach over there?” Max asks our catamaran tour guide on a snorkeling trip in beautiful Maui. Yep, confirms the 40 year old surfer dude, and proceeds to give an eager and smiley Max directions on how to get there once we get back to land. “Just drive down to the end of the main road, park there, walk across Big Beach to a little cliff. On the other side of the cliff you’ll come to Little Beach – you can’t miss it.” He wasn’t kidding. Max practically swam back to shore so we could get a move on to Little Beach (OK, so I was intrigued too!). We followed surfer dude’s directions, and just as we crossed over the little cliff, we were met face to groin with a naked surfer slamming into shore. “So, I guess we’re here!” we conceded, already unsure if we’d be able to make it straight-faced onto the beach. As we headed down the hill to the beach, we took in the scenery – a small, perfect, beautiful beach with about 50 beach bums, all wearing nothing but a tan and some pubes. A few were semi-clothed, and we debated whether we should pull full-frontals, or go the reserved route and just do topless. But before we could even finish deciding, Max was in the buff, taking in the rays and pretending not to look at boobies (and stuff). I mean, it was hard not to, and I was taking in my fare share of interesting sights behind my thankfully reflective sunglasses. Since Max was going balls to the wall, I decided what the heck, and stripped off my bikini – only to reveal the outline of my bikini from getting really burned the day before. One glance at me was a glaring indication that this was indeed my first trip to the nude beach! For a second I felt self-conscious, but I shrugged it off and basked in the freedom. We even decided to go swimming – and I tried to act normal walking from our towels on the beach down to the water “I’m just walking naked in front of people – it’s no biggie – I’m totally cool, totally used to it.” The water was delicious! As perfectly warm as it was beautiful, with perfect waves rolling in, sparkling in the glow of the slowly setting sun. AHHHH, the perfect day on the perfect honeymoon. Plus, from the water we could check out the view of the beach bums, and comment to each other in our secret language, Spanish, about each of the nudies and what their stories might be – regulars, hippies, thrill-seekers, pervs, etc. We didn’t quite get a chance to put ourselves into one of the categories…
We stayed until sunset and enjoyed every minute of our experience. We reluctantly redressed, thinking on how exactly to go about sand removal of various body parts.

The next day was our last day in Maui, and though we considered making it a nudie beach day, we thought we better stick to the plan and explore some of the other spectacular beaches in Maui. We found another beach, but just as we arrived, the red “shark just sighted” flag went up, lifeguards jumped on their ATV’s, and everyone was informed to leave the water immediately until further notice. DAMN, we thought. We weren’t so much disappointed in the fact that we couldn’t get in the water as in the fact that we didn’t see the shark!! I guess we’d seen our share of sharks while cage diving with the great whites in South Africa. Anyway, after hanging around a while and taking pictures with the shark flag, we both knew with a single glance that we were going to have to go back to Little Beach. We stopped on the way for refreshments (giant beers) and snacks (candy and chips), and made it just in time to witness a huge beach party, complete with a naked drum circle and a lady on something “swimming” naked in the sand in the middle of the circle. Apparently Sundays were naked beach party day – whooo hoooo! We disrobed, this time with over 100 people, and watched with beers in hand the entertaining menagerie of naked people drinking, swimming, playing drums, making out, dancing, doing drugs. Maybe we took a few pictures…… but I guess what happens on a honeymoon, stays on a honeymoon 🙂

Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed

Last night I attended an undergraduate Health Careers networking night at Emory University as one of the “professionals” who was supposedly there to dole out insightful information and sage advice for students considering masters degrees or careers in the health field. I was kicking myself all day for having volunteered, knowing that instead of spending my evening with Max, who was actually home, I’d have to spend it networking – which I hate. I arrived to find a room full of people, of whom more than half were the “professionals” and a seemingly small amount were the actual students in need of said advice. I sighed, thinking to myself I’d have never been missed if I had decided to not show up. Each student had been given a program, which consisted of a bio and a picture of each of the professionals, and they were instructed to choose which professionals they wanted to speak with, and then find us for a chat. I couldn’t believe they weren’t serving wine – they usually do at Emory functions, but I guess that’s just for grad students – damn undergrads ruining everything! I waited for the awkwardness to set in – me smiling shyly through my irritation at a few students who are wondering “should I talk to her or not? Does she seem interesting or wise enough?” But before I could even complete the thought, I was surrounded by a group of 5 students vying for my attention. Should we get an MPH? How do we become a registered dietitian? Should I work before my masters? How did you get your international jobs? On and on it went. For the hour and 15 minutes I was there I had a group of at least 4 students around me at all times – with an endless array of questions about my education and work history. These kids were actually listening to me, they wanted to hear what I had to say, and they acted as if the drops of wisdom I was bestowing upon them were little drops of gold. I’m not gonna lie – it felt great! I realized that it had taken this group of eager, excited, passionate students to help me remember what I had felt like just a few short years ago. Not only what it felt like to be so excited about my future, but what it felt like to feel even a little bit important, to have people listen to what I have to say because, alas, I really do know what I’m talking about! I felt great as I left, and felt just a little bit cool when one of the other professionals came up to me because she said “I had been the most popular person in the room.” Certainly that has never happened to me before (except at my awesome wedding!!), and I don’t expect it to happen again any time soon, but it felt nice to hear that I had been noticed, and beyond noticed – listened to. It was only on the walk back to the car (I don’t remember the Emory campus being so big) that I realized how sad it was that it took a group of undergraduate students to make me realize that I have not had the opportunity professionally for over a year to actually be asked my expert opinion or to give suggestions on weighty matters, or to move any closer to fulfilling my career goals. Sad. Sad that I have spent 10 years studying and working in public health and nutrition, and I can’t think of the last time I’ve been asked to give insight on either of those topics since I moved back to the US. See previous entry Going Postal for further explanation!

Anyway, I learned a few lessons last night – that networking doesn’t always turn out to be a fakey ass-kissing experience, that it feels good to feel a little bit important, and that it shouldn’t take a group of people who don’t know me from Jack to rekindle that career passion and remind me what my goals and aspirations really are.

Going Postal

What do you do when you hate your job?  It just seems impossible to get up every morning and go to a job you hate, especially when you really want a job you love – and not just a job, but a career.  One that seems worthy of the years spent studying, the hours of unpaid internships , and the years spent working abroad, all so that you would get that perfect job.  I’ve definitely given up on perfect – in general actually, but can’t I still love my job, imperfections and all?  Am I supposed to “make” my current job into my dream job by trying just a little bit harder?  I’m over that too.  No amount of “trying harder” in my current job will ever equate to even “liking” it.  How did I get trapped here?  Trapped in one of the few places I never thought I would be trapped — crappy, underpaid, mediocre and meaningless job, working for people who don’t do shit and don’t give a shit but still think they are the shit.  It’s more than just disliking my job – I’m not part of any “big picture,” and I’m certainly not changing any lives, creating anything, or even using 1/10 of my skills.  I have almost no real responsibilities, and zero challenges (besides staying for 8.5 hours a day), and every day get asked to do more ridiculous things, like enter crap into a database for some lazy fucker who has been here 30 years and just won’t take the 10 minutes to learn how to do it.  When I ask for more work – yes – I have to ask for more work, I get told “it’s just easier if I do it,” or “there isn’t anything else you can do.”  Really you motherfucker?  It’s absolutely infuriating working for mediocre people who don’t do shit, but still think they are spectacular, and then getting talked down to by those same assholes.  I also get told things like “It’s actually jeans thursday, not jeans friday” even as I look around and see 2 employees wearing valour jumpsuits and pumas.  Or “lunch is actually 30 minutes, not 35 minutes” and “you really need to be at your desk at all times so that if someone comes looking for you, you’re there.”  O!M!G!  Should I get a signed bathroom pass to take a piss too?  This is just the tip of the iceberg, and I just don’t know how much longer I can take it – 6 months has already managed to tear away at my soul.  I constantly hear  “you’re lucky to even have a job” which I am aware of, thank you, and see the truth in the statement.  I just don’t think that the salary I’m getting paid is the price I would put on my sanity, self-esteem, happiness and intelligence.  I’m fervishly searching for jobs, brain-storming how to start my own business, and applying for at least a job a week, all while futilely trying to improve my current situation.  The trick is finding a good job since I’m not just going to accept any job just to get a new job.  I’ve already done that and it clearly hasn’t worked out, so I’m looking for “the” job – something I can hope to love.  Even like would be a big step up. 

In the meantime, I sit at work and try to enjoy the entertainment – the employees here are certainly characters (to say the least), and I can’t wait to leave so I can write all about it (one of the many many reasons I can’t wait to leave).  I also write this blog, so in a way I’m getting paid to write it – maybe I’ll add that to my resume 🙂

Luckily I have other people and things in my life to cheer me up, keep me sane, and listen to my bitching – like my awesome husband and my amazing friends, my cooking classes, running, amateur photography, and of course copius amounts of wine.  I may quit today, or may hang on a few more months, but one very important thing I’ve learned along the path of life is that my sanity and self-esteem are worth more to me than a paycheck.  Opportunity, after all, is just a knock away – I just have to find the right door.

RD Mystery

I’d like to take this entry to answer a burning question I know you all have (since I did say I’d intersperse some nutrition topics!): what is the difference between a Dietitian (RD) and a Nutritionist? Well, an RD is not a retarded dummy – but FYI, don’t wear your name tag that says RD to a bar in a college town. The very common misconception is that a dietitian and nutritionist are one and the same; interchangeable. This however, is untrue. A dietitian has attended a 4-year university with an accredited nutrition program and has graduated with a degree in either nutritional sciences and/or dietetics. The course work is very in-depth and covers a wide range of topics including biochemistry, organic chemistry, biologic properties of food, microbiology, bacteriology, food safety, food technologies, anatomy, physiology, foodservice, nutrition in the lifecycle, nutrition and disease, nutrition in global settings, nutrition in emergency settings, principles in exercise science, psychology, and counseling – among others. After completion of the 4-year degree (which many times takes 5 years…a mixture of being very difficult and a propensity for having a good time) a year-long internship at an accredited institution must be completed to become eligible as a Registered Dietitian. After the internship, a comprehensive exam given by the American Dietetics Association covering every possible food and nutrition related topic must be passed in order to receive the title Registered Dietitian, or RD. Continuing education credits must be accrued and reported every 5 years to stay registered. I just passed my registration for another 5 years – 2014!

A nutritionist on the other hand is a broad term that anyone can use. A nutritionist may in fact have a lot of experience working with nutrition (for example – someone with a 4-year degree in nutrition, but who did not or chose not to complete the internship or didn’t take the test), or they may be a google-junkie who happens to know a lot about one topic, and decided to start writing about it or talking about it. While many nutritionists are experts in their field, many more are not, so it is important to ask about credentials and background when consulting a nutritionist. They may not have the comprehensive understanding of how nutrition works in the body.

RDs usually have a specialty area of dietetics in which they are experienced, as it would be difficult to work and become an expert in every area. For example, I am a Public Health Nutrition professional, and work mostly with nutrition research, nutrition and chronic diseases (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.), community nutrition program development and implementation, and nutrition education. I also have expertise in Global Nutrition and micronutrients (vitamins). While I try to stay up-to-date on all nutrition science and trends, I would not be able to bestow advice on every nutrition topic. For example, I have not worked in clinical nutrition since my internship, so I would not be the right person to ask how to set-up a tube feeding for a hospital patient, and I don’t have much experience in foodservice, so if you need to know what size pots to use to feed 150 people a cup of low-sodium stew, once again, I’m not the best person to ask. What I do know is when something sounds fishy or incorrect, even if I am not an expert in that area. I love talking about nutrition, so feel free to ask me about a topic anytime! I’ll try to keep the info dispensing to a minimum when not asked 🙂 And yes – even dietitians who eat healthily and work out regularly can throw back cold ones and cocktails like champs.

Areas in which RDs work (these examples are where my friends/colleagues work):
Clinical RD in a hospital
Pediatrics Ward – hospital
Outpatient Counseling – Health Clinics
Eating Disorder Treatment Facilities
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Nutrition Officer for the US Foreign Services
Nutrition consulting (weight-loss, sports nutrition)
Nutrition Research
American Cancer Society
International Health Organizations (World Vision, CARE, WHO, UN)
Professors / Lecturers – Colleges and Universities
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Local Non-profit Health and Human Services Organizations
Foodservice directors – nursing homes and dormitories
Nutrition Manager – K-12 School District
County and State Health Departments
Text Book authors
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
General Mills
Coca-cola
Diabetes Educators and Home Health Aides

Check out my friend Marie’s nutrition blog: http://www.mariespano.blogspot.com

Slumdogs

Dogs in the US have it pretty good.  Quality and even mediocre pet

owners provide their dogs with a place to sleep, maybe a place to run around, and most importantly, food and water.  I love dogs, and I miss my dog, Button, with my whole heart!  She was the BEST dog in the world, hands down.  I am very against animal cruelty, and I definitely don’t think people should abandon dogs, leave them on the side of the road, or turn them back into the pound when they decide they’d rather travel.  That said, I still think dogs in the US have a pretty posh life compared to dogs in many other countries.  Street dogs abound in “developing countries,” and they’ve always enthralled me.  They have gangs, they find food, they find shelter, they know their way around the city, they relax in the sun, they look both ways when crossing the street (they really do in Mexico, I have witnesses!), they have FB’s (fuck buddies) and just plain buddies.  It’s amazing what dogs can do when left to their own devices.

 

In Mexico City there are millions and millions of dogs.  It’s unclear if the dogs outnumber the people (24 million people in Mexico City) or vice versa.  Either way, it’s a lot of freaking dogs.  I really liked those Mexico City perros.  As I walked through the crowded streets, I felt like we shared a secret. They never attacked people, they didn’t bark much, and for the most part they lived happily beside the people-folk, eating the left-over tacos and chips strewn in the streets.  Of course with that many dogs the unfortunate would occur — dead dogs lying mangled on the side of a road or on periferico (the beltway), or a very obviously sick dog struggling with his last breaths.  Street dogs, however, were certainly not the only dogs sharing the city; dogs are as popular a pet in Mexico as anywhere else.  Many people had dogs, and parks were often packed on weekends with people letting their dogs out for a good jaunt.  What I often found myself wondering was this – what do the street dogs and the house dogs think of each other?  How do they tell each other apart, because I know they can.  Do the house dogs judge the street dogs for being dirty, homeless slumdogs?  Or do the street dogs judge the house dogs for being prissy, wussy, collar-wearing yuppies?  It’s the same global struggle found in every country on earth – the white collars vs. the slumdogs.  I’m just wondering, do dogs participate?

 

The dogs in Bhutan are another story.  Bountiful, to be sure, but not quite as satisfied with their lives on the streets.  They want to be house dogs, and many a dog tried to sneak into the house I was staying at during my time in the Dragon Kingdom.  The funny thing is, there are NO house dogs – no one has a dog as a pet (or any pet), so why do the dogs think they’d be better off as pets, seeing as they have no dogs to compare themselves to?  Man those dogs can bark.  All night long, from every corner of the country, all you can hear is dogs barking, howling, crying.  From near (under the window) to far (deep in the Himalayas) they barked from sundown to sunup.  It really was infuriating, but somehow when I saw the cute little pups running around the next day, I would call off the plan to joyously watch them die after feeding them poison.  You’d think those dogs would be happy and calm – there is weed (mary jane style) growing everywhere….. J

 

Colombia also entertains a large canine population, and similar to Mexico, there is a clear distinction between slumdogs and collar dogs.  Well, that is until it comes to mi suegra – Max’s mom.  Max’s mom LOVES dogs.  All animals really, but she has a special place in her heart for dogs, and if she could, I’m sure she would “rescue” every street dog she came across in Colombia (so about a billion).  Hearing stories from Max, his parents, and his sisters, I know dogs have played a part in their lives forever, and it’s funny to hear about all the different “pets” they’ve had.  The “real” pets have almost always been Weimaraners, the beautiful, strong, blue-gray dogs.  And they’ve always had creative names, such as Tango, Tango 2, Tango Michigan, and Tango Cisneros. (Tango Cisneros is now commonly referred to as Tan-gay).  The “other” pets have been a vast assortment of strays, usually strays that had once been pets but had been abandoned and thus didn’t know how to fend for themselves.  Currently there are 2 – Sara and Candy.  Sara is a gorgeous yellow lab with energy to last a lifetime, while Candy is a dirty little white mutt, with at least a couple of screws loose.   Margarita loves them all, just as they are, which is how I know she’ll love me too – even though I’m just a little white mutt with a few screws loose.