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Injured animals 

Healing hands deflate trigger-happy hubby

Lucy is looking sick again. Chris says we should shoot her, but he always says that. And while we're at it, he says we should shoot our other cat as well. Then when we're done, we should shoot the two mangy stray dogs that dig into our trash on occasion.

And if a bullet should drift and kill a crack whore on the corner, well, good -- even better if it's a crack dealer. Kill all the cats and crack addicts and most of the dogs, too, it'll help heal our neighborhood. Hell, you can heal the whole world that way, or at least it would be a good start according to Chris, and he would love to start -- love to start -- by shooting Lucy.

But I won't let him. Lucy is 100 years old, a feline relic with all her upper teeth missing, and she's a little senile. But who can blame her? Chris won't dare kill her, but I suspect he hopes our sweet pit bull, Cookie, will. Cookie has the disposition of a rambunctious bunny rabbit and jaws like an iron alligator. She tries to play with Lucy, but Lucy is as playful as an angry rattlesnake. What ensues is a howling tornado of teeth (Cookie's), claws (Lucy's) and bemused bystanding (Chris). I know Chris roots for Cookie on these occasions, hoping she'll accidentally eat Lucy and save him some ammunition.

But like I said, Lucy isn't looking very good. At peak health she is the size of an adolescent Mastodon, which is one of those furry elephants from prehistoric times. She eats everything -- even peas -- which is probably owing to her first four months of life and how she spent that time foraging for food until she ended up at the Humane Society, which is where my mother and I found her. You can't smoke inside the Humane Society, and we'd been there 10 minutes, an eternity for a nicotine troll like my mother, so Lucy won the cigarette-jones roulette that day.

"That's a good cat," my mother said, her cigarette finger twitching for a menthol. "Get that one."

She was right. Lucy is a good cat, even though her teeth fell out less than two years later. A tumor on her upper mandible pushed them out, and the vet told me she had maybe six months before the tumor took over her whole head or something, making it impossible to swallow and, therefore, live. I was told surgery might help, but it cost $1,500 and entailed chopping away half her cranium. So I took Lucy home and waited for the day her suffering would necessitate euthanasia.

That was 11 years ago, and you can tell by the size of her she never did develop that difficulty to swallow. A psychic once told me I healed Lucy with my hands. I was skeptical of her assessment, doubtful of my own abilities until two years ago, when Cookie came down with a limp and, according to Chris, needed to be put down. She was less than a year old, and limping like that wasn't a good sign, especially since she was born with that deformed tail and all. It was obvious now that the deformity went way past the ass area and deep inside her dog core, and now the only way to deal with it was to snuff her out "for her own sake," Chris insisted. "Look how she's suffering."

Cookie did not appear to be suffering to me. Even with the limp she could still bound around the house like a small pony, still pounce on Lucy, hoping to play. Her deformed tail, which looks like a furry carrot that grew through a crack in the sidewalk, still wagged spastically non-stop. But Chris was adamant. She had to be put down, a conviction bolstered by our vet bill, which included a $5,000 estimate for surgery to correct the problem. "It's cruel," Chris persisted, "to keep Cookie alive."

But I remembered my healing hands. Yes, I'll heal her, I thought, and commenced my fervor to nurse Cookie back to health, a highly scientific rehabilitation process that almost entirely entailed petting her a whole lot. A few months later she was fine.

Now Lucy is looking a little peevish, and Chris says she needs to be shot. I can see my husband standing there; dark, unshaven, tattooed. I remember when I met him he struck me as a towering evil Jesus with his beard, boots and black leather jacket, and I wasn't far off. A hugely lapsed Catholic, he'd forsaken God with vengeance five years earlier, having replaced his faith with a kind of seething universal disappointment with the world in general. "Screw God," he'd said, and became an instant hit with my friends.

Now he is in my kitchen, grousing as he feeds my pets. "Disgusting, useless animals," he rumbles. I am getting up now. I am walking toward him with my hands outstretched. My hands, my hands I tell you. I have to lay them on.

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