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Field of Dumps

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Though the sanctuary has three beautiful tigers and, until recently, a lemur, it has, sadly for Zenobia, no lionesses. As a result, the would-be king of the jungle is a shadow of the studly predator he should be. In the past year, he has suffered blood in his stool, weight loss, vomiting, ulcers, and a nasty case of irritable bowel syndrome.

Before Hurricane Wilma hit, Canzonetta was soliciting donations to bring a lady lion to the sanctuary so that Zenobia could get the sexual healing that the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, the six-acre site was rocked by the storm, destroying much of the infrastructure and ruining the immaculately manicured exotic plants and trees. The waterfall that the giant cats used to lounge under has been buried, as well as a large part of the once-sparkling horseshoe-shaped lagoon.

"We're in strict survival mode now," says Canzonetta, a stunning brunet who provides for the sanctuary's half-a-million-dollar yearly budget by, among other things, posing for the covers of romance novels with the likes of Fabio.

For the moment, she says, it just wouldn't be practical to bring another big cat to the sanctuary until it's up and running again. Of course, if you've got a female lion in heat somewhere, Canzonetta is interested. But she can't put your she-cat up. Maybe you've also got a lion-proof motel room where Zenobia can share a bottle of bubbly by candlelight and a few hours of uninhibited play? Or, barring the traditional Fabio setting, how about a custom-designed marital aid from the Hustler lion outlet?

In the meantime, Zenobia waits, hopelessly horny and restless.

As the sun sets on a recent afternoon, Canzonetta's cats become restive. They're nocturnal creatures; when the sun goes down, they prepare for the hunt.

Canzonetta, who lives at the sanctuary, stands on her deck, watching the shadows of ruined palm trees lengthen against the muddy stillness of the now-stagnant lagoon.

"He can hear us," she says, looking out toward the paddock where Zenobia paces restlessly.

Just then, the lion lets out a deep growl — not a roar but a guttural call that cuts the relaxed, late-afternoon haze with animal desire.

Canzonetta puts her hands on her slender hips and responds to his call with a higher-pitched but no-less-emotive rejoinder.

The 'Pipe slinks back into the gathering darkness, unobserved by these two kindred spirits, lost in conversation.

Gag the Troops

Most of us will gobble up our Thanksgiving bird this week, but the nation's 26 million veterans got their turkey shortly before Veterans Day. Serving up the foul fowl was Steve Buyer, an Indiana Republican who chairs the U.S. House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. Buyer, handpicked as chairman by indicted former House leader Tom DeLay, announced just days before the holiday honoring veterans that they won't be allowed to testify in front of the committee during the budget process this winter.

"What he's doing is taking away an opportunity for the elected leadership of the veterans groups to address a joint session of Congress," says David Autry, a spokesman for the Disabled American Veterans organization, which represents 1.3 million members.

Why the freeze-out? Autry says that Capitol Hill staffers don't like having a gallery of scowling vets in the audience while they're carving up the budget. "It didn't make the chairman look particularly in a favorable light when the Democrats were beating up on him and our folks picked up on it and booed."

Tom Corey, a Palm Beach Gardens veteran who until August was national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America group, testified before Buyer earlier this year.

"I went after him, and he wasn't very happy with it," Corey recalls. "He didn't want any input at all from the veterans service organizations. He almost said he's not going to deal with us because we're a pain in the ass. Hey, wait a minute: That's our hospital, buddy!"

More than a million vets live in Florida; more than a half million of them receive health care, disability benefits, or pension payments through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Congress is now looking for ways to cut spending, and the VA is a prime target. The West Palm Beach VA Medical Center is looking at roughly $15 million in cuts, Corey says.

"We're not going to roll over and play dead and let them do whatever they want to and continue to say that there's not enough money," Corey declares. "There should be a commitment from our government to take care of the people who served."

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