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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This year the Pet Adoptathon '97 -- that lifesaving spring weekend when animal organizations join together to find a home for each and every pet in shelters throughout the world -- will take place May 3 and 4. Once again, North Shore Animal League and the Iams Co. are sponsoring this international event in shelters and humane societies throughout the United States, Canada, England and South America.

All participating shelters and North Shore Animal League's most famous adoptees -- Scarlett and her kittens -- issue this urgent plea to animal lovers everywhere: Visit your local Adoptathon shelter on May 3 or 4, and adopt a loving dog, cat, puppy or kitten. You'll receive a free Iams starter kit, which includes pet food as well as literature on responsible pet ownership. But best of all, you'll get a lifetime of companionship and unconditional love from a cute and cuddly furry friend.

For the name of a shelter near you, call the Adoptathon hotline: 1-800-863-4267, Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT. You can also visit us at www.iams.com. -- MIKE ARMS, NORTH SHORE ANIMAL LEAGUE, PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y.

DEAR MIKE: The Pet Adoptathon is a worthy program, but I must issue a word of caution:

Readers: Before you rush out to adopt that adorable little pet who is guaranteed to give you boundless love, please take a moment to be sure you are ready to make a commitment that will last for many years.

Pets are wonderful, but they require proper care and attention, and many require training to be the pleasurable companions you may be seeking. If you are ready for this responsibility, get to the shelter early and select the pet who was born to be loved by you!

DEAR ABBY: I am an extremely pampered pet who was deeply offended by the letter written by "Dogged Out in South Carolina," who wondered how to deal with people who treat their pets as members of the family. Please remind her that pets ARE members of the family. According to the dictionary, a pet is "an animal kept for amusement or companionship," or "a person especially loved or indulged." I am sure I speak for all pets when I say that we prefer the second definition.

Perhaps "Dogged Out" should treat the animals she describes as she would other people. Would she allow another person to lick her child's face? Absolutely not! Would she permit a fellow human to push his nose into her dinner plate? I think not. I'm sure she would not hesitate to ask someone not to use a particular piece of furniture. So why should she not make her feelings known to us? Tell us what you want, Lady -- while we are incredibly intelligent, we're not psychic.

My family is wonderful. I have a busy social calendar, plenty of good food, a warm bed (I sleep with the family, under the covers with my head on a pillow, thank you very much), and lots of love and affection. In return, I show them unconditional love and devotion. I provide them with comfort in times of need, keep them amused (they really seem to enjoy tossing my toys and having me retrieve them -- go figure), and make them proud with my charming antics and natural beauty. How many humans give each other that kind of devotion?

My advice to "Dogged Out" is to treat us like the companions we are. We'll all get along much better that way. -- CHLOE, A NEW JERSEY PAMPERED PET

P.S. While I am extremely literate, my owner had to type this for me, as my paws do not reach the keyboard.

DEAR CHLOE: You may be pampered, but you are also well-bred and good-mannered and a credit to responsible canine owners (or should I say family members?) everywhere.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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