You can't just go off and leave a cow overnight, of course -- cows suffer terribly, and --

"Couldn't you get somebody to come in and milk them?" a reporter ventured.

Barbara Woodhouse is a gentle well-bred woman whose father was chaplain of Oriel College and whose husband is a retired London physician, so you may be sure she is not going to express shock or horror at anything you say.

But, my God, really.Leave a cow? Irresponsible people might, you know.

But hardly Mrs. Woodhouse. She gently amplified the cow situation:

"It is simple enough to take the cows with you, on vacation, say. I used to take the cows if we spent a month at the seashore. We'd rent a little house. The cows did so love the beach, and I do think the sea air --"

"Excuse me. How many cows went to the beach with for vacation?"

"Just five. But of course they all calved, so we came back with eight."

Barbara Woodhouse, who is rapidly approaching the status of Countess of Cow and Duchess of Dane (she has always adored Great Danes) in England, has arrived in this capital to -- well, not to split hairs about it -- dominate the pet show being held today at Ethel Kennedy's suburban house, Hickory Hill. Always Art Buchwald has been master of ceremonies, done up in his hunting pinks, and while nobody would say that superbly gifted writer is a ham, still he does wallow a bit in the adulation the capital showers on him at all times.

"Oh yes," said a Kennedy source. "He keeps calling Ethel saying he doubts she really needs an animal expert at the show. I think he's some put out about it."

As well he may be.

"Ah," says Woodhouse flipping out some snapshots, "here is a dear hyena I'm working with. Sweet." And sure enough, the hyena is up on his hind legs and Woodhouse has her face down by his and the beast is about to dissolve in a transport of joy. "Isn't this a charming giraffe," she sails along, showing the snapshot of a giraffe, "and you see there I am puffing up his nose.

"Oh, goodness, no, you would NEVER puff up a dog's nose. They don't like it at all. They do it all by smell. Incidentally, it is silly to exend your hand for the dog to smell when you meet one. After all, they can smell you coming a mile off."

An interviewer is of course put a trifle on the defensive just here -- perhaps the Right Guard -- and come to think of it, it did seem to be a trifle low on propellant, but --

"When I was a little girl we never could afford a pony or a horse for me. My father was headmaster at a school in Ireland. He had been playing all afternoon with the boys -- he had been a double blue at Oxford and was quite the athlete, actually -- and had a heart attack at the age of 37. So my mother returned to the family house in England, but we really were poor, so as I say there never was able to be a pont for me; but there were plenty of cows, sort of worn out or rejected, and I picked up one for 30 shillings as I recall it. Anyhow, the point is I rode the cow instead of a horse. It's surprising people do not know what good mounts cows make. I rigged up some jumps, and --"

"Are you telling me, Mrs. Woodhouse, that nobody needs an Irish hunter is he has a nice cow?"

"I am telling you I never new a cow to refuse a jump," she said with a complacency that under the circumstances seemed justified.

"But of course the thing you are famous for is training a dog in six minutes," her interviewer said, fearing further discourse on the cows, lest it turn out the cows also wrote verse and baked muffins.

"Dog," she said. "I think it is partly the voice, partly the hands. Some people, especially women, simply do not have the voice. Too squeaky, sometimes, or else too harsh or else too monotonous. Dogs do not respond to monotonous voices. I give a great deal. I expect the dog to respond and to be wonderful and of course he is. I once had a Chinese created [dog] brought to me by a distraught owner at a dog show, and she said,'She is going to be judged by male judge and she cannot abide male judges.' I got her through and the dog won reserve champion and much else. Previously the dog would not stand still for a male judge, so the owner was of course pleased."

"We have a friend whose life revolved around his boxer," someone chimed in, "and he went ape for dogs in general, but our hounds never liked him. They clearly disliked him greatly and it was embarrassing. Do you think --"

"Very likely his smell," said Woodhouse. "Not his fault, of course, but there you are. If you can't take the smell, then you can't. From the dog's point of view. What you can do is take your friend's hand in your own and tickle the dog's chest. That way your friend's had picks up the smell of your own, and usually the dog will accept your friend after that."

"Have the Kennedys got you over here to civilize their own dogs?" she was asked. (For the Kennedy source waid that when Woodhouse was there for supper the night before the dogs were running all over the place trying to eat people's soup.)

"I was so tired," she said, "I had just arrived by Concorde. What a glorious plane. But I understand their dogs are charming, very much part of their lives there. You know, some people really do not like dogs, and are not really up to the close relationship that is possible. Of course it has drawbacks. I had an Alsatian once, and I had to go to the hospital. The dog died with 48 hours of a broken heart. There is no way you can explain to a dog you will come back."

"You can talk to them and explain you're just going to Waterberry," it was suggested.

"But they never really know you're coming back. They suffer terribly," she said.

"Like cows," her interviewer said, in case she had tought of referring to them again.

"Pigs are of course very intelligent, very lovely," she observed. "But you know I have never felt very close to insects. Here is a shot of a praying mantis. Somebody wanted the mantis to sit up properly for a picture and he refused. So I spoke to him -- feet up, higher, higher -- and you see how higher, higher -- and you see how well he responded. That little circle? Oh well I thought while I was about it I'd see if I couldn't persuade him to jump. But as I say, I never felt very close to the insects. Hyenas are quite a different story --"

"Lovely picture," she was assured. "But back to dogs, you seem to be saying the problem is always with the owner, not with the dog. Do you think the dogs pick up inharmonious vibrations or something?"

"Of course," she said. "As people do. Often the owner does not want the dog to succeed. Or is not confident, and the dog picks this up. I knew a woman whose dog had the bad habit of forever biting the woman's husband, and I explained we could correct that easily, but you know what she said? She said don't you dare, she loved it when her dog bit her husband. sSaid it was something she'd love to do herself."