CBS News Washington bureau chief Jack Smith yesterday announced a number of off-camera personnel changes designed, he said, to ensure that "The 'CBS Evening News' remains the best news program on the air" . . .

Key to the changes is a big promotion for Peter Kendall, who's been Washington producer for "Evening News". . .

He becomes senior producer, Washington, responsible for Washington coverage for the "Evening News," "Morning News" and the weekend news programs . . .

Joseph Peyronnin, who's been associate producer for "Evening News," becomes Washington producer for the "Evening News," responsible for the daily production . . .

Brian Healy, Washington producer of "Morning News," has been named Washington producer, "Evening News," responsible for future story planning and coverage . . .

William Crawford adds the title of Special Events producer to his current title of "Evening News" producer . . .

Charles Wolfson, former CBS bureau chief in Tel Aviv, returns here to become Washington associate producer for the "Evening News" . . .

Mary Martin, associate producer, "Evening News," has been named Washington producer, "Morning News" . . .

And producer/director William Lynden has been assigned to direct the Washington segments of "Evening News" . . .

Yesterday's announcement followed by a week changes in the on-air assignments of a number of CBS News correspondents here . . . as the new executive team at CBS News in New York made its presence felt at the Washington bureau for the first time since taking over last spring . . .

We were kind of curious, ourselves, TV Column fans . . . so in response to numerous reader inquiries yesterday, we dug deeper into the story of Pookie, one of the cat runners-up in Ralston Purina's 5th Annual Meow-Off, details of which we revealed in yesterday's column . . .

You'll recall that a spokesman for Burston-Marsteller, the agency that handles the Meow-Off, could tell us only that Pookie had "once been run through a machine" but by some miracle had survived, proving, the spokesman added, that "they really do have nine lives" . . .

Because the Meow-Off judges had been blindfolded and listened only to the meows from the soundtracks of the film tests for the finalists . . . we must confess that visions of an unseen but very flat Pookie did flicker through our mind as we wrote about her trip through the mysterious "machine" . . .

It turns out, Cat Fans, that Pookie was hit by a truck out in Nevada and only the valiant efforts of a veterinarian, who, according to our informant, "wired her together again," saved Pookie for the Meow-Off run-off out in Los Angeles . . .

Poor Pookie! . . .

Incidentally, Cat Fans, Ralston Purina is doubling the ante for next year's Meow Off winner to $50,000 (come back here, Morris!) . . .