Ever hear from your old school? Pointing out they need $40 million to refurbish the visitors' lounge and prop up the geology building?

I always feel bad not sending anything and always hope the rich guys will. Which brings me to a recent appeal and let me say that while I am pro-dog I am not anti-cat.

All the same, when I saw the current issue of Colonnade, the newsletter of the School of Architecture down there at Charlottesville, I thought the end of fund raising had indeed arrived.

"CORBU NEEDS YOUR HELP," said the headline. Corbu is an alley cat, or more properly a tiger-striped domestic shorthair. He is 15 and for years has been the school's cat. Last fall he was gone for five days and showed up on the terrace with broken bones and an inverted intestine. Quite a night, apparently, and his vet bill was $1,000.

Good grief, I told my wife, now the university is pitching for the cat's vet bills. She said no telling what our own hound's vet bills have come to -- they've loaded her with more steroids than a lady javelin thrower -- and maybe I could make an appeal to readers to help out.

But I said that would be wrong. Of course the architecture school is not my old school, so I can't say they were dunning me for the blasted cat -- I just happened to see their newsletter.

I phoned Joan Baxter, who is in charge of cat funding at the University of Virginia and she said she is happy to say they have about enough money to pay the bills. She is writing all the architecture guys who sent cash to thank them and send them a fine new photograph of Corbu, who (she says) never looked so good.

"He doesn't look like a tiger cat to me," I said, referring to the newsletter photo.

"Oh, that's a poor picture, showing his cast and all, and then he's shaved, so you don't see the stripes. He's grown out now and looks just fine. He's an old cat but has come right along."

But surely the University of Virginia has health and retirement plans for its various animals, I said.

No, she said.

In fact, she went on, some great muckety-muck down there announced there were to be no animals in university buildings. That shocked me. When I was there I had my Welsh terrier and plenty of dogs went to class and behaved quite well. Pretty much. Imagine saying no more animals in buildings.

"We solved it," Baxter said. "We got the faculty together and made the cat an endowed professor. No way to keep him out of the building after we did that."

Indeed. Well, the fund for Corbu is a good cause, I guess. I expect, however, to get a letter any day from the College of Arts and Sciences saying "PLEASE HELP LUKE," one of the mongrels that hangs around and shows up in processions:

"Old Luke has got arthritis now. He needs a really good doghouse. He has been sleeping under the McGuffey Ash for some years but needs attention now. Naturally, at Virginia you would not want some cruddy doghouse, but something Mr. Jefferson would approve of. We are making progress on the Canicello House for Luke and have $114,000 in hand. But of course building costs escalate by the month. We desperately need your help, and thank you in advance, knowing any contribution you choose to make will get us closer to the goal of $729,000."

Luke? My God. Here's 50 bucks by return mail.