Jeane Kirkpatrick's Dog Day Afternoon

Conservative icon Jeane J. Kirkpatrick ran afoul of dog lovers--and the Montgomery County cops--when she locked her poodle, Jasper, in her late-model Lincoln Continental with the windows rolled up while she shopped last Saturday at a downtown Bethesda boutique.

As temperatures climbed into the nineties, Ronald Reagan's tough-talking United Nations ambassador (and GOP presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole's newly named foreign policy adviser) scorched a police officer who issued her a $45 ticket for allegedly violating Maryland Vehicle Law 21-1004.1, which forbids leaving animals in parked cars. "She was yelling at the police, saying: 'I'll see you in court! I take better care of my animal than you do of your children!' " one witness told us. "She was just huffing and puffing and causing a scene."

According to witnesses, Kirkpatrick had gone shopping at CP Shades, a women's clothing store on Bethesda Avenue, shortly before noon, when folks in a nearby shop, Fitigues, heard Jasper whimpering and alerted police. "It was totally irresponsible," our witness said. "I think we saved the dog's life. She was gone for a good 20 minutes."

Police told us that the officer on the scene initially called for backup from animal control but canceled the request when Kirkpatrick emerged. The angry exchange ensued, drawing a crowd. Kirkpatrick's office told us she was traveling yesterday and couldn't be reached. "Jasper is fine," a Kirkpatrick aide told us. Kirkpatrick can either pay the fine or contest it in court, police said.

"In a very short period of time, an animal in a sweltering car--because they don't perspire--can go into respiratory distress and die," said Sharon Kessler, executive director of the Montgomery County Humane Society. "It can get well over 100 degrees in no time at all."

Incidentally, Kirkpatrick's Lincoln was parked right next to a sign that read: "Pets Die in Hot Cars! It's Against The Law. If You See It, Report It! Call 911 Immediately."

Back to His Roots

* When LeVar Burton was attending seminary in Sacramento, Calif., he hoped to become the first black pope. "I wanted to be a priest," Burton told us, "but I got bit by the acting bug." He gained fame playing Kunta Kinte in the miniseries "Roots" two decades ago and then Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." But the 42-year-old father of two believes his current career--hosting PBS's daily educational program "Reading Rainbow" and producing and directing other child-friendly projects--isn't a break from his spiritual past. TV is "the most powerful tool we possess in our culture for social change," said Burton, who testifies this morning before a House subcommittee to urge continued federal support for public broadcasting.

THIS JUST IN . . .

* Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.), a Southern Baptist minister who often rails against the breakdown of the American family, filed for divorce yesterday from Donna Hutchinson, his wife of 28 years. "There have been tremendous strains on our marriage during the past few years and we sought extensive counseling prior to taking this action," Hutchinson said in a statement released by his office. His spokesman declined to comment on a report in the Northwest Arkansas News that Hutchinson has "a growing relationship" with former aide Randi Friedholm.

* Something to sink his teeth into? Yesterday NBC rehired play-by-play announcer Marv Albert--who was fired in 1997 after pleading guilty to biting a woman in his room at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City--to handle basketball coverage as well as Olympic boxing and hockey.

* In a "Just Asking" item last week, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post queried: "Which network news chief and his foxy wife are expecting a millennium baby?" Our answer--NBC News President Andy Lack and his 37-year-old spouse, Betsy Lack, set to deliver in December--wasn't what the Post had in mind. "Fox News chief Roger Ailes and his wife Beth are expecting a tot in January," the "Page Six" column reports, and that "December isn't quite the next millennium." But is Murdoch's Fox News quite a network operation? Just asking.

CAPTION: Marv Albert, back on NBC basketball.

CAPTION: Jeane J. Kirkpatrick: A witness says she barked at an officer.

CAPTION: The sign Kirkpatrick apparently missed.

CAPTION: LeVar Burton, aiming for social change.