You think hotels don't walk an extra mile for their customers? Pull up a chair. You are about to hear the story of several extra miles, as walked by the Vista International Hotel.

The star of our story is a dog. His name is Chica. He is a 170-pound St. Bernard who was staying at the Vista one day early this month with his master, a German man who speaks no English.

Either Chica's master underestimated Washington Julys, or he is a very cruel, careless fellow. The man took Chica for a jog -- in the middle of a 90-degree day. Then the man drove Chica around town for some sightseeing -- in a car that had been sitting in the sun for hours. Then he left Chica locked in that car for a while while he did some errands.

It all caught up with Chica in the front driveway of the Vista. The poor dog collapsed, and went into convulsions. His eyes rolled up into his head. It looked like death from heat stroke.

But an alert doorman sprang into action. He loaded Chica onto a bellman's baggage cart and whisked him to the loading dock. There, kitchen and maintenance workers formed a bucket brigade, dousing Chica with pots and pans of cold water.

Meanwhile, the security staff notified Mark Phillips, the hotel's concierge. Mark ordered engineering to remove the door from an unoccupied guest room so that the baggage cart could fit through. Then he ordered housekeeping to fill the bathtub with 10 inches of cool water.

Within minutes, the door was off and the dog was in the tub. But then came the ultimate in service.

Mark Phillips knelt by the side of the tub and cooed reassuring thoughts to Chica.

For three hours.

In German.

It worked like a charm. Chica recovered, and his master took him back to Germany the next day.

That was some performance by the gang at the Vista. But it's taking nothing away from them to say that the performance never should have been necessary.

In these midsummer weeks, please take better care of your pet than Chica's master took of him. Don't take a dog jogging in the middle of the day -- especially a heavy-furred animal like a St. Bernard. And don't ever leave an animal in a car for any length of time without rolling down the windows or turning on the air conditioner.

Catch-up ball . . . .

ON SURNAMES BEGINNING WITH A, B OR C: A reader in Bethesda, Judy Hallett, passed along a fascinating piece of information. Judy discovered that 20 percent of the members of the U.S. Senate have surnames beginning with A, B or C. I discovered that similar percentages apply to the nation's governors, presidents and U.S. representatives.

But after my column on this phenomenon appeared, it didn't take long for the balloon-puncturers to reply.

It seems that approximately 20 percent of the surnames in the Washington area begin with A, B or C. Ditto the surnames of Americans as a whole.

So the Hallett Theory is not a groundbreaker in quite the way she and I figured. Instead, it proves that our politicians may be more representative of us than we thought.

ON PRONOUNS AGREEING WITH THE NOUNS THEY MODIFY: A reader in Arlington, Ruth S. Blau, took issue with a local bank for one of its advertising fliers. "Let Your Student Prove They Are Responsible," the flier said. Ruth argued that "They" should be "He." I agreed.

Came the mail, and the remarkable news that some readers vote for "They" -- even if it's technically incorrect.

Joan Server of Columbia says that when she was an English major at Penn State, she was told that "they" instead of "he" or "she" (and "their" instead of "his" or "her") was permissible because of sexism. Since "he" is often used to refer to a lot of people who aren't male, isn't "they" a gender-blind improvement, Joan wonders?

Similarly, Marie Anne Erickson of Braddock Heights says she has seen "they" used the way the bank used it "for as long as I can recall, and I am 54 years old."

And Martha Abbott of Alexandria notes that "language is ever-changing, and must be allowed to be, even if it sometimes veers down paths that strict grammarians consider wrong."

I have plenty of sympathy for all these points of view, but not for the remedy that these readers propose. If we want to eliminate sexism in our pronouns, let's invent new pronouns, instead of asking "they" to take on new (and unnecessary, and ambiguity-producing) duty.

Capt. Jim O'Brien, an Air Force acquaintance, says Pentagon officials have already taken notice of the star witness in the Iran-contra hearings.

They named a parking lot for him.

They call it North Parking.