The Lord is a funny fellow. He took one look at Montgomery and Prince George's counties and said, "I'll make them flat and dull." Then he took one look at the area around Cumberland, Md., and said: "I think I'll make up for it, right here."

The result is some of the more spectacular mountain scenery this side of Wyoming. The second result is that people can't wait to go camping at Rocky Gap State Park, just east of Cumberland. The third result is that people who try to do that with pets are in for a surprise.

Cynthia Wilson of Falls Church and her two dachshunds can testify to Result 3. They tried to go camping at Rocky Gap back in August. Park officials said yes to Cynthia but no to the two dogs. They explained that pets are not allowed in any Maryland state park or campground near a developed area.

Cynthia wonders why the current edition of the Maryland Outdoor Guide, published by the State Office of Tourist Development, doesn't warn dog owners of the no-dog rule. She also wonders why there's such a rule at all. "What used to be an inexpensive weekend getaway is becoming more expensive and full of hassle if one must now board the family pets," Cynthia says.

Paul Ruszia, assistant chief of operations at the Maryland Forest Park and Wildlife Service, agrees that the no-dog policy should appear in the outdoor guide -- and in next year's edition, it will.

Paul adds that there are many good reasons for the no-pets rule. Among them:

Noise (dogs bark).

Sanitation (dogs produce solid waste, and owners don't clean it up).

Safety of other visitors (what if someone brings a pit bull, and the dog decides to take some target practice?).

Effect on wildlife (many visitors come to state parks to observe wildlife. Dogs might scare the wildlife away).

However, the Wildlife Service's own guidelines suggest a compromise. According to Paul, dogs are permitted in state parks near undeveloped areas, but the dogs must be on leashes. Couldn't we try dogs-on-leashes in every state park, at least as an experiment? I know the Cynthias of this world would appreciate it -- even to the point of buying pooper scoopers and using them, I'll bet.

The grinch already stole Christmas. So someone else stole Chris Welton's Christmas lights.

Chris lives in Upper Northwest. He was awakened from a sound sleep at 4 a.m. on Dec. 9. Chris stumbled to the window to have a look. He got there just in time to see a man remove the last of the Welton family's lights from the doorway, roll them up, put them in the trunk of his car and drive away.

Merry Christmas, whoever you are. I hope Santa Claus trips as he's going down your chimney and sues you.

Great Moments in American Business, Installment 3,164,678:

"You know how we're always getting offers in the mail where a new credit card is reserved in your name merely for signing the enclosed card and returning it?" asks Linda Davidson of Gaithersburg.

"Last week, one came addressed to my daughter, Angela, from one of those companies offering credit card protection. If she signed, they would send her a Visa card with a $3,500 credit limit.

"Pretty ordinary, right? Only problem is that Angela is four years old!

"Look out, Toys 'R' Us . . . ."


This is the day each year when I rise on grounds of personal privilege. And privilege is exactly the right word. She makes it a privilege, every day.

That's a dad speaking (as if you couldn't tell). He's speaking about the young lady in his life, Emily Susanna Levey.

Our daughter is 6 years old today. That means that a human comet will land on my sleeping right hip about 5:20 a.m. "Is it time to open the presents yet?" the comet will inquire.

Mom will groan. Dad will grunt with unconsciousness. But by 5:21, it's a very safe bet that the floor of the family room will be littered with wrapping paper.

Dad will be sitting there, gulping at a cup of coffee and watching Emily dismember ribbons and boxes. No doubt he'll be trying to forget that, 10 years from today, Emily Levey will be able to drive a car (now that's a sobering thought!).

A few more gulps, and The Sentimental One will start thinking back to Dec. 16, 1981. To a snowy drive to George Washington University Hospital. To a very bright delivery room. To a doctor exclaiming, "It's a girl!" And to all the adventures since.

Emily and her family are fortunate that none of those adventures has included Children's Hospital. We have had our share of skinned knees, and more than our share of ear infections. But Emily Levey has not been a patient in a hospital since the first three days of her life. To her, Children's Hospital is the place where she plays in the lobby while Dad delivers checks to somebody.

I hope with all my strength that Children's will never be anything else to Emily. But I know there are no guarantees. I also know that thousands of families are suddenly thrown into the mill at Children's each year -- families just like ours, where the kids have never been seriously ill before.

Which is precisely why I try to raise funds for the hospital each holiday season. If the time ever comes, every parent, rich or poor or in between, wants Children's Hospital to be there. With your help, and your continuing generosity, it will be.

In the meantime, if you'll forgive me, m-m-m-m-m-m-m-muhhhhhh! That's a birthday hug for the girl I call The Brown-Eyed Beauty. Happy Sixth, sweetheart. You teach me what it's all about every day.

Many thanks to these recent group donors:

Residents of The Aged Woman's Home of Georgetown ($25).

St. Francis Guild, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Baileys Crossroads ($10).

The Ex Communicators Bridge Club ($155).

The Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service (GERMS) ($25).

Loudoun-Fairfax Mothers of Twins Club ($50).

American Tools Inc. ($100).

"The Golden Girls of Leisure World" ($100).

Ladies of the Elks 1778 of Riverdale ($100).

"The Lollipop Gang of Duddington" ($25).

The Sounding Rocket Coffee Club at Goddard Space Flight Center ($100).

Montgomery County Chapter, SPEBSQSA ($45 gathered while caroling at Beltway Plaza).

Deane Bartkow's Wednesday Bridge Group ($36.25).

Members of the U.S. Naval Gun Factory Auxiliary No. 1085, Department of the District of Columbia, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. ($25).

The Sixth Floor ERS Coffee Club ($100).

Joseph F. Barr Washington Ladies Auxiliary No. 58, Jewish War Veterans of the U.S. ($25).


Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.