MAYBE IT DIDN'T RAIN on Ronald Reagan's big parade, but an off-beat pre-inaugural theft -- of Feets, Candy and Joey -- nearly put a damper on one class act. The aforementioned are Alaskan husky dogs, renowned in their home state for leadership, manliness (dogliness?) and a fair moment of brute strength that is usually applied with great success to the pulling of heavily laden sleds. It was to these ends that the three dogs -- valued at $5,000 apiece -- were hired to perform in the parade and flown here, under contract, to lead a 25-dog team in pulling three sleds (on wheels) down the ceremonial avenue.

But whoa and behold, shortly after midnight on the day before the day, the huskies were nowhere to be found at the Damascus farm where they had been staying. Who on earth would attempt to steal three bold and presumably terrifying Alaskan huskies? A case, surely, for Sgt. Preston of the Yukon; but, absent the sergeant, enter the Montgomery County police, eschewing bloodhounds and acting on a telephone tip.

As frantic parade-masters sought vainly to buy, rent or leash qualified substitutes for the missing trio, police dogged every lead until they came to a house basement in Gaithersburg. There, listed in good condition, were these allegedly tough creatures, who apparently succumbed silently to two youths who have been charged with the theft. The case of the dogs that didn't bark.

As you may have noticed, the dogs did make their appointed rounds on Tuesday, but you can forget that mighty-husky myth: Feets, Candy and Joey were content to grin meekly, sit, shake hands or roll over as they mushed. Fierce they weren't, adorable they were. Huskies they may be, but pussycats also they surely are.