The Senate, which has heard just about everything, was treated this week to the Parable of the Pup and the Parakeet, which was Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd's way of illustrating the merits of restraint by the superpowers in the Persian Gulf.

"My wife and I have a little parakeet, and my wife got a dog just a few days ago," Byrd told his colleagues Wednesday. He went on to tell how he and wife Erma cannot agree on a name for the bird (Byrd wants MacDuff because "MacDuff brought in the head of Macbeth"; she has qualms about that) but settled on Pierre for the dog (even though "it sounds a little bit sissy, but he is at least much bigger than the bird").

The new parakeet succeeds Bruce Byrd, who flew away. Pierre succeeds Billy Byrd, a cocker spaniel whose fate was undisclosed.

"The parakeet is becoming more and more bold," Byrd said. "The dog is lying on the floor, and the parakeet gets a little closer all the time. I noticed yesterday that the parakeet got up close to the dog's tail. The dog was wagging his tail, and the parakeet was attracted to that, and he gets up to the dog's tail now and pulls a hair. I do not see the dog running away as though intimidated, but I am concerned that one day that dog might reach out and put his paw on that bird and break a wing -- and a bird with a broken pinion never soars as high again. That is the title of an old poem.

"But I do not believe that dog is intimidated by that parakeet. I have not seen him run from the parakeet yet, but I also have not seen him reach out with a paw or snap at the parakeet. One day, however, he just may do that, and MacDuff's head will be gone.

"So, it kind of leaves me cold for the administration people to say, 'Well, we've got to go ahead with this {reflagging Kuwaiti oil tankers} or else they {unfriendly countries such as Iran} will think they have intimidated us.' The United States is a superpower . . . . A superpower need not jump around reaching to every conceivable perceived challenge to its credibility."

Byrd stopped and Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) changed the subject. But Rep. Larry J. Hopkins (R-Ky.) took on Byrd when, the day before, Byrd told the same story.

"It sounds to me, Mr. Majority Leader, that you have a brave parakeet and a wimp of a dog, and I don't want the United States to be associated with either one," one participant quoted Hopkins as saying.