The veterinarian is examining a cat in his office. Shadow doesn't seem to be his usual frisky self today. Cut to a full feline close-up. From the comfort of the couch, viewers can make their own informed TV diagnoses.

Notice the lack of mobility. Ponder the unresponsive reflexes. Get a load of the broken neck. If he hasn't bought the farm, the inert Shadow has certainly made the down payment. Once again it's time to haul out the Bill Close Award. Named in honor of the Channel 10 anchor-fossil, the prize honors local TV reporters who sink to unplumbed depths of inanity while going below and beside the call of duty.

Sharing the trophy this week is intrepid Channel 12 reporter Lin Sue Shepherd for this two-part, stop-the-presses series on grieving pet owners. Like most local news aired during November's ratings sweeps, this piece fills a much-needed gap.

For two nights, a straight-faced Shepherd escorted us into the netherworld of crackpot pet lovers, who believe that the death of an animal is, as she solemnly informs us, "every bit as painful as losing a human friend."

These poor souls go through stages of pet grief: shock, denial, rage and despair. Funny, that's just how we felt sitting through these segments.

One woman is shown kissing Fido goodbye before he's put to sleep. Fighting back tears, she tells Shepherd that what she's doing is, like eating a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, "the right thing to do." In the background, meanwhile, we watch the hound getting strapped down, preparing to depart for the big Doghouse in the Sky. The image of a syringe flashes across the screen.

We also go behind the scenes, to a meeting where "grief counselors" who've survived the loss of their pets console newly bereaved masters. One elderly widow has found peace, even though her Snoopy has gone to join her late husband. "Charlie's walking him now in the mornings," she believes. The deposits in our neighborhood suggest she may be right. Channel 10's Diane Ryan also grabs a piece of the Close statuette, at least the part from the waist down, for her giggly feature on one Fabio. A blond-maned, blue-eyed, six-foot three-inch, 218-pound hunk of Italian manhood who seems to have the IQ of a turnip, Fabio is a romance-novel model, having appeared shirtless on some 350 covers.

Ryan's two segments, about as deep as Fabio's tan, gush over this "superhunk" and "fantasy made flesh." The camera lovingly crawls over his all-but-naked body, tastefully slowing down to linger over the crotch.

Perilously close to an on-air orgasm, Ryan almost forgot to remind viewers to send in their win-a-date-with-Fabio postcards.

We've got a better idea: Fix Fabio up with Charlie's widow, and see if she remembers Snoopy in the morning.