Dear Abby: Spring is here, and it's time to alert pet-loving people to the 2001 Pet Adoptathon. The slogan, "From the Golden Gate to the Empire State," says it all.

The North Shore Animal League America's Tour for Life, organized in conjunction with the San Francisco SPCA, began in the Bay City on April 12. On that day, the league's huge mobile adoption center transported pets from the animal shelter to centralized community locations in an effort to find loving adoptive homes for hundreds of orphaned pets.

From the Golden Gate, the 35-foot shelter-on-wheels motored southeast to Albuquerque, continued on to Dallas, traveled east and south to Fort Lauderdale, turned north to New York City and finally, on May 3, will arrive at the Empire State Building — a true lifesaving journey to help animal organizations along the way to find loving homes for their needy dogs and cats.

The Tour for Life does not end there: It actually signals the start of the North Shore Animal League America's worldwide Pet Adoptathon 2001 on May 5 and 6. This annual event is a spectacular lifesaving weekend during which more than 2,500 shelters in all 50 states and 29 foreign countries join together to find permanent homes for all the pets in their care. Since the league founded Pet Adoptathon in 1995, more than 100,000 orphaned pets have been placed in excellent adoptive homes. As impressive as this total sounds, NSAL America and Pet Adoptathon shelters want to do even more.

The league — and all participating organizations around the world — implore animal lovers to adopt a dog, cat, puppy or kitten during the Pet Adoptathon weekend on May 5 and 6. Last year, our combined efforts saved the lives of tens of thousands of pets worldwide. This year, we hope another 40,000 animals will be adopted by kind and caring folks.

For the name of the Pet Adoptathon shelter near you, call toll-free: 1-877-BE-MY-PAL (1-877-236-9725) or visit the Web site — J. John Stevenson, president, North Shore Animal League America

Dear John: Thank you for the exciting news about your pet adoption programs for 2001. Your mobile adoption center reminds me of the saying, "If Mohammad can't go to the mountain, the mountain will go to Mohammad." I'm sure your efforts will be greeted with enthusiasm by animal lovers everywhere.

Readers, if you have been longing for a pet and thinking about buying one, please open your hearts and homes to a loving shelter pet. They have so much love to give, and all of it can be yours if you participate in this year's North Shore Animal League's Adoptathon. Purr-purr, woof-woof! — and away we go!

Dear Abby: My sister gave birth to her first child a few months ago. He was a beautiful baby, called home by God on the day he was born. My sister is an incredibly strong person, but I know she's hurting more than she lets on.

With Mother's Day approaching, I am wondering if it would be appropriate to give her a Mother's Day card. I don't want to make her sadder than she already is, but I also don't want her to think I've forgotten or don't care. I'm not sure what I should do. — Grieving Aunt in New York

Dear Grieving: I am very sorry you lost your precious nephew. My heart goes out to you and his dear mother.

Yes, by all means, acknowledge your sister's loss — but not with a traditional Happy Mother's Day card. Select a beautiful blank card and write your own personal message of remembrance.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips. To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.) © Universal Press Syndicate