A Letter From The Publisher, Dec. 23, 1974

The young beagle on our cover is the seventh animal to achieve that distinction without being accompanied by its owner. The earlier covers sported race horses and canine celebrities. This week's dog is a relative nobody who symbolizes America's exploding pet population, the subject of our cover story. For those involved, the story has been a labor of love. For, like millions of Americans, many TIME staffers own creatures ranging from dogs and cats to exotic breeds of tropical fish and reptiles.

Senior Writer Michael Demarest, author of the cover story, developed an affinity for animals on his father's farm in Essex,...

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