In the market for a pet that's smallish in stature but biggish in personality and affection? Allow us to introduce two — one dog, one cat — that are among the sweetest we've ever met.

In the dog department we find Rio, This funny-looking beagle mix combines the markings of a beagle with the body type of a small terrier. Rio just turned 1 year old and still has plenty of energy for long walks and playing with toys, yet he also loves relaxing and cuddling. At less then 26 pounds, he'd be a great fit for any individual or family that's looking for a canine friend.

On the other hand (er, paw), if a cat's more your speed, consider Java, a declawed kitty who's waiting patiently — again — for her forever home. Twice now, she's been adopted, only to be returned to the shelter both times. Her first adoption failed because another cat in the home kept bullying her, and Java, with her soft personality, didn't stand a chance. Realizing, perhaps, that because she'd been declawed she'd wouldn't be able to defend herself, she went into hiding. The second adoption went better, but unfortunately, due to issues related to the humans in the house, poor Java wound up back at the shelter again. This girl is so sweet. She gives real hugs when you pick her up, greets everyone with a purr, and even likes other cats, so long as they're gentle with her.

Even though Java appears to have survived declawing with her overall adjustment intact, we must say we're not fans of the practice. Too often we've seen it lead to health and behavior issues, such as aggression and litter-box problems. Declawing a cat is the equivalent of amputating a person's fingertips, and you can just imagine how difficult daily life would be with chopped-off fingers. If, for whatever reason, you feel you must have a declawed cat, please check with your local animal shelter first and ask if there's a cat up for adoption that's already been declawed. (P.A.W.S. has two right now, and, happily, both are healthy and well-adjusted.) Remember that declawed cats must never be allowed outdoors, as they can neither defend themselves against other animals nor climb trees to escape.

One thing we at the shelter can't seem to escape is the ever-pressing need for volunteers. Now that the kids are going back to school, we've had to say farewell to some of our young volunteers who helped us out during summer vacation. So if you love animals and would like to volunteer where your efforts will be truly appreciated, come join our team; mornings, between 9 and 11 a.m., are when we need help most. We're also looking to hire a few, part-time, shelter attendants. To apply for either type of position, please drop by the shelter at 123 John St. in Camden and ask for an application, or call us at 236-8702.