KITTEN in the

It's Christmas at Animal Ark. This year the village of Welford is planning a special event to raise money to send sick little Alex Hastings to a hospital in America. Alex has a pet kitten, Amber, whom she loves more than anything. So when Amber mysteriously vanishes into the cold, Alex is heartbroken. Can Mandy and James find Amber in time - and give Alex her best Christmas present ever?

Sample Chapter

Chapter One

"Mandy, are you sure you know what you're doing?" Grandpa Hope asked as she lifted Smoky onto the kitchen table at Lilac Cottage.

Grandma tut-tutted. "For goodness sake, Tom, you can see that the cat is in good hands. Stop fretting and let Mandy get on with it." She bustled to fetch a small bottle of cleanser, a bowl of hot water, and some cotton balls.

"We'll need a towel," Mandy warned. "Smoky won't like having his ears cleaned. He'll try to shake his head. The cleanser gets everywhere."

Grandpa brought a striped red towel and spread it on the table. "That stuff's not too hot, is it?"

Mandy dipped the bottle into the hot water, while Smoky strolled up and down to investigate.

"Tom!" Grandma said. "Why don't you go into the living room and read a nice gardening magazine until we're finished in here? I don't know about Mandy, but you're making me nervous!"

Mandy grinned. "It's OK. It doesn't bother me." Her Grandpa worried about two things in life, his garden and his cat. It was Grandpa who'd noticed something was wrong with Smoky's ear in the first place. He told Mandy that Smoky was always scratching it and shaking his head. Mandy has gone back to Animal Ark and asked her Mom and Dad what it could be.

"Ear mites," Adam Hope had suggested. "The bites could be infected." He'd stopped by the cottage to take a look and left Mandy there to treat poor Smoky's condition.

"Don't look!" Grandma told Grandpa, as Mandy settled Smoky and gently took hold of the scruff of his neck. "Do you need and help, Mandy?"

She shook her head. "Smoky's a good boy, aren't you? You're not going to struggle." Speaking soothingly, Mandy very carefully put a drop or two of lukewarm liquid into the cat's ear. "See, it's not too horrible, is it?"

Smoky opened his mouth wide and meowed.

"There." She massaged a spot just below his ear.

"What's that for?" Grandpa ventured forward for a closer look.

"To soften the earwax. I have to clear it out before I put some other drops in." She worked patiently, glad that Smoky didn't fidget. Taking a cotton ball, she wiped cleanser from the ear canal.

"Oops!" Grandpa stepped back, as suddenly Smoky shook his head. Drops splashed onto the towel.

"Almost done," Mandy promised. She finished off with a cotton swab, easing it down the ear to clean out the tiny, delicate folds of skin. Then Grandma handed her the bottle of medicine that Adam Hope had given them. Mandy held the dropper to the infected ear and let three or four drops fall. A quick final massage and the job was done.

"Will that do the trick?" Grandpa asked.

Mandy handed Smoky over to him. "Yes. The drops will kill the mites and cure the infection." She'd seen it done many times at the clinic, but this was the first time she had been trusted to do it herself. She felt pleased that it had gone well.

"Excellent!" Grandpa beamed at her. "We'll make a vet of you yet."

"I hope so," Mandy sighed. She longed to follow in her mom and dad's footsteps and run the clinic with them.

"Long hours, lots of stress," Grandma reminded her. She cleared the table and put on a clean cloth. "It's not an easy job."

But Mandy couldn't think of anything she'd rather do. She'd always loved animals. "More than people," her dad would joke. She spent most of her spare time lending a hand at Animal Ark with sick cats, dogs, hedgehogs; any animal that needed help. With her shoulder-length blond hair and slight figure, Mandy could often be spotted around Welford village looking for animals in trouble.

Grandpa stroked Smoky under the chin. "You have a way with them, that's for sure. Doesn't she, Smoky?"

The young gray cat purred his agreement.

"Hardly any time off." Grandma went on pointing out all the minus points about being a vet. "Look at your mom and dad. It's almost Christmas, and they're busier than ever."

Now that the kitchen table was back to normal, Mandy followed her Grandma into the living room and helped her lift a big cardboard box full of Christmas decorations down from a closet. She peered inside at the silver baubles and colored lights. "It's because of the cold," she explained. "Animals seem to have more accidents and illnesses this time of year."

"Just like human beings, when you come to think about it." Grandpa put Smoky down on his favorite red cushion on the sofa and came to help. "Coughs and colds, snuffles and sneezes."