If you look closely at the photo Christi Weber shot of her cat, Miss Kitty, you can see the white lights of a Christmas tree reflected in her yellow-green eyes.
But when Weber, of Colwich, looks in Miss Kitty's eyes, she sees contentment and gratitude —"how happy she is to be loved and to have a home."
Weber won first place and a $50 gift card to a pet store for her entry in The Eagle's 11th annual Holiday Pet Photo Contest.
Second place and a $20 gift card went to Jamie Smith of Park City, for her photo of her Yorkshire terrier, Izzie, snoozing in front of the fireplace, and third place and a $10 gift card went to Catrencia Davis of Wichita for her photo of Sophie, a grumpy-faced Brussels griffon, dressed as Santa.
Three years ago, Christi Weber was driving near Andale when she saw a cat by the side of the road that had been hit by a car.
She could tell the cat was injured, but it was holding its head up, as if to say, "I'm still here — someone please help me," Weber said.
Weber took the cat to her veterinarian, who at first said it had a 50/50 chance of making it.
But X-rays revealed no broken bones or internal injuries, Weber said. "She was bruised and in shock, but she would survive."
An assistant at the vet clinic told Weber that in spite of her obvious pain, the cat purred throughout her treatment.
"I ended up keeping her, and she has just seemed grateful ever since," Weber said. "I fell in love with her because she was such a sweet cat."
Weber says Miss Kitty is a very loving, sociable kitty who can be a little ornery. She likes to be involved in anything Weber is doing, whether it's typing on the computer, tying shoelaces or doing laundry.
Weber says what she loves most about Miss Kitty is her "uncanny human-like personality."
"In her eyes, I see the pain she endured, and the gratitude she feels for being rescued," she said.
"That is the feeling I see in her eyes in this photo I took by the Christmas tree. She is happy to be home, and happy to be loved — the perfect Christmas gift of all."
Jamie Smith was trying to get a photo of Izzie, her 8-month-old Yorkie, sitting in front of the fireplace to use as a Christmas card.
"She was getting mad; she didn't want to pose for me," Smith said. "She was pouting.
"Finally she laid down and went to sleep, and I took a picture of her laying down."
Izzie is a typical terrier, Smith says: alert, independent, mischievous and a tomboy —"she doesn't act like a girl" — but very loving and affectionate.
"Izzie has probably the most outgoing personality I've ever seen in a dog. She definitely has character," Smith said.
"She greets everyone in the family with a lot of hugs and kisses. She will attack you with kisses."
Smith says Izzie has her own Facebook page and is "an only child pretty much, so I spoil her rotten."
"She's already conceited," Smith said. Getting her picture in the paper, she said, "will make it even worse."
Sophie is a 4-year-old female Brussels griffon, although in the photo Catrencia Davis submitted, she admits with a laugh, "she looks like a little old man."
Sophie likes to wear a sweater, Davis said, so she didn't mind posing in a Santa suit, although her usually tolerant disposition did not extend to wearing a Santa hat.
Davis describes Sophie as a "very gentle, compassionate dog" who is "very kind to other dogs."
"Of course, she likes to bark, but she's just a very sweet little dog," she said.
Davis said she decided to enter the photo in the contest because Sophie's Grinch-y expression made her family and friends laugh.
"She's a little bit tired and she had a little grumpy look on her face," she said.
"I took it late in the evening, and she's a morning dog."