We can only imagine the reasons why Carolyn Swanson forewent the traditional seeing-eye dog in favor of a Persian cat named Baby. Perhaps she was allergic, or afraid, or simply too attached to Baby to consider a canine replacement. Whatever the reason, LIFE Magazine dispatched a photographer to capture their special relationship in 1947, creating a series of photographs that never appeared in the magazine’s pages.
Swanson kept the white cat on a tight leash, lest a squirrel send him running. Baby, in turn, guided her over thresholds and across streets. And his service did not go unrecognized. A clipping from a local newspaper announced that Baby was awarded a medal “for faithful devotion to his blind mistress.” Though the cat posed stoically with his medallion, he seemed to favor a more humble reward: a heaping plate of cat food.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.