Seeing eye cat, 1947
Baby the seeing-eye cat, 1947.Loran F. Smith—The LIFE Picture Collection
Seeing eye cat, 1947
Seeing eye cat, 1947
Seeing eye cat, 1947
Seeing eye cat, 1947
Seeing eye cat, 1947
Seeing eye cat, 1947
Seeing eye cat, 1947
Seeing eye cat, 1947
Baby the seeing-eye cat, 1947.
Loran F. Smith—The LIFE Picture Collection
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Meet the Award-Winning Seeing-Eye Cat

Apr 07, 2015

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.

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