Written By: Eliza Berman

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 edited this gallery for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

Seeing eye cat, 1947

Baby the seeing-eye cat, 1947.

Loran F. Smith The LIFE Picture Collection

Seeing eye cat, 1947

Baby poses with his medal of honor, 1947.

Loran F. Smith The LIFE Picture Collection

Seeing eye cat, 1947

Baby guided his owner down the street, 1947.

Loran F. Smith The LIFE Picture Collection

Seeing eye cat, 1947

Carolyn Swanson and Baby stopped to talk to a neighbor, 1947.

Loran F. Smith The LIFE Picture Collection

Seeing eye cat, 1947

Baby the seeing-eye cat led his owner in her home, 1947.

Loran F. Smith The LIFE Picture Collection

Seeing eye cat, 1947

Baby ate a meal, 1947.

Loran F. Smith The LIFE Picture Collection

Seeing eye cat, 1947

Carolyn Swanson and her seeing-eye cat, 1947.

Loran F. Smith The LIFE Picture Collection

Seeing eye cat, 1947

Baby the seeing-eye cat, 1947.

Loran F. Smith The LIFE Picture Collection

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