Cashew, named for the shape of her ears, was a yellow Labrador-cross dog who was picked up as a puppy from the local American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) centre and went to live with the Burns family in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

Libby_and_CashewWhen the dog was about seven years old, in 1998, postal delivery worker Terry Burns came across two malnourished kittens huddling in a box in a pet shop and took them home to give them some love and care. He named the orange tabby Libby, because her fur was the colour of Libby’s brand of canned pumpkins, and her shyer sister he called Lucy. He was not sure they would survive, but they thrived and grew into handsome cats.


Over the years, a friendship developed between Libby and Cashew. As time went by, Cashew became weaker and increasingly blind and deaf. She needed more assistance from her humans – and Burns noticed that Libby spent more and more time with the dog too, even sleeping in her kennel with her. The dog’s feline friend took on the role of Cashew’s personal guide, and they became inseparable. When Cashew was taken on a lead for her daily walk in nearby woods, Libby would sometimes follow, seeming to be concerned for her friend’s well-being. At home or outside, the cat would help by nuzzling Cashew’s shoulder and steering her away from obstacles such as trees or furniture, so that she wouldn’t bump into them. At mealtimes she would guide the dog towards her food and water dishes. It was a remarkable friendship, and without it Cashew would likely have been very lonely.

When the inevitable happened and Cashew died, for some time Libby would wander in and out of the kennel where they had shared a bed; but then she seemed to realise her friend had gone for good, and no longer showed any interest in the kennel or in walking in the woods. Instead she made herself a new home in a different part of the property with her littermate Lucy and Gracie, a silver tabby that Burns found abandoned on his postal route.

Terry Burns’ mother had entered Libby in a ‘Hero Pet’ photo contest run by Reader’s Digest – and her story was picked up by the ASPCA. She was chosen as the ASPCA’s ‘Cat of the Year’ in 2008 for her remarkable service as an intuitive and extraordinary guide for a disabled canine.  Libby herself couldn’t attend the presentation lunch at ASPCA’s headquarters in New York, but the Burns family proudly received the prestigious award on her behalf. As for Libby, she has started to get along with Besse, the family’s large but gentle new black Labrador. 


Editor’s note: this article appeared in summer 2011 issue of THE CAT – the magazine published by Cat’s Protection. It was an extract taken from by Patrick Roberts and I contacted Patrick and asked for his permission to publish it on the Daily Mews website. Thankfully, he agreed and my heartfelt thanks go to Patrick for his kindness.

To read more of Patrick’s delightful stories, feline fables, folios and fun, log on to his website:

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