Friends…Best Friends

Posted on by Mary Shafer

My favorite movie is a sweet southern confection called “Fried Green Tomatoes,” based on the intriguing book by Fannie Flagg.

Starring Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates, this movie is essentially about friendship in all its different guises and intensities. In fact, in the last line of the movie, Tandy’s character, Ninny Threadgoode, tells Bates’ character, Evelyn Couch: “You reminded me of what the most important thing in life is. You know what I think it is? Friends…best friends.” (Warning: Spoiler for the end below. If you haven’t already seen the movie and want to, don’t play this excerpt.)

What does all this have to do with disabled pets? Well, a few things, actually. First of all, I happen to believe we’re all somewhat disabled in different ways without friends. But that’s a discussion all its own. The main reason I’ve posted this here is that a heartwarming story about best friends has come to my attention: the story of Libby and Cashew.

Seems that in 1998, a six-week-old kitten was found abandoned in a pet store, so severely malnourished that a veterinarian warned she was unlikely to survive. She was taken home by Terry and Deborah Burns of Middleburg, Pennsylvania. That’s my home state, right around my old stomping grounds while I was growing up.

Terry and Deborah soon discovered that her rough start would not deter this intuitive little feline—whom they named Libby—from performing a very special task.

In her new home, the kitten met the Burns’s seven-year-old Lab/shar pei mix, Cashew. Terry Burns remembers how their relationship began: “Cashew would poke her head into the kitten box for nuzzles, seemingly just to let Libby know that she wasn’t alone.” The two spent the next seven years together.

By the time Cashew was 13 years old, she’d lost her sight and hearing. Libby, who’d had no training as a therapy pet, began to care for her friend. She guided Cashew by the shoulder to her food and water dish, through doorways and to her dog crate, where the two slept together.

If Cashew walked too close to the furniture, Libby would immediately position herself between the canine and the item, to keep her from colliding. “Libby was also protective about people entering their sleeping area,” says Burns. “If we came in, she would look intently at us as if to say, ‘Please stay quiet. I just got her settled and sleeping.’”

When Cashew was taken on her daily walks around the property, Libby—who liked to hang out on the patio instead of being indoors—would randomly show up. “It was as if she was checking on us to make sure we were providing proper supervision for Cashew,” says Terry. “After taking a look, she would race back to the house and wait at the driveway for her friend to return.”

When Cashew passed away at age 15, Libby missed her deeply, and continued to sleep in their bed and watch for her return. “The only time they had ever been apart was when Cashew went for her walks,” says Terry.

For being an intuitive and extraordinary guide cat, Libby was named the ASPCA Cat of the Year for 2008, and this ten-year-old tabby shows no signs of giving up her post as caretaker. Burns informs us, “Libby has now moved on to protecting her shy feline sister, Lucy.”

Just goes to show that you never know from which direction love will flow. I wish you all at least one Best Friend in your life. If you’ve got that, consider yourself truly blessed.

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