NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The guide dog that leaped onto subway tracks after his blind owner lost consciousness and fell off a station platform is assured a loving home after his retirement.
Cecil Williams, who has been recovering at a hospital with Orlando still by his side, had been slated to get another working dog in January or February to replace the 11-year-old black Lab.
His medical benefits will cover a new guide dog, but won’t pay for a non-working dog.
Guiding Eyes, based in Yorktown Heights, provides working dogs for free but cannot cover retired dogs’ expenses.
“Orlando is my best buddy, he’s my pal,” Williams said Wednesday during a news conference at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. “He takes me everywhere I need to go. He’s a very gentle gentleman.”
When word got out that Williams couldn’t afford to keep the black lab as a pet the donations began pouring in.
A pair of anonymous donors will cover all of Orlando’s expenses as he sails into retirement and remains by Williams’ side, 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reported.
“They told me that somebody was nice enough. So this is what I want to say. Christmas and the spirit of giving it exists here and it’s in New York,” Williams told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider.
The black lab bravely leapt onto the tracks Tuesday morning after Williams, 61, lost consciousness and tumbled in front of an oncoming train at the 125th Street station.
Witnesses said Orlando began barking frantically and tried to stop Williams from falling from the platform.
“I tried to scream at him to come in because he was near the tracks and then he fell down to the tracks and he pulled the dog in with him and the train was approaching,” witness Ana Quinones said.
“We saw when he fell down to the tracks and his dog fell with him and everyone started freaking out,” said witness Danya Gutierez.
Orlando began nudging and licking his owner, trying to wake him and get him out of harm’s way. Witnesses called for help and the train’s motorman slowed his approach as Williams and Orlando lay in the trench between the rails.
“I yelled at him to stay down as train was coming in,” Quinones said.
“When the train came in, I screamed really loud, because I didn’t know what happened to him,” said Gutierez. “I thought he was hit.”
Both escaped serious injury when the train passed over them.
Cecil Williams Speaks With Reporters
As Williams regained consciousness, he said he heard someone telling him to be still. Emergency workers put him on a stretcher and pulled him from the subway and made sure Orlando was not badly injured.
“He was semi-coherent, asked how his dog was,” FDNY Engine 37 Capt. Daniel O’Sullivan. “Told him the dog was OK. A police officer had his dog.”
“The dog saved my life,” Williams said. “(He) gets me around and saves my life on a daily basis.”
Orlando’s trainer, Jessy DiNapoli, told CBS 2’s Schneider that the black lab was a quick study.
“He was easy but the situation he encountered yesterday is a situation you can never train or prepare them for, and to have him respond in the manner that he did is just amazing,” DiNapoli said.
Williams, a large bandage on his head, said he is not sure why he lost consciousness, but he is on insulin and other medications. He was taken to a hospital where he is expected to recover, with Orlando at his bedside.
Williams said Wednesday that he’s “feeling a little bit better” but wasn’t sure how long he’d be hospitalized.
“My head is still a little sore where they put the staples in. There are bruises on my body,” he said. “They’ve still got to run the tests, trying to find out what caused it.”
Williams has been blind since 1995 and Orlando is his second dog. Of his plans for the future, Williams said that he does plan to ride the subway again.
Guiding Eyes says it has a fund that helps people like Williams care for their dogs. If you’d like to donate to their program, visit www.guidingeyes.org.
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