independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Blind man saved by ageing guide dog can keep clever canine

Cecil Williams recovering in hospital with hero guide dog Orlando (AP)

A New York blind man saved by his ageing guide dog after he fell onto subway tracks can keep the animal after cash donations poured in.

Orlando went onto the subway tracks with Cecil Williams, 61, when the man lost consciousness and fell from a station platform.

Mr Williams and Orlando both escaped serious injury when they were bumped by a train passing over them - a miraculous end to a harrowing ordeal that began when he felt faint on his way to the dentist.

Witnesses said Orlando barked frantically and tried to stop Mr Williams from tumbling off the platform. Matthew Martin told the New York Post that Orlando leaped onto the tracks as the train approached and licked Mr Williams to get him to move.

Michelle Brier, a spokeswoman for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, which provides working dogs for free but cannot cover retired dogs' expenses, said today that "as of right now," Mr Williams plans to keep Orlando as a pet after Orlando retires and he gets a new working dog early next year.

"The spirit of giving, Christmas ... exists in New York," a tearful Mr Williams said calling the outpouring of money and good will a "miracle".

Ms Brier said that "it's an emotional time" and the organisation will support whatever path he ultimately takes. The family that raised Orlando has said it would be thrilled to take in Orlando if Mr Williams is unable to care for two dogs.

"I'm not a crybaby or nothing. But my eyes are misty and I'm tearing right now because things like this here don't happen for everybody," Mr Williams said in hospital. "They should happen. We should care about one another. We should do for one another. But it's not always that way."

Mr Williams expressed gratitude to all of the people involved in his rescue and those who donated money to help him keep his "best buddy."

He urged the public to support other disabled people who need guide dogs. Guiding Eyes said any leftover donations would be used for that purpose.

Mr Williams doesn't remember much about the subway incident because he lost consciousness. He recalls that Orlando tried to brace him against the fall and thinks momentum may have propelled the harnessed dog onto the tracks with him.

"He stayed with me. He was licking my face," Mr Williams said. "He's a very gentle gentleman."

AP

Press Association

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