The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Blind Man Can Keep Hero Dog Who Saved His Life After Falling Off of Subway Tracks in New York - Receives $45,000 in Donations The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Blind Man Can Keep Hero Dog Who Saved His Life After Falling Off of Subway Tracks in New York - Receives $45,000 in Donations

Monday, December 23, 2013

Blind Man Can Keep Hero Dog Who Saved His Life After Falling Off of Subway Tracks in New York - Receives $45,000 in Donations

The blind man who thought he would have to say goodbye to the guide dog who helped save his life when they both toppled into the path of an oncoming New York subway train on Tuesday will now get to keep his loyal companion of eight years.

Donations totaling more than $45,000 have flooded in since it was revealed that Cecil Williams, 61, would not be able to stay with 10-year-old Orlando because his insurance wouldn't cover his best friend when he retired.

At an emotional press conference at St. Luke's Hospital today, a teary Williams thanked strangers nationwide for their kindness saying, "Orlando, he is my best buddy, he's my pal. The spirit of giving, Christmas, it exists here and it's in New York."

Cecil Williams, 60, was standing on the subway platform at 125th Street in Harlem, Manhattan on Tuesday when he felt dizzy and fell to the tracks, police said.

Williams' 11-year-old black Labrador, Orlando, who had tried to hold him up, fell with him and just as a train was approaching the station woke him by licking his face.

Clutching his dog, the blind man flattened himself in the space between the rails as the train moved into the station. The lead car passed over them, as terrified witnesses screamed for the train to stop.

"I feel that it's a blessing, I feel that it's a miracle," said Williams. "All the people that contributed or donated, we should take our hat off to them. There's still good people in this world."

"I appreciate that people got together and helped me to keep Orlando. It is going to to cover him for the rest of his life."

Williams raised a smile when he noted that Orlando will deserve his retirement.

"He’s a senior citizen -- he’s got grey hair," Williams explained. "He’s looking forward to enjoying life now."

And when Williams gets a new guide dog, Orlando will be able to stay with Williams and his partner as a pet.

"For me, I know that angels, miracles, that’s what saved me down on the track."

Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the guide dog school that trained Orlando, said they have been fielding hundreds of inquiries about whether Williams will be forced to give Orlando up for adoption in January when he retires from his job and loses his current insurance plan.

"We recognize everyone's concern about Orlando's future - whether he stays with Cecil or goes back to the loving home of his puppy raiser, please know he will be honored like the hero he is," the group said in a statement.

Several donation web pages were created in an effort to raise enough money to keep the pair together.

"Come January, Cecil's insurance will no longer cover the cost to care for Orlando," the crowd funding platform Indiegogo said on its page. "Please help these two stay together!"

Donations on the site have already reached $19,000 and on the site, more than 600 people have donated more than $21,000 for the cause.

'"Guide dogs serve a purpose, and they are very loyal and they are very good," said Williams according to the New York Daily News, as he battled back tears.

"Orlando, he’s my best buddy. He’s my pal. He takes me on the train. He takes me on the buses. He takes me everywhere I need to go. He’s a very gentle, gentleman," he said.

"He was there. He’s always with me. When I travel on the train or bus, he’s next to me. He’s always watching out for me. He’s always looking for me. When I go on the street, he guides me through traffic, guides me through sidewalks. So he’s always looking out for me. That’s his job," Williams said.

Yesterday the nation was gifted a Christmas miracle when they heard of how Williams and Orlando survived their terrifying brush with death.

Cecil Williams, 61, was making his way to the dentist at 9.30 am on Tuesday with his 10-year-old black Labrador Orlando when he suddenly felt faint and began to wobble perilously close to the edge of the platform.

His longtime buddy desperately tried to hold him back from falling by pulling at his leash.

They both tumbled onto the tracks where Orlando managed to wake Cecil by licking his face just in time for them both to duck into the middle trench between the tracks.

"The dog saved my life," said Williams from his St. Luke’s Hospital bed, "He tried to hold me up."

Witnesses said the dog was barking frantically and tried to stop Williams from falling, but they both fell to the tracks when Williams fainted.

"The dog was trying to pull him away from the southbound edge of the platform, but his feet were on the edge, he was wobbling, and the dog was barking," said Ana Quinones, 53, to the New York Post.

Despite Orlando's best efforts, he and his owner toppled onto the tracks - just as an uptown A train was approaching the station.

"But there was nothing he could do once he was down there. He just sat there with the man. He just licked the man’s face trying to get him to move," said Quinones.

As horrified commuters watched an employee of the MTA shouted down to Cecil who by now was sitting upright on the tracks not to move and to lie down in the trench between the tracks.

The train, whose driver had seen the two slammed its breaks on and then rolled two carts over Orlando and Cecil.

The train's motorman slowed the subway cars while witness called for help. Cecil and Orlando were not struck by the train and only Cecil suffered a gash to his head - presumably from the fall.

Cecil said he was astonished by the help from emergency crews and bystanders on the platform.

"Everyone was screaming, everyone was shaking in horror. We heard someone on the other side scream he’s fine, he’s alive!" said student Ashley Prenza to the New York Post.

"It was a big relief for everyone."

FDNY Capt. Danny O’Sullivan, a 17-year FDNY veteran told the New York Daily News someone must have been watching out for Williams and Orlando.

"We checked out under the train and found that he was not trapped; he was just in between the rails. It must have been a lucky day for him. This definitely is a miracle."


Thanks: Blind man Cecil Williams (L) speaks about his guide dog Orlando as his partner Cynthia holds the leash during a press conference in New York December 18, 2013.

Emotional: Blind man Cecil Williams pets his service dog Orlando as he is hugged by police officer Anthony Duncan (left) following a press conference in New York December 18, 2013.

Blind man Cecil Williams speaks to the press with his service animal Orlando by his side in New York December 18, 2013. Williams fell on the subway tracks with Orlando even as the dog tried to pull him away.

Best friends: Blind man Cecil Williams speaks about his service dog Orlando during a press conference in New York December 18, 2013.

                                              Thankful: "The dog saved my life," Williams said, his voice breaking at times

Man and his friend: Cecil Williams pets his guide dog Orlando in his hospital bed following a fall onto subway tracks from the platform, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, in New York.

Thanks buddy: Williams, of Brooklyn, has been blind since 1995, and Orlando is his second dog. The lab will be 11 on Jan. 5, and will be retiring soon.

Slight injury: Williams, 61 and blind, says he fainted while holding onto his black Labrador who tried to save him from falling.

Tough day: Cecil Williams, 61, told The Associated Press from his hospital bed that he was on his way to the dentist during the morning rush hour when he felt faint on the 125th Street platform.