A blind man rescued by his aging guide dog after he fell onto the subway tracks in New York last month has a new guide dog — plus a new pet, thanks to donations that have allowed him to also keep the longtime companion that saved his life.
Cecil Williams fainted while waiting for a train in upper Manhattan last month, tumbling off a subway platform and onto the tracks below. Orlando, his black Labrador guide dog, jumped down to the tracks and huddled on top of Williams as an oncoming train screeched to a halt above them.
Williams credits Orlando for saving his life because although both were struck, they received only minor injuries.
“Orlando was like my angel, and he's always been that since I got him,” Williams said. “We work together. I protect him and he protects me.”
But at age 11, Orlando was ready to retire from service, and Williams’ insurance would only pay for an active working dog. After widespread media attention to the story, anonymous donors pitched in to allow Orlando to stay on with his master, who just received a new guide dog.
Godiva, a yellow Labrador, recently graduated from her training program at Guiding Eyes for the Blind and can now focus full-time on following in the paw prints of her role model, Orlando.
“After a while, Orlando will learn he can put his feet up and it's going to be Godiva's turn to work,” said Michelle Brier, a spokeswoman for the organization.
Williams said he has been moved to tears by the generous spirit of donors who allowed him to keep both dogs.
“The spirit of good will, it exists,” he said. “In the world you see a lot of negative things, but I try focus on the positive.”
Williams said he feels incredibly lucky to have both Orlando and Godiva around to protect him from harm.
“I feel that I was blessed with Orlando, right? And now I’m being blessed again,” he said. “He saved me, and now she's coming along to carry on where he left off.”