Seeing-eye dog risks life to rescue blind man in NY subway

Here’s a reminder of courage and unconditional love — from one of God’s noblest creations.

When blind Cecil Williams, fell off a subway platform in Harlem, NY, Orlando the seeing-eye dog bravely leapt on the subway tracks to rescue his owner.

Happily, both survived.

Cecil WilliamsCecil Williams and Orlando

Kevin Fasick, Daniel Prendergast and Rebecca Harshbarger report for the New York Post, December 17, 2013, that Cecil Williams, 60, was heading to the dentist when he felt faint about 9:30 a.m. on the uptown A train platform.

His guide dog, a black labrador named Orlando, was trained to keep him from going over the edge — and tried to hold him up. Witnesses said the dog was barking and trying to pull him, but Williams still fell.

Matthew Martin, 54, said that the dog never hesitated: “He went down, and the dog jumped down. He wasn’t pulled. He was kissing him, trying to get him to move.”

Witnesses said they heard an express train approaching less than a minute after Williams plunged to the tracks, and tried to alert the motorman. Straphangers shouted, alerting subway workers. A construction flagger told Williams to stay in the trough between the rails.

During the commotion, Orlando stayed by William’s side.

“He was definitely this man’s best friend. When the train was coming, the dog didn’t move,” said Ana Quinones, 53, of Morningside Heights. “The dog was loyal to his master. He tried to save him. He was trying to pull him away when he was too close to the edge. He risked his own life to save his owner.”

Although the train operator slammed on his brake, one and a half cars passed over Williams and Orlando.

Captain Daniel O’Sullivan from FDNY Engine 37 said the two were in a trough in the middle of the tracks. Transit officers first pulled out the pooch, then firefighters rescued Williams using a backboard and neck brace.

Williams cut his head, but was not badly hurt, and Orlando was unscathed. Williams was treated at St. Luke’s Hospital.

Former neighbor Peter Ayala, 38, said Williams has always depended on Orlando: “He was always with his dog, he really depended on his dog. Holy God. I’m so happy that’s he okay. He could have been ripped to shreds on those tracks!”

Williams said he wasn’t sure why he fainted, but he does take insulin and other medications. He became blind 18 years ago from meningitis while he was working at a Brooklyn warehouse doing physical work.Beverage importer Rachael Israeli, 62, said, “He was a real handyman. He could fix anything. He was strong as an ox, but he was also pleasant to be around. He never complained. He was just the sweetest guy.” Israeli said her family has prayed for his health for the past almost two decades, and were sad to hear he had fallen this morning. “Thank God he had that big dog to look after him,” she said.

From his hospital bed, Cecil Williams told the Associated Press, his voice breaking: “The dog saved my life. I’m feeling amazed. I feel that God, the powers that be, having something in store from me. They didn’t take me away this time. I’m here for a reason.”

He said he will give Orlando a special treat, as well as affection and scratches behind his ear. But Williams said the seeing eye dog will retire soon, and he has to find a new home for him since insurance won’t cover a non-working dog.

H/t Canada Free Press and FOTM’s Wild Bill Alaska

~Eowyn

8 responses to “Seeing-eye dog risks life to rescue blind man in NY subway

  1. Sorry, but I don’t understand why Orlando’s retiring, as it seems to me that he has a full-time job looking after Cecil Williams. Anyone out there who knows why, please let me know. Thanks!

    • From Guide Dogs of America:

      A guide dog’s working life is about 6 to 8 years (they begin working at about 2 1/2 years old.) When it is time to retire a guide dog, the guide dog user has the choice to keep the dog as a pet, give it to a family member, or return the dog to Guide Dogs of America. Sometimes it is difficult on the retired guide dog to keep it as a pet because it may become jealous or depressed over the new guide dog partner.

      Retired guide dogs returned to Guide Dogs of America are put into our Adoption Program. We first contact the dog’s original Puppy Raisers and ask if they wish to adopt the dog. If they do not, the guide dog is given to a prescreened individual from our adoption waiting list who wishes to adopt the dog. Currently there is a 4-6 year wait to adopt a ‘career change’ dog or retired guide dog.

      • From the pic, Orlando has grey around his mouth. That noble-hearted labrador is old. Tears . . . .

        • Agreed, re Orlando’s age, but it will surely be a difficult transition all around, so I thought it better they should be together, but I guess the Society knows this and has evolved the best policy. Still, very sad….

          • Cecil Williams has the option to keep Orlando by permanently adopting him, but he has chosen not to because “his insurance” won’t cover it. As if one must be a millionaire to feed and shelter a dog. [snark]

  2. Reblogged this on Sherlockian's Blog and commented:
    Proof that miracles do happen.

  3. Pingback: Seeing-eye dog risks life to rescue blind man in NY subway |

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