Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blind man saved by guide dog who licked him awake after he fell onto subway tracks

There was a New York Christmas miracle at 125th Street Station on Tuesday when a blind man and his guide dog survived being runover by a subway train after they both fell onto the tracks - but now the two friends face being separated because his owner can't afford to care for him.

Cecil Williams, 61, was making his way to the dentist at 9.30 am 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.'

Now he is also coming to terms with the fact that his health insurance will not cover the cost of keeping Orlando when he retires next year as a non-working dog.

But in the hours since his plight was made public, members of the public have set up a fund-raising campaign in his name giving him some hope of staying with Orlando.

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.'

As Williams regained consciousness, he heard someone telling him to be still. Emergency workers put him on a stretcher and pulled him from the subway, and made sure the dog was not badly injured.

'I'm feeling amazed,' Williams said. 'I feel that God, the powers that be, have something in store from me. 

They didn't take me away this time. I'm here for a reason.'

Police said both Williams and the dog were taken to a hospital where they were expected to recover. Williams says he is not sure why he lost consciousness, but he is on insulin and other medications.

Orlando, a seriously laid-back dog, was at the hospital making new friends — and he will be rewarded with some type of special treat, Williams said, and will be given plenty of affection and scratches behind the ears.

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, Williams said. His health insurance will not cover the cost of a non-working dog, so he will be looking for a good home for him.

If he had the money, Williams said, 'I would definitely keep him.'

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