Cecil Williams was standing on a subway platform at 125th Street in Manhattan on Tuesday when he lost consciousness and fell onto the tracks, taking his seeing-eye dog, Orlando, with him.
“He was trying to pull me back, but when you have a dog in a harness, I guess, I fell over and he fell over with me,” Williams said at a press conference Wednesday. “He stayed down there with me. He was licking my face and was doing some things, but he was there for me.”
The subway train stopped on top of the pair, but, miraculously, they both made it out alive. Williams credits Orlando for that.
Heartbreakingly, Williams told reporters it might be the last chance Orlando has to save him: The Labrador is turning 11 in early January, the age at which guide dogs retire. Williams’s insurance company would no longer cover the cost of keeping Orlando, so he would be looking for a new home for his friend.
Brian Williams was one of many, many reporters across the country who covered the story:
Grant Krish was watching the newscast Tuesday night from his home in Carmel, Indiana. He tells the Voice “It really struck a chord with me.”
Late that night he launched an Indiegogo campaign to keep Williams and Orlando together; $50,000 should do it, he thought. “It was just a number that I pulled out of the air.”
When Kirsh woke up Wednesday morning, he’d already raised $20,000. That afternoon, less than 24 hours after he heard about Williams, his campaign passed its $50,000 goal.
But he still hasn’t spoken to the man for whom he raised the money.
“I’ve tried to call the hospital he’s staying in last night, but the hospital is just getting flooded with calls,” Kirsh tells us. “I’ve done everything I can do right now to try to relay word to Cecil that this is happening.”
He hasn’t been able to reach Williams, but Kirsh has been in touch with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit that matches the blind and visually impaired with guide dogs. (A representative for organization confirmed they were in contact.)
At a press conference yesterday, Williams announced that a Guiding Eyes donor had pledged enough money through to cover Orlando’s expenses for the rest of his life.
The organization tells the Voice that particular donation was separate from Kirsh’s, but any money it raises will go toward training and providing dogs for others in need.
On Wednesday, Williams said, “The spirit of giving, Christmas and all that there, it exists here and it’s in New York.”
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