SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

December 19, 2013

Hero guide dog assured good home after NY rescue

NEW YORK (AP) — The guide dog that leaped onto subway tracks after his blind owner lost consciousness and fell off a station platform is assured a loving home after his retirement.

Cecil Williams, who has been recovering at a hospital with Orlando still by his side, had been slated to get another working dog in January or February to replace the 11-year-old black Lab.

Now, he would ideally like to have two dogs — one working and one retired as a pet — if logistics, physical abilities and finances allow.

If that’s not possible, the family that raised Orlando as a puppy says it will be “absolutely thrilled to have him back,” said Guiding Eyes for the Blind spokeswoman Michelle Brier. “They’re very thrilled their little baby has made such a big difference.”

Williams told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he couldn’t pay for a non-working dog, so he was planning to look for a good home for Orlando. Guiding Eyes, based in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., provides working dogs for free but cannot cover retired dogs’ expenses.

After the AP published its interview and photographs of Williams with Orlando in his hospital room, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center has been fielding queries from well-wishers offering money and other assistance.

Guiding Eyes has “graciously stepped forward to handle those inquiries,” said hospital spokesman Jim Mandler.

Williams said that if he does decide he’s able to care for two dogs, he’d need help paying for the Lab’s care.

“We don’t know yet what Cecil will choose to do,” said Brier. “He’s in a tough place right now. ... It’s an incredibly emotional, dramatic time.”

The organization was setting up a fund and planned to post information on its website. If it turns out Williams doesn’t need the money, it will be used for other guide dogs, according to Brier.

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