Gallant guide dog Orlando was just doing his duty.
The black Lab bravely leapt onto the tracks at a Manhattan subway platform Tuesday after his blind owner lost consciousness and tumbled in front of an oncoming train.
Cecil Williams, 61, and Orlando both escaped serious injury when the train passed over top of them — a miraculous end to a harrowing ordeal that began when Williams began to feel faint on his way to the dentist.
"He tried to hold me up," an emotional Williams told The Associated Press from his hospital bed, his voice breaking at times.
Witnesses said Orlando began barking frantically and tried to stop Williams from falling from the platform. Matthew Martin told the New York Post that Orlando jumped down and tried to rouse Williams even as a train approached.
"He was kissing him, trying to get him to move," Martin said.
Witnesses called for help and the train's motorman slowed his approach as Williams and Orlando lay in the trench between the rails.
"The dog saved my life," Williams said.
As Williams regained consciousness, he said he heard someone telling him to be still. Emergency workers put him on a stretcher and pulled him from the subway, and made sure Orlando was not badly injured.
"I'm feeling amazed," Williams said. "I feel that God, the powers that be, have something in store for me. They didn't take me away this time. I'm here for a reason."
Williams was taken to a hospital where he is expected to recover, with Orlando at his bedside. Williams, a large bandage on his head, said he is not sure why he lost consciousness, but he is on insulin and other medications.
Orlando, described by Williams as serious but laid-back, was making new friends at the hospital. He will be rewarded with some kind of special treat, Williams said, along with plenty of affection and scratches behind the ears.
"(He) gets me around and saves my life on a daily basis," Williams said.
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 medical benefits will cover a new guide dog but won't pay for a non-working dog, so he may be looking for a good home for Orlando.
He says that 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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