NY Post - December 18, 2013by Rebecca Harshbarger
A brave seeing-eye dog loyally leaped to the subway tracks when his owner tumbled off a Harlem platform Wednesday — and they both survived getting run over by a train, according to witnesses.
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. The dog was barking and trying to pull him , but Williams fell, according to witnesses.
Matthew Martin, 54, said that the dog never hesitated.
“He went down, and the dog jumped down,” he said. “He wasn’t pulled. He was kissing him, trying to get him to move.”
Straphangers shouted, alerting subway workers. A construction flagger told Williams to stay in the trough between the rails, authorities said.
Witnesses said they heard an express train approaching less than a minute after Williams plunged to the tracks, and tried to alert the motorman.
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.”
Authorities said the train operator slammed on his brake, but one and a half cars passed over Williams and Orlando.
Transit officers first pulled out the pooch, and firefighters rescued Williams using a backboard and neck brace.
The two were in a trough in the middle of the tracks , said Captain Daniel O’Sullivan from FDNY Engine 37.
Williams cut his head, but was not badly hurt, and Orlando was unscathed. He was treated at St. Luke’s Hospital.
“The dog saved my life,” Williams told the Associated Press from his hospital bed, his voice breaking. “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. He added that 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.
His girlfriend Cynthia told the Post while walking Orlando near St. Luke’s that she was very grateful. “It is a miracle,” she said. “I’m very grateful to God.”
Former neighbor Peter Ayala, 38, said Williams has always depended on Orlando. “He was always with his dog, he really depended on his dog,” he said. “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.
“He was a real handyman,” said beverage importer Rachael Israeli, 62. “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.”
One week, Williams said he wasn’t feeling well and took off from work. “It turned out that he had contracted meningitis and became blind soon after that,” she said. “He had to stop working for us. It was heartbreaking to see a man who was so fit become blind. It was devastating.”
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.
Additional reporting by Frank Rosario and Georgett Roberts