Guiding Eyes Hails Hero Guide Dog Orlando

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Cecil Williams and Orlando are okay after Orlando jumped onto the train tracks to help Williams, who fell. Williams and Orlando came together at Guiding Eyes in Yorktown. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Guiding Eyes

YORKTOWN, N.Y. -- A guide dog whose story of trying to save his owner's life went viral was trained at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown.

Last week in Manhattan, Cecil Williams passed out and fell onto the train platform as his guide dog Orlando, a black Labrador, tried to pull him away. Despite the valiant attempt, Orlando was unsuccessful and jumped onto the tracks to save Williams.

According to published reports, Orlando attempted to wake up Williams as the train approached. Orlando and Williams survived as the train went over them.

According to Michelle Brier, director of marketing and communications for Guiding Eyes, Williams and Orlando were paired together in August 2006 and have worked together ever since. Orlando was Williams' second guide dog.

"They are a wonderful team," Brier said. "This is an incredible story."

Orlando was on the verge of retirement when the accident occurred and Williams will be headed to Guiding Eyes next year to train with a new dog. Orlando will either stay with Williams or go back to his puppy raisers, where will he enjoy a life of retirement.

“Our immediate concern is for the safety and well-being of the team – Cecil and Guiding Eyes Orlando," Director of Training Kathy Zubrycki said. "We have offered our continued support and look forward to working with him as he retires Orlando and begins to work with his new Guiding Eyes dog.”

Brier said guide dogs are trained for how to act on platforms.

"Dogs know the edge of a platform is a dangerous place," Brier said. "Dogs learn intelligent obedience. If a handler tells his dog to forward on a platform, the guide dog will go backward. After eight years, he remembered."

Brier said some dogs, like Orlando, thrive working in New York City, while other dogs do better in a more suburban environment. Brier said everyone at Guiding Dogs was relieved they were okay.

"This is an amazing example of the bond between a guide dog and his handler," Brier said. "We are really proud."

For a person without sight, Brier said a guide dog provides life changing independence. She invited people to donate to Guiding Eyes to help dogs like Orlando. 

For more information on Guiding Eyes For The Blind visit www.guidingeyes.org.

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