By Christina Caron, NBC News
NEW YORK -- A blind man who would have had to say goodbye to the guide dog that stayed by his side after a fall onto the New York City subway tracks will now get to keep his loyal companion of eight years.
Ever since Cecil Williams' story aired Tuesday on "Nightly News with Brian Williams," NBC News has received hundreds of inquiries from people wanting to help Williams, 61, keep his dog Orlando.
Williams fainted at the 125th Street platform in Manhattan on Tuesday, and as he tumbled forward, Orlando landed in the tracks alongside him. Orlando tried to rouse Williams, who was unconscious. They lay there as the train passed above them.
Both survived. But because Orlando is slated to retire in January, and Williams' insurance won't pay for a non-working dog, they would have had to part ways.
Now, thanks to several anonymous donations to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, all of Orlando's expenses will be covered.
"Orlando is my best buddy, he’s my pal," said Williams at an emotional press conference at St. Luke's Hospital where he was being treated for minor injuries. "He’s taken me on the trains, the buses – everywhere I need to go ... He’s a very gentle gentleman."
With tears flowing down his face, Williams thanked everyone "for showing their humanity and peace and goodwill" by making donations to the guide dog school that trained Orlando.
"All the people who contribute and donated I think we should take our hat off to them," he said. "There’s still good people in this world."
The hardworking 11-year-old black lab is still slated to retire. After all, "He’s a senior citizen -- he’s got grey hair," Williams explained. "He’s looking forward to enjoying life now."
But when Williams gets a new guide dog, the generous donations will allow Williams to keep Orlando as a pet.
"The spirit of giving, Christmas and all that there – it exists here, and it’s in New York," Williams said. "I appreciate that people got together and helped me to keep Orlando -- it is going to cover him for the rest of his life. There are other people out there on disabilities who need dogs -- if you could find it in your heart, you can send donations to Guiding Eyes."
Carlo Allegri / REUTERS
Cecil Williams pets his service dog Orlando while being hugged by police officer Anthony Duncan following a press conference on Dec. 18, 2013.
First published December 18 2013, 12:29 PM