New York (AFP) – Online donations have risen to more than $100,000 to help a New York blind man keep the guide dog who helped rescue him from a potentially fatal subway fall a week before Christmas.
The two hurtled onto the tracks and were partially run over by an oncoming train but incredibly escaped with minor injuries.
The story instantly captured the imagination of New Yorkers. When it emerged that Williams could no longer afford to keep Orlando after his guide dog retires next year, donations poured in.
Crowd-funding campaigns set up by well-meaning individuals on http://www.indiegogo.com and http://www.gofundme.com raised a combined total of more than $108,000 by Thursday.
“The spirit of giving, Christmas and all of that there. It exists here and it’s in New York,” Williams told a news conference in hospital on Wednesday.
“I think that it’s a time to rejoice. I don’t know what else to say. I appreciate that people got together to help me to keep Orlando,” he added.
Williams, who lost his sight in 1995, described Orlando as his “best buddy”.
“He’s my pal. We run together. He takes me on the trains, he takes me on the buses, he takes me everywhere I need to go.”
Guiding Eyes For The Blind, the charity that bred and trained Orlando, called anyone else interested in pledging funds to donate to help train dogs for other blind people.
“I do know that more than enough has been raised so that if Cecil does choose to keep Orlando he has the ability to do so,” director of communications Michelle Brier told AFP.
“It’s a very unique situation but what’s not surprising is the connection that Cecil and Orlando have and that probably kept them both calm in a very frightening moment,” she said.
It costs an average of $45,000 to breed, raise, train and match a dog and support a blind person with his canine friend.
“I think the whole situation just shows an incredible amount of warmth and has that kind of Christmas miracle to it,” said Brier.
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