updated 12/18/2013 AT 6:00 PM ET
•originally published 12/18/2013 AT 7:30 PM ET
Cecil Williams, whose life was saved by his guide dog after he fell on New York City subway tracks, will get to keep his pooch after animal lovers donated money to pay for the retiring pup’s expenses.
Williams, 61, faced finding a new home for Orlando, the Labrador who jumped on the tracks to revive him after he fainted, because the 11-year-old pooch is getting to be too old to be a guide dog and the owner’s insurance plan doesn’t cover the expenses of nonworking dogs, the New York Post reports.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind, which trained Orlando, created a fund to help Williams keep his brave pup, and animals lovers have also donated more than $55,000 on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo so that the pair can stay together. “The spirit of giving, Christmas and all that – it exists here. It’s in New York,” a tearful Williams said from his hospital bed on Wednesday.
Williams, who became blind in 1995 from meningitis, was going to have to re-home Orlando in January and get a new guide, but thanks to the donations he can afford to keep the dog he calls his “best buddy.”
The pooch jumped on the train tracks at the 125th Street station on Tuesday morning after Williams fainted and fell. Orlando began licking Williams’ face to get him between the rails, where a train passed over them.
“That dog deserves to be spoiled rotten for the rest of his life,” said Andrew Piera of Blue Star Transportation, who offered to pay for Orlando’s upkeep. “This guy can’t afford it and I can – and it’s Christmas.”
Williams has been moved by the generosity of strangers and by his dog’s loyalty.
“I’m not a cry baby or nothing but my eyes are misty,” he admitted. “He was there. He’s always with me He’s always looking out for me. That’s his job.”