“Orlando was like my angel, and he’s always been that since I got him,” Williams tells TODAY.com. “We work together. I protect him and he protects me.”
As Williams recovered in the local hospital, he revealed to the press that, because Orlando was nearing retirement age, and because his insurance would only cover the new guide dog he would need once Orlando was no longer on the job, Williams would not be able to afford to keep the dog who saved his life on the tracks that day. Though Williams was happy to be alive, he was also heartbroken at the prospect of saying goodbye to his longtime companion and friend.
Luckily that goodbye would never happen.
When the story broke thousands of kind-hearted strangers pitched in, donating their Christmas money to give Williams the money he’d need to care for Orlando for the rest of the hero dog’s life.
Earlier this month, as 11-year-old Orlando hung up his guide dog leash for the last time, ready to enjoy his retirement, he and his best friend Cecil Williams welcomed a new member to their family: guide dog Godiva, a yellow Lab and recent graduate from Guide Dogs for the Blind. While Godiva keeps busy leading Williams around the Big Apple, Orlando will get to relax at home for a change.
“After awhile, Orlando will learn he can put his feet up and it’s going to be Godiva’s turn to work,” says Guide Dogs for the Blind spokesperson Michelle Brier.
Without the generous donations he received from well-wishers all around the world, Williams knows he would never have been able to keep both of his dogs.
“The spirit of good will, it exists,” Williams says. “In the world you see a lot of negative things, but I try [to] focus on the positive.”
Godiva is still adjusting to her new role, and she certainly has some large paws to fill. But Williams could not be more grateful for the chance to love and care for both of his wonderful dogs.
“I feel that I was blessed with Orlando, right? And now I’m being blessed again,” he says. “He saved me, and now she’s coming along to carry on where he left off.”