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Local News

December 20, 2013

NYC hero dog had local roots, training

Orlando, the guide dog that tried to save a blind New York City man from falling onto the subway tracks in Harlem on Tuesday, grew up in Cooperstown. 

The black Labrador was feted by media nationwide this week after he tried to stop his owner, 61-year-old Cecil Williams, from falling, then came to the man’s aid as a subway train approached.

He was trained by the Livermore family, who are longtime Cooperstown residents, as part of an Oneonta program. 

According to Garet Livermore, Orlando, who trained as part of the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program, was with his family from 2004 to 2006.

“As a puppy raiser, we did basic training, worked with Orlando in a wide variety of environments to familiarize him with what he may encounter as a working dog and did specific training exercises at the direction of the Guiding Eyes staff,” Livermore said in an e-mail to The Daily Star on Thursday. “Our time with Orlando was wonderful; he was a great dog that even as a Lab puppy was very calm and thoughtful. He passed all of his initial tests with flying colors and has gone on to a full life working with Cecil.”

“The dog saved my life,” Williams told multiple media outlets Tuesday. He said that Orlando was barking, as he is trained to do, as Williams got too close to the end of the platform at the 125th Street subway station. But Williams did not heed the warning in time and he fell over the edge as a train was coming. Orlando tried to pull Williams up, but instead was pulled onto the tracks with him.

Williams was knocked unconscious in the fall and Orlando tried to wake him by licking his face. As Williams regained consciousness, he was urged to get down by onlookers as a train approached. The subway conductor saw the duo on the tracks and slowed down. The train passed over them, but neither was seriously injured. Williams was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital with minor injuries suffered in the fall.

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