A Dog Called Dez: The True Story of How One Amazing Dog Changed His Owner's Life

A Dog Called Dez: The True Story of How One Amazing Dog Changed His Owner's Life

by John Tovey, Veronica Clark


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John had followed a bad path, drifting in and out of trouble, sent to improvement schools, a young offenders' institution, and, finally, to prison. He was on self-destruct, and believed that nothing and no one could help him. But when he was viciously attacked by a notorious train "steaming" gang, he knew he had to take the witness stand. The evidence he so bravely gave helped put his attackers behind bars, but just as it appeared that he was turning his life around, Fate dealt him another blow. Overnight, John Tovey went blind. He lost everything: his sight, his job, his home. Frightened and alone, he turned for help and, thanks to Guide Dogs, found himself partnered with a bouncy black labrador named Dez. Dez brought color and meaning back to John’s life, and slowly he learned how to live again as he and his loyal dog stepped out of the shadows and back into the light. It was a perfect partnership, and in 2012 Dez won the coveted "Guide Dog of the Year Award." A Dog Called Dez is the inspirational story of one man's redemption though his four-legged guide. It not only follows John's remarkable life, but also shares the moving story of how man's best friend taught him to love life again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781784180072
Publisher: John Blake Publishing, Limited
Publication date: 01/01/2015
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

John Tovey was matched with a guide dog called Dez after losing his sight at age 42. John and Dez are both active fundraisers for Guide Dogs and to date, have raised thousands for the charity.

Read an Excerpt

A Dog Called DEZ

The True Story of How One Amazing Dog Changed His Owner's Life

By John Tovey, Veronica Clark

John Blake Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2013 Jon Tovey and Veronica Clark
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78219-830-7


Four-Legged Friend

Pacing up and down the room, I pressed the button on the speaking clock which was standing in the middle of the coffee table. Another few minutes and they'd be here. My hands patted over surfaces as I felt my way around the place doing a last minute check. The floor was clear. His toys were in the corner near his new bed. His food was bagged up and ready to go in the kitchen – a fortnight's supply in daily doses – enough to keep him going. Everything was set and ready for his arrival; now all I needed was the man himself, my new guide dog Dez. From this moment on he'd become my best friend, companion, confidant, eyes, ears and general life-saver. He'd be my Dez.

I flopped back down onto the sofa and sighed as I realised just how far I'd come to reach this point. For a moment I doubted my ability to look after a dog, I had trouble looking after myself so how on earth was I going to look after a five-stone Labrador? Just getting out of the house would be a challenge and then there'd be all that dog walking. I rubbed my head anxiously, was I up to the job? But as soon as I thought of him, a smile spread across my face. Of course I was, I couldn't wait!

In many ways I'd been waiting for this all my life – the moment I could take responsibility for someone else and now it had finally arrived.

I'd walked a long and rocky path to get to this point. To be honest I was amazed I was still living and breathing to tell the tale. Up until now I'd been hell-bent on destroying everything in my life and I'd almost succeeded. I'd been a selfish thug, not a nice person at all, but fate threw it all back in my face and now here I was, only something had changed because now I was blind. For the first time ever I felt vulnerable. After a lifetime of feeling angry at the world, I needed help.

The tables had turned and now I was at the mercy of others and I knew how it felt to be completely defenceless. Losing my sight and the ability to come and go as I pleased had floored me. My total loss of sight had quite literally knocked the stuffing out of me. I wondered if I deserved it, maybe this was punishment for all the bad things I'd done. If so, I hoped and prayed that my new guide dog Dez would lead me to a better and happier place.

I pressed the clock again; another ten minutes had ticked by and still no sign.

Where could they be?

My hands knotted nervously in my lap as I tried to keep calm and stop the butterflies from rising inside my stomach. I thought how strange it would feel having someone to look after and love again. An animal gives you a kind of unconditional and trusting love that only they and perhaps children can give. I'd already experienced this with my son James, a wonderful boy, despite his old man. Luckily, James had had a great mum in my ex-wife Tracey, and so had grown up to be a brilliant young man. How had I got so lucky? In many ways, sitting there waiting for Dez felt like becoming a father for the second time. Only this time I'd have to be his 'mum' too. I allowed myself a little chuckle. If only my old skinhead mates could see me now, they'd think I was soft in the head. I was, and it felt fantastic.

But this wasn't our first meeting. Dez and I had met briefly before. My guide dog trainer – a lovely woman called Emma Yard – had pulled a fast one. In order to get my own guide dog I'd been put on a waiting list. In the meantime, I trained hard for the day when I finally had a dog of my own.

One day, Emma took me out with another guide dog called Volley on a practice walk. Shortly after, we trained again. I presumed the dog she'd brought along was the same Volley but I was wrong and she didn't put me right. Instead she observed and, although I couldn't see her, I guessed that she'd nodded her head in approval. I should've realised from the start that this dog was different. For starters, unlike Volley he seemed a little more eager on the harness. He also had more character and walked faster along the street. By the end, I felt a little out of breath but totally elated at how well the training session had gone. In celebration, I stooped down to stroke who I thought was Volley but his fur felt different, kind of softer somehow. I smelt a rat.

'John,' Emma began. I thought I could hear mirth in her voice.

'Yes,' I replied, straightening up. Although I couldn't see her I automatically looked towards where her voice was coming from.

'You know I said I might have a dog for you?'

'Hmm,' I answered – something fishy was definitely going on here.

'Well, this is him. This is a dog called Dez, and I think he's the dog for you.'

I put my hand to my mouth and gasped. I'd been on the list waiting for my very own guide dog for over a year and he was finally here. He'd been walking with me for the past hour and I hadn't even realised.

'Hello mate,' I laughed as I bent down and reintroduced myself.

A grateful wet nose pushed against my hand.

'Well, you kept that quiet, didn't you?' I said, pretending to scold Emma who started to laugh.

'John, I just knew how nervous you'd get if I told you who you were really walking with. Dez is exactly the same and I couldn't have you both a bundle of nerves.'

I chuckled some more and got down on my knees and tickled Dez behind the back of his ears. My gorgeous new buddy leaned in against my hand gratefully, loving all the attention.

'What does he look like Emma?' I was desperate to know.

'Well, he's a gorgeous black Labrador, and right now he's looking at you with his big brown eyes.'

'Is he?' I said holding out my hand to touch his face. From nowhere a big, wet, slobbery tongue licked the back of it.

'I can't believe it,' I said shaking my head. 'Really, is he mine, all mine, to keep?'

'He is, John.'

'Yes!' I shouted punching the air.

I didn't care if I looked like an idiot, a blind man kneeling in the middle of the street next to a dog, almost crying with joy. Dez was here and now everything would be alright: life would be worth living again.

'Come on you two,' Emma said. Let's walk back home.'

On the way, Emma explained that she usually did a couple of 'match' walks but Dez and I had been so perfect together that she knew we'd be just fine. She was right. Ours was a match made in heaven. And now I knew he would be arriving for good any moment, my boy wonder, my Dez.

I anxiously pressed the button on the speaking clock. It was almost 7pm.

Where were they?

I started to fret; they were half an hour late.

What if something's wrong or they've been involved an accident?

I felt sick.

What if Emma's changed her mind?

I was just starting to worry when my thoughts were interrupted by a loud buzzing noise coming from the wall – it was the intercom. It was time.

I shot to my feet so quickly that I almost tripped myself up.

Calm down John, I told myself. Remember to breathe.

I repeated it over and over in my head but inside my heart was thumping with excitement. It felt like all my Christmases had come at once. This was it, Dez was here. I tapped my fingers along the wall until I located the intercom phone. I picked it up and heard a slight crackle and then the sound of a familiar voice.

'Hi John, its Emma. I've got someone here who's really looking forward to meeting you again!'

A ridiculous grin spread across my face. Just then I heard a whimper down the line.

It was him.

I felt a knot of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.

What if Dez decided he didn't like me?

Suddenly, I started to feel a little nervous.

'I'll just buzz you in,' I said, releasing the door. Despite my fears, I couldn't stop smiling. Moments later there was a tap at the door and I almost ran to open it.

'Hi John,' Emma said breezily. 'Here he is. Here's Dez.'

I listened out for all crucial signs.

If his paws drag on the floor it means he doesn't want to be here, a voice niggled inside my head.

I listened so hard that my ears hurt. But there was no dragging sound or even the slightest hesitation. Instead his claws clacked as they scrambled against laminate to get through the door as quickly as possible. I felt a whoosh of air against my leg and then he was gone.

'Someone's happy to be here,' Emma giggled as she followed him in through the door. As I closed it behind her my ears strained for his footsteps.

Where was he now?

Suddenly a noise came from the front room. I guessed he was over by his new bed; the squeak of a toy pierced the air.

'He's found his toys!' I grinned, listening out for more.

'He's got one in his mouth,' Emma said, filling in the gaps.

The door swung back on its hinges and bounced off the wall as nails skidded against the laminate in the hallway, outside the bedroom. Another door banged open.

Bedroom? I guessed.

Emma laughed and confirmed I was right.

'He's having a good sniff!'

'Hey, Dez, watch out for any dirty socks!' I called.

Then he was off again. I felt the whip of his tail against me in the hallway as he fled into the next bedroom and sussed that out too. Another whoosh of air rose up as he brushed past and I heard the tell-tale creak of the old bathroom door.

'That's the toilet mate, but it's mine, not yours,' I chuckled.

Emma laughed. Dez walked past me again but this time he stopped just inside the kitchen doorway. I heard the sound of him sniffing the air.

'Has he seen his food?' I asked. I'd left it piled up on the side of the kitchen worktop.

'No,' she replied, 'but I reckon he can smell it!'

I smirked. So it was true what they said about Labradors: lovely but greedy.

'No, it's not dinner time just yet,' I said, holding my hands low down to feel for him. His fur ran through my fingertips like silk, and he was off again. He whizzed by so quickly that I felt myself stumble slightly.

'Steady,' Emma said, holding my elbow.

'Blimey, he's like an earthquake!' I laughed.

It was true. Dez was a wonderful but earth-shattering new arrival — he was just what I needed. This four-legged little fella had exploded into my world and now he was about to turn it completely on its head.

'Dez,' I called. I heard his paws stop as he turned and gently padded back towards me. He'd seen enough, he'd done his tour of the flat. As I stroked him I felt his torso swing from side to side with the weight of his mighty wagging tail. I felt reassured. He was home and he felt and sounded happy to be here.

'Hello mate,' I said dipping down and stretching out a tentative hand. Dez's nose made contact first, a wet ball in the middle of my cupped warm palm. My fingers splayed out to touch his fur; it was just as I remembered, soft, fresh, thick and glossy beneath my touch.

'This is your new home Dez. I hope you're going to like it here.' I whispered in his ear.

Soft fur pressed close against my face as if he was listening to every word. I was so grateful I could've cried. It was an emotional moment for us both. Up until now, I'd been a lost soul, a burden to my friends, family and to society as a whole. But now I had Dez, and now life was going to be very different. I'd been waiting for this moment for so long that now it had finally arrived, I could barely believe it. But I'd been well prepared. In the week leading up to it, I'd travelled with a neighbour to an out of town pet shop to stock up on supplies and a bed for Dez to sleep in. Nothing cheap, it had to be the biggest and very best they had. But when the man in the shop asked me how big it needed to be I found myself a little stumped. I'd met Dez but I couldn't tell the man what size he was because I'd never seen him, so I guessed from memory.

'He's about this big,' I said holding my hand off the floor. 'And he's a Lab, about 18-months-old.'

Then there was the array of soft toys to choose from.

'Something with a squeak,' I told the man. 'I want him to have fun.'

Soon we had a mountain of them for him to play with. Then we picked out various bones to chew and his very own dog bowl.

And now he was here.

'I hope you're gonna like it here,' I said later as he settled down.

I rested a hand against the fur on his back and, although I already knew it from our first meeting, it was love at first touch. I was simply love struck.

Emma stayed for an hour to observe and generally lay down a few ground rules.

'Remember John, don't let him jump up on the bed or the furniture. Let him out in the back garden for a wee but no taking him out, not just yet. See how you two get on together.'

Suddenly, I heard her get up.

'Right,' she said. 'I'll see you two on Monday. Just have a chilled weekend together getting to know one another.'

'Oh, we will,' I replied patting Dez, who leaned in against me. 'We'll be fine, I just know we will.'

Emma made a fuss of Dez, and then she was gone. Now it was just the two of us. Dez and me. He brought me toys and, with no one there to watch him, tried to get me involved in an impromptu game of tug of war. He won. Finally, around 10pm, I heard his paws pad across the floor and the sound of him slumping down in his bed. He was exhausted. It had been quite a day for both of us. I remembered what Emma had said about not letting him on the furniture so I sat on the floor next to him and rested the palm of my hand against his back as he curled up.

'We'll do this together,' I whispered, stroking him lovingly behind the back of his ear. 'We're gonna be a team now Dezzy boy, and together we'll take on the world.'

Half an hour later, I was still stroking his fur when I heard a deep sigh. I leaned in closer and felt his breath against my face – Dez was snoring.

'Right, I'll take that as my cue,' I whispered getting quietly to my feet. 'Night, night boy.'

The excitement must have been too much for us both because within minutes I was asleep too. Normally, I'm a night owl, a bit of an insomniac, never able to sleep, but now I was just well, dog tired. Still, with Dez on my mind, I woke in the middle of the night to check on my little boy. I tiptoed towards his bed and placed a hand gently against his ribcage to check he was still breathing. He was. Reassured, I held my hand there and felt the soft thud-thud of his heart. It was ridiculous but now I was like an over-protective new mum, so I repeated it four or five times just to be sure. Exhaustion gripped me and eventually I fell into a deep sleep. The following morning, I was awoken by what I first thought was police breaking into my flat with a battering ram. Something solid hammered against wood until ...


The door flung violently open and bounced off the wall. Then the scramble of dog claws against laminate flooring and then the weight of a greedy Labrador landing on top of me with a thump. Rule number one – 'no dogs on bed' – well and truly broken.

'Dez!' I gasped, screaming for mercy as my beautiful boy proceeded to dig against the duvet, shifting and pulling it back, exposing me, naked except for a pair of boxer shorts, for all the world to see.

'Wait, in a min ...' I said trying to grab some clothes but it was too late. The duvet was hanging off the bed as the cold morning air hit my skin. I tried to move but was immediately bowled over by Dez pinning me down. His whole body was shaking with the weight of his wagging tail. Suddenly, and from nowhere, a wet nose pushed up underneath my chin.

'Okay, okay, I'm getting up!' I laughed, running my fingers through my hair.

I stretched my arms above my head and yawned.

What time was it? I couldn't tell for sure but it sounded quiet outside and far too early for my liking.

My hand fumbled along the bedside cabinet searching for the talking clock.

'Seven-a-m.' The words sounded too loud and brightly for my liking.

'What?' I muttered. 'Really?'

Dez scurried off but was back seconds later, this time his soggy nose pushed under my hand literally forcing me up.

'Okay boy, okay,' I laughed. This was mad!

I placed my feet flat on the floor at the side of the bed just to get him off my case.

'See, I'm moving, honest!'

Dez whimpered with delight and I could sense his excitement as his tail continued to whip against the wooden door.

'I'm up, look!' I protested as Dez continued to nudge, nuzzle and generally bully me out of bed and into action. There was a mad dash, paws against the floor and the sound of skidding as Dez came to a halt somewhere in the distance. I guessed he was sitting in the kitchen, waiting with anticipation beside his food bowl.

'Hungry are we?' I smiled as I padded my bare feet against the cold floor. 'Okay then, let's see what we've got for you.'


Excerpted from A Dog Called DEZ by John Tovey, Veronica Clark. Copyright © 2013 Jon Tovey and Veronica Clark. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Chapter 1 Four-Legged Friend 1

Chapter 2 Home is Where the Hurt 15

Chapter 3 The Artful Dodger 31

Chapter 4 Nutty Boy 45

Chapter 5 Locked In 65

Chapter 6 Life on a Knife Edge 81

Chapter 7 Out of Control 97

Chapter 8 New Start 107

Chapter 9 Top Girl 125

Chapter 10 Journey to Hell 139

Chapter 11 Dark Days 149

Chapter 12 Tears in the Darkness 163

Chapter 13 First Steps 181

Chapter 14 My Boy 193

Chapter 15 Madhouse 205

Chapter 16 Never Look Back 213

Chapter 17 Keep on Moving 231

Chapter 18 Sunshine and Rain 247

Chapter 19 Man's Best Friend 255

Chapter 20 A Dog Called Dez 269

Acknowledgements 275

Please Help 278

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