A Puppy Called Dez

A Puppy Called Dez

by John Tovey, Veronica Clark


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Dez Has One Dream: To Become A Guide Dog When He Grows Up. Unfortunately, He Has To Pass a Whole Set of Difficult Exams, And He's Always Being Told off For Tripping Over and Messing Things Up. Even with his Best Pal Stan to Guide Him, He Soon Realises That Becoming a Guide Dog is a Lot Harder than he Originally Thought. Meeting Lots Of Interesting Canine Friends Along The Way, Dez Finds Out That Passing Exams Is -Just One Part Of The Puzzle. Becoming Man's Best Friend is a Whole Other Problem…

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781784184230
Publisher: Bonnier Books UK
Publication date: 11/01/2015
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 5 - 7 Years

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A Puppy Called Dez

Based on a True Story

By John Tovey, Veronica Clark

John Blake Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2015 David Nolan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78418-704-0



A paw shoved hard against my back. It felt so rough and sudden that it woke me from my sleep.

'Come on, fat bum, get up!'

'What? Is it breakfast time already?' I yawned, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

'Is that all you ever think about — food?'

I blinked and tried to focus on the golden figure standing in front of me. Two huge brown eyes glared down. It was Violet, my youngest and meanest sister.

'Shift! You're lying in the middle of the floor again and we haven't got enough room to play,' she hissed, giving me a quick puppy nip on my shoulder.

'Ouch!' I squeaked, although it didn't stop her because whatever Violet wanted, she got.

'Have I missed it then?' I asked, clambering to my feet.

'Missed what?'


Violet rolled her eyes towards the ceiling.

'No, you fat bat!' she said, flicking a claw against one of my enormous black ears, dangling either side of my head. 'They're just bringing it over now, but you'd better keep your big snout out of my bowl,' she added, eyes narrowing, 'otherwise there'll be trouble.'

'Oh, I will! I only ever eat leftovers,' I insisted.

Only Violet wasn't listening. She'd flounced off with her tail sticking up in the air.

'I don't know where we got him from, he looks nothing like us,' she sniffed to the rest of the litter of puppies — my family.

Huge tears welled at the back of my eyes. Willing them to go away, I tried not to cry because I knew Violet was right — I looked nothing like my sisters and brothers. I was a tall Labrador, with ears that were much too big for my head and shiny black fur, but the rest of the litter were fluffy and golden. Mum told me I looked different because I was special.

'One day, you'll achieve great things. Just you wait and see,' she insisted.

But I didn't want to be different; I wanted to be like the others. I was the second-eldest boy in a litter of guide-dog puppies. We lived at the National Breeding Centre in Bishop's Tachbrook, Warwickshire, where all guide-dog pups begin their lives. One day, we hoped we'd grow up to become proper guide dogs because they were the most important dogs of all. But first we had to study hard and pass loads of difficult exams. Only then would we be allowed to become fully trained guide dogs, and the eyes of a blind or partially sighted person. We'd help them cross the road safely, and walk down the street without tripping up. In short, we'd become their best friend. Everyone needs a best friend, but right then, I didn't have one.

I had two brothers, Vesper and Vinnie. Vesper was older than me and top dog. Cool, clever and funny, he was everything I wasn't. Then there was Vinnie, my baby brother. Vinnie was a hypochondriac — someone who thinks they're ill all the time, even when they're not — so he walked around all day, holding a tissue to his nose, terrified of catching a sniffle. I was baffled why he worried about it so much because we'd all had injections to stop us getting ill.

I had an older sister called Vicky, who was kind, patient and lovely. She hated Violet picking on me and often told her off. Finally, there was Violet, the baby and the bully of the family. Violet was blonde and pretty, and she knew it. She'd tell me how fat and stupid I was. In fact, she said it so much that I started to believe her. All our names began with a 'V' because we were the 'V' litter — the pups in each litter were all given a name using the same letter. In the 'A' litter there was Alfie, Albert, Abigail and Amy. But names beginning with a 'V' are difficult to think of. I think they ran out of boys' names when they got to me because I was called Valdez, which I hated. In fact, I hated it so much that I asked everyone to call me 'Dez' for short, and everyone did — everyone apart from Violet.

Suddenly, one of the puppy handlers zoomed into view. She was carrying something — a set of bright red feeding bowls. Breakfast had arrived! My mouth watered as I ran over eagerly towards my dish. I knew it was mine because they always put me on the end of the line to keep me away from the others' food.

'NOM, NOM, NOM ...' I gulped. I didn't even pause for breath until it had gone. Licking my lips, I glanced up to see Vinnie standing there, staring forlornly at his food.

'Don't you want that?' I asked, pointing to it.

'No, I think I feel a bit ... ill,' Vinnie whined. He wiped his brow dramatically with a scrunched-up tissue. 'I think I'll just go and have a lie down.'

'You can finish mine off too, if you want, Dez?' Vicky called.

Thankfully, my ears were big enough to hear even though my nose was deep in Vinnie's bowl, snuffling up his breakfast.

'Just watch out for the puppy handlers,' she whispered, looking over one shoulder. 'They like us to eat our own food, but I'm absolutely stuffed!'

So I ran over to Vicky's bowl before she could change her mind and hoovered up the lot within seconds.

'Nothing left here for you, Dez,' Vesper said, when he noticed me gazing at his bowl. 'So you can jog on,' he laughed, belching loudly.

'Violet, have you finished?'

She turned to me and narrowed her eyes. 'I'm stuffed too, but YOU'RE not having it!'

'But if you don't want it, then it'll go to waste,' I gasped because the thought of throwing away good food horrified me.

'I don't care. I'd rather the bin had it than you, you greedy lump of lard!'

'Violet!' The voice was so loud and unexpected it startled us all. We immediately stopped in our tracks and turned around.

It was Mum.

'If Dez is still hungry and you're not, then let him have it. And stop being so mean!'

Violet looked up at her with puppy-dog eyes and smiled sweetly.

'Yes, Mum. Sorry, Mum.' She smiled sweetly, before sticking her tongue out at me.

'NOM, NOM, NOM ...'

I scoffed up the rest of her food before Violet could stop me. Breakfast done, I got down to the most important jobs of the day, playing and watching CBeebies on the telly.

'Turn to the right and wave your hands in the air like you just don't care ...' one of the presenters sang. Dressed in a brightly coloured suit, he had mad carrot-and-green coloured hair. He looked a bit odd, like me, but I thought he was fantastic! I laughed and waggled my bum as I followed his every word.

'Touch your toes, and then your knees. Stretch up to the stars, look and see, put your arms out and pretend you're a tree ...' he sang.

'What on earth are you doing?' Violet hissed, bumping hard against me.

'I'm being a tree.'

'Ha! You're as thick as a tree trunk! VALLLLDEZZZZ ...' she crowed, stretching out my name, shouting it loud so everyone could hear.

I stopped being a tree and planted my paws back down on the ground. But Violet didn't move, instead she stood there, looking me up and down.

'Er, we're playing hide and seek, do you want to join in?' she asked suddenly.

I was flabbergasted. 'What? You want me to join in your game?' I repeated, thinking I'd misheard her.

'Yeah, sure, why not?'

'Okay!' I replied, grateful to be asked.

I looked over her shoulder and spotted a sheet of newspaper lying on the floor in a corner of the puppy pen. Violet turned her back and began to count, so I ran over and wrapped myself up in it, like a Labrador sausage roll.

'18 ... 19 ...' she continued, both paws covering her eyes. '20 ... Coming, ready or not!'

I put a paw over my mouth to stifle my giggles as she approached. Vicky was hiding under a cream blanket but you could see the square shape of her Labrador head a mile away. Vinnie refused to play because he said he felt sick and took to his bed, but Vesper squeezed in around the back of it. He'd asked Mum and Vinnie to camouflage him, covering his head and body with teddies.

'Now, let me see, where would they hide ...?' Violet asked, strolling over towards me.

Dying to laugh, I clasped a paw against my mouth. I held my breath because I didn't want the paper to crinkle around my belly and give my secret hiding place away.

'Hmmm, I think I need to sit down and have a think about this one,' she said, parking her big bum on top of the paper and me. But she was heavier than I'd thought, and soon her weight was crushing my ribs. I wanted to shout out and tell her to get off, but I couldn't. Instead, I held my breath but soon my face had turned bright purple, trying to hold it in. Seconds later, it came rushing out, leaving me flat, like a deflated Labrador balloon!

'Okay, you've found me,' I said, waiting for her to stand up and get off, only she didn't. Instead, she pressed down even harder, flattening me like a squished hot dog.

'Violet, I'm underneath you. You're hurting me!' I cried, but she wasn't listening.

In the end, Mum came over, picked her up by the scruff of the neck and pulled her off me. I'm certain Violet knew I was there; she was just being horrible.

The following day, I tried to avoid her, but she followed me around like a shadow. In a bid to get away, I stuck my head out in between the bars at the front of the puppy pen. I was still looking up, watching CBeebies on the TV, when a voice called out.

'Hi, I'm Star, what's your name?' it said.

My head was between the bars but I twisted it slightly and that's when I saw her — a beautiful golden Labrador pup, staring straight back at me with honey-brown coloured eyes.

'Wow, you're beautiful!' I blurted out, without even thinking.

It was true; Star was the prettiest pup I'd ever seen.

'And so are you,' she replied kindly.

I shook my head but my big ears got in the way and slapped me hard around the face. 'No, I'm not. All my brothers and sisters are beautiful, fluffy and golden like you, but I'm ugly, with stupid, big ears,' I said, shaking them to show her.

'No, you're not, you're amazing! You look really cool. I'm just a boring sandy colour, I'd love to look like you. It's weird because even though I'm golden, all my sisters and brothers are black Labradors, like you. I'd love to be like you because then I'd fit in, so you see, I'm just like you because I'm the odd one out too!'

I shook my head in disbelief. 'Maybe we should swap places?'

'Yeah, maybe,' Star chuckled.

'I'm Dez, by the way,' I said, sticking my paw out for her to shake, only it wouldn't stretch far enough so I put it back down on the ground again. 'Well,' I explained, 'my real name is Valdez, but I don't like it very much, so I prefer to be called Dez.'

'So, you're one of the "V" pups who live next-door?'

'Yep.' I nodded. 'There's me, Vinnie, Vesper, Vicky and Violet,' I said, counting them off one by one against each claw.

Star's face clouded over.

'Not Violent! Erm, I mean Violet.'

She gasped, her eyes wide with horror.

'Yeah, she's my little sister. Why, have you heard of her?'

'Who hasn't? Everyone knows who she is, because she's the biggest bully in here!'

That made me laugh. 'Yeah, you're right there. She's horrible to everyone but she particularly hates me. She calls me fat and says my ears stick out, just like a bat!'

Star shook her head. 'That's horrible! Listen, there's nothing wrong with you or your, erm, ears,' she said, noticing them for the first time. 'It's your sister who's ugly. She's ugly on the inside and the outside — all bullies are.'

I nodded. 'You're right there, the only person Violet loves is herself.'

'So, are you excited about becoming a guide dog?' she asked, changing the subject.

I nodded my head. 'Yes, it's all I've ever wanted to be. It's what we were born to do, isn't it? If I couldn't become one of them, then I don't know what I'd do. But I worry about it all the time.'


'Because, what if I don't make the grade? What if I fail my exams, what then? No one would want me then.' My stomach tightened with anxiety as I spoke.

'Don't be daft.' Star laughed. 'Of course someone would want you. You're funny, you're cute, you've got silly ears which flap around ...'

I smiled — she wasn't being unkind, she was just trying to make me laugh.

'But what if I don't pass, Star? What will become of me?'

'But you will pass, because you're clever. Anyone can see that.'

Just then, one of the puppy handlers wandered over towards both pens. Dinner was served.

'Now then, Dezzy boy, are you ready for some food, hmmm?' the worker said, giving me a gentle pat on the top of my head.

So I wagged my tail to show I was. I loved dinner and breakfast. In fact, I loved all food.

'Well, just you pull your head out of the bars then, so I can get in,' she said.

Like a small car in reverse, I backed my body up, but as I tried to pull out my head, I realised it was stuck. With all my might, I pulled again, but the bars pushed hard against my ginormous ears, trapping them. No matter how hard I tried, my huge, square-shaped head wouldn't budge.

'Oh no, you're not stuck, are you?' the lady gasped.

I nodded glumly because I felt pretty stupid, especially in front of Star, who'd just been telling me how clever I was. Then I watched as the lady placed both bowls of food on the floor, but far enough out of reach to stop me from snaffling them. She called out to a man who came over to help. He held my head while she wrapped both hands around my belly and tried her hardest to yank me out. They pushed and pulled for ages, but it was no good — I was stuck!

'I think someone's been eating too many dinners,' the woman chuckled, as the man disappeared off to fetch a sponge, some water and soap.

'Oh no, I'm going to be stuck here forever!' I wailed as Violet began to laugh behind me.

'Look at old fat bum,' she crowed.

I pulled again, but it was no good. My big ears were firmly wedged between the metal bars. Now I was well and truly stuck.

It took a whole bar of soap, a lot of bubbles and a bit of brute force. My head was soaked in slippy white foam, but somehow they managed to pull me free. My ears were full of bubbles, but other than that, I was as good as new and cleaner than I'd been in ages.

'I think someone needs to go on a diet,' Violet sneered later, as I snuggled down next to Mum for a cuddle. She waited until Mum wasn't looking and poked me hard in the ribs with a sharpened claw. It made my belly wobble like a jelly.

'You're useless,' she whispered, so the others wouldn't hear. 'Anyway, I've told you, you'll never become a guide dog because you're fat and stupid. It's the big test next week and you're bound to fail. If you fail then they'll send you away from here, forever! You'll never see us or Mum again ...'

But I'd stopped listening.

'Hang on, what test?' I said, sitting up.

'Puppy SATS! Why, haven't you been practising? I've been practising for weeks and I know it all off by heart,' she crowed.

I gulped because I didn't know what she was talking about. No one had said anything to me about a puppy test.

'Violet,' I said, beginning to panic, 'will you help me practise? Will you show me what to do?'

'No chance! I'm not helping you because if you fail then they'll send you away and I won't ever have to see your ugly mug ever again.'

With that, she turned and fell asleep.

But I couldn't sleep because I was worried — worried about Puppy SATS.

What if I failed? Then I'd never become a guide dog. What would I do then? Who would have me? I'd be sent away and I'd never see Mum or my brothers and sisters again.

While the others slept soundly with their heads against Mum's warm body, I was so worried that it made my stomach hurt. I was exhausted but eventually I fell into a fitful night's sleep. But then I had nightmares. I heard Violet laughing as I was picked up and carted off in a van. I was so scared and tired in the morning that by the time breakfast had arrived, I'd completely lost my appetite.

'What's the matter, Dezzy boy, not eating? That's not like you,' the handler said.

I turned and walked away from my bowl. As I wandered over towards my bed and flopped inside, my mind whirred with worry. The others seemed confused as they finished their breakfasts, but I didn't want to talk to them because I was all churned up inside. I couldn't face them or food because I felt as sick as a dog — sick with nerves. If I failed the test then I'd never become a guide dog and my dream would be over before it had even begun.



With the test looming over me, I tried my best to remember what it took to be a good guide dog.

Number 1. Looking all around. I scribbled at the top of the list.

Number 2. Listening.

Number 3. Being a good friend, I wrote, but then I stopped because I couldn't think of a number four.

I held the pencil in my paw and scratched the back of my ear with the tip of it.

'Whatcha doing, Dez?' a voice called from over my shoulder.

It was Vicky.

'Nothing much, I'm just trying to remember what it takes to be a good guide dog.'


Excerpted from A Puppy Called Dez by John Tovey, Veronica Clark. Copyright © 2015 David Nolan. 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.

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