A DEAF teacher from Wallingford and his life-changing hearing dog have been named as finalists in Crufts' Hero Dog awards.

Graham Sage, 29-year-old teacher at Moulsford Preparatory School, and his Cocker Spaniel Jovi, have been announced as finalists in the prestigious Friends for Life award at Crufts.

Jovi is Mr Sage's hearing dog who is specially trained to alert him to important life-saving sounds.

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Mr Sage began to lose his hearing at around the age of 15 and by the time he went to university he realised he had been relying on lip reading.

Mr Sage’s hearing loss is progressive, and over the past five years has gone quickly from moderate loss to being severe to profound.

Being deaf left Mr Sage feeling unsafe, he feared he would miss the smoke alarm or that someone would break in. As well as not being able to hear alarms Mr Sage became withdrawn in social situations, contributing towards feelings of loneliness and isolation.

When Mr Sage became a teacher, he found it daunting and he did not always hear the sounds he needed to during the school day.

Mr Sage decided he needed help and got in touch with Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. The national charity trains dogs to alert deaf people to important and lifesaving sounds and to provide valuable emotional support and companionship.

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Eventually he was matched with hearing dog Jovi

Communication at home also used to be difficult, as Mr Sage’s wife would struggle to get his attention.

Now, thanks to Jovi’s amazing abilities, Anna can call him and ask him to ‘Go get Graham’ and he’ll come and alert him. Mr Sage is also now a coach and player for the England Deaf Rugby Union squad.

Now the pair have been named as one of five finalists at Crufts.

The annual Kennel Club Friends for Life competition celebrates the unique relationship people have with their dogs, the important role man’s best friend plays in a person's life and the support they give in the face of adversity.

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James Middleton announced the finalist pooches and said: “The theme running through each of this year’s Friends for Life category winners is the vital importance of looking after our mental health and well-being.

“Our dogs play a critical, non-judgmental, compassionate role in helping to keep our spirits up when it feels like everything is against us, and in leading us out of what can be some very dark places.

“Friends for Life is an opportunity to celebrate these dogs that quietly go about changing people’s lives in their own unique and special way. We would encourage people to vote for their favourite to show their support for these extraordinary dogs. Dogs are known as man’s best friend and our five finalists go to show exactly why that is.”