JEFFERSON, Mass. – David Dickman, a local writer who has spent his life and career overcoming a rare disease doctors had believed would kill him within years, is now using his talents to inspire a new generation.
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What You Need To Know
- David Dickman, a retired freelance journalist from Jefferson, recently published a children’s book called “The Special Gifts of Chocolate”
- The book chronicles the life of a seeing-eye dog as she gives her owner a “brand-new life” full of companionship
- Dickman, 71, has a condition commonly referred to as “brittle bone disease,” and doctors initially believed he would die by age 11
- He wants readers to know when something unexpected comes into your life and changes it, it can be for the best
Dickman has a condition known as osteogenesis imperfecta, commonly referred to as”‘brittle bone disease.” When he was diagnosed as a child, Dickman’s parents were told he would be lucky to see his 11th birthday.
Now 71, he lives an independent life in the same Jefferson home he grew up in, and the hundreds of bones he estimates he broke as a child have done nothing to break his good spirits.
“Don’t listen to the critics,” Dickman said. “Do what you have to do and what you want to do, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Dickman is now retired from a fulfilling career as a freelance journalist. He specialized in feature stories, and one assignment in particular more than 30 years ago captured his imagination.
He was reporting on NEADS World Class Service Dogs in Princeton, where he introduced readers to a Labrador named Bailey.
“They were demonstrating for me what this dog could do for its clients, and if you gave it instructions, it would stand up, put its arms around you and literally hug you,” Dickman said. “And that image just stuck in my head. I found it very moving to see it do that for that person, because it was giving them unconditional love.”
In the years since, Dickman had been considering channeling the spirit of those memories into a children’s book. Following a 2022 interview with the nonprofit Special Books By Special Kids in which he shared that goal with thousands of viewers, he began to put more effort into getting his book published.
“The Special Gifts of Chocolate” was published by Bear Press in November. Written by Dickman and illustrated by Laura Bill, the book shares a tale of a Labrador retriever who never thought of herself as special, but learns to become a seeing-eye dog. Throughout the book, she gives her owner a chance at a “brand-new life, full of companionship and love.”
“What I want readers to realize, whether they’re disabled or not, is when you have something that comes into your life and changes it, it can change it for the very best,” Dickman said. “In this case, the main character, Peter, is now dreaming about traveling for the first time in his life. He can get around comfortably and securely with his new dog guide, and she’s opened up a whole new world for him.”
While Dickman himself has never needed a service dog, he deeply identifies with the happiness someone can feel when given the tools they need to live the life they want.
“The thing that happened for me is I got my license to drive,” Dickman said. “I got a specially-equipped vehicle so I could go cover stories really easily. And without that, quite frankly, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did. I have other things that came into my life later on and gave me a 180 turnaround in the things I could do. I’ve realized the importance of that.”
Since “The Special Gifts of Chocolate” was published, teachers and parents have praised its inspirational message to live life without limits. It’s a calling Dickman has answered his entire life, and he’s pleased others have found meaning in his words.
“People just really love the story, they think there’s a great moral to the story, and the reception has been overwhelming,” Dickman said. “People do posts, and some of the stuff they’re saying, this commentary is so beautiful it makes me cry.”
Dickman is also planning to write a memoir about his life in the near future, as well as release a hardcover version of “The Special Gifts of Chocolate.” He will be at Tidepool Bookshop in Worcester in May to sign copies of his book.