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Anne Diamond on life-saving pets, smoking in the car and acting on reflux disease

PUBLISHED: 11:01 02 May 2014 | UPDATED: 11:01 02 May 2014

Anne Diamond

Anne Diamond

Archant

Anne Diamond column - Berkshire Life April 2014

When Haatchi met Owen - the perfect match

I’m privileged to know a family pet which has turned out to be a life-saver – all nine stones of him. He’s Haatchi, an enormous Anatolian Shepherd rescue that has turned his new family’s life around. In fact he and his owner, eight-year-old Owen Howkins, have forged a unique bond which has improved both their lives.

Owen was born with a rare genetic diseases, Schwartz Jampel syndrome, a muscular disorder that affects just 35 people worldwide. Basically it means that Owen is tiny, has to use a wheelchair, and had recently become agoraphobic, anxious and withdrawn. Until he met Haatchi.

The dog, too, had already had a traumatic start to life. As a pup, he was abandoned on (and cruelly tied to) a railway line – with the result that his hind leg and tail had been sliced off by a passing train. Owen’s family offered him a home and as soon as the boy and dog met, they had a magical effect upon each other. Owen fell in love with Haatchi and through their relationship has grown in confidence and overcome many fears.

He even had the confidence to announce in front of his entire school that he wanted to learn to walk on his own. Owen and his family came to visit me at Radio Berkshire and it struck me that the two have effectively rescued each other. A very special pet indeed.

Car smoke ban goes too far

I absolutely hate smoking and applaud the idea that smoking is now becoming unacceptable in places where, throughout my childhood, it was common for you to have someone else’s ciggie stuck in your face and the filthy swirling smoke infesting your clothes and hair.

Like my first newsrooms (where all of the older journalists were constantly puffing over their typewriters), trains, buses, airliners and even theatres. But I do think the banning smoking in your own car (whether or not there is a child present) – I mean actually making it illegal and therefore a criminal offence – is taking things a huge step too far.

Whatever next? Are we going to ban smoking in the home if children are present? Will it be against the law to feed kids unhealthy stuff? Will we have the police knocking on our front doors doing spot checks to see if we’re all cleaning our teeth after every meal? And ensuring bedtimes are no later than 10pm?

You cannot force good parenting on people by law. You have to change the social acceptability, the mood of the average citizen. So don’t bring in a ban, I say bring in a campaign. Make it cool to do the right thing. The Welsh are already using scary ads on TV showing all of the harmful toxins and pollutants that seep straight into your child’s lungs if you smoke near them. Bring it on for the rest of the country, sharpish.

Act on reflux

Probably the strongest instinct for a new mum, after instant and unconditional love for your offspring, is the desire to feed and nurture the baby. I’ve just met a Berkshire mum who seems to be denied that joy – because both her children suffer from Reflux (or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease).

It’s a distressing condition, often experienced by babies for a short while but usually outgrown quickly, and it means your baby just cannot keep food down. It sometimes comes back at you with a force that can hit the opposite wall. And of course it means that no matter how hard you try to cope with a screaming, starving baby for 24 hours a day, your child fails to thrive.

I had a tiny taste of this with one of my children, and it can drive you to despair. Now this enterprising mum, Emily Cook, reckons a support group is needed for local parents going through this ordeal, particularly for those like her children who have an extreme form of the condition.

She’s got a three year old and a six month old baby – and her day is a 24 hour struggle of trying to feed her children. The first Wednesday of every month, however, she’s at The Bear in Hungerford (7pm) – reaching out to others and hoping to grow a small group of desperate mums and dads into a vast network – because more research is needed, and more help provided. Having been through just a little of it myself, I know how vital that is.

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