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The Du Toit Family
From Interview with Annelize Du Toit in 2012

Coming from good Boland farming stock the Du Toit family were not new to dogs. But with the acquisition of their first Chow Chow more than thirty years ago came a whole new passion. A passion that you may nowadays find reflected on the lawns at Zomerlust, the family run guest house situated in Paarl.

 

 
   
 

Neil and Minette Du Toit bought Rufus (KUSA Reg No BZ62051) at the same time, coincidentally, as a colleague also acquired a Chow Chow. Through the dogs, the families became close friends - and so did the dogs. Rushka frequently came to stay with his buddy Rufus, and eventually refused to go home at all. So it was that two male Chows took up residence with the family in Paarl. As one of three daughters, Annelize can't remember a time since when there has not been a Chow Chow somewhere in the family!

Rufus and Rushka and, later, little red bitch Saskia too, were there to oversee the transformation of Zomerlust from stately private home to exclusive 4-star old-country-style guest house. Eventually Bruno and Lisa, a new generation of Chow Chows, inherited the responsibilities of estate husbandry. Black bitch, Lisa, was the first dog Annelize called her very own and to this day she has an especially soft spot for black Chow bitches - today she has three of them!

Ten years ago Annelize joined dad, Neil, in running the guest house and associated business interests. This year they're adding wine-making to their portfolio!

   
   
 

Shortly after joining the family business, Annelize picked up her first rescue chow while visiting a friend in Kempton Park. The Chow and his Jack Russel companion were about to be put to sleep because their owner didn't want them anymore. Soft hearted Annelize flew them back to Cape Town instead. At that time Simba, the Chow, weighed 14kg - a year later a healthy Simba weighed 29kg.

For a while Simba and Bobby lived with Annelize, staying with mom, Minette - and gorgeous lady chows Katya and Nushka! - whenever Annelize travelled. After one such trip Minette refused to let them go again and they stayed with her permanently thereafter. However, as Annelize tells it, "Simba's soul was broken". He never fully recovered emotionally and remained reserved with everyone, accepting affection only from Annelize and Minette. He died after only four years of Du Toit love and comfort, at an estimated age of ten years.

 

 
   
 

By 2008 Annelize was agitating for a Chow Chow of her own again. For a few years she had been babysitting her mom's Chows and "borrowing" Tessa, a neighbour's dog which spent most days with her at Zomerlust, but it wasn't the same as having her very own Chow Chow. In the space of a few months Annelize bought Nika, took on Tessa permanently as company for the new puppy, then at the last minute decided to take Titus as well. Full house? Not quite! Three years later there are three more chowdren and still space to foster more when needs must.

Last year the Du Toit family opened Zomerlust to our hugely successful Chow Chow Picnic - we all look forward to the next picnic too! Recently well-known Johannesburg photographer, Franck Leroy, stayed at Zomerlust and likened it to "a charming old mansion straight out of a Tin-Tin adventure". Indeed, Zomerlust, with all it's secret corners and hidden corridors, has a magical charm all of it's own.

 
   
   
 

Rescue work has always been a big part of the Du Toit love for Chow Chows, partly in tribute to Simba. Between Annelize and her parents they currently own eleven Chow Chows, eight of them rescues.

During the summer of 2011/12 Zomerlust hosted several Chow Chow open days as we rehabilitated and socialized the Uitsig dogs, two of which have stayed permanently and very happily with Annelize! Subsequently Annelize, in partnership with Uitsig Animal Rescue Centre, has gone on to work with, foster and home more Chow Chows.

She says "It never gets easier. I'd love to have a small holding so I could take in every one of them. But until I win the lottery, Uitsig has offered to allow us to set up permanent Chow facilities on their farm - which we hope will always be empty!"

 
   
  If you're ever in Cape Town, make a point of taking a trip to Zomerlust in Paarl, where you're sure to be warmly welcomed by father-and-daughter team, Neil and Annelize.
If you're lucky you'll spot some Chow Chows in the gardens too!
 
           
 

Written by Vanesa Munro, from interviews with Annelize Du Toit during 2012.
Made possible by the kind contributions of Dr Neil Du Toit, Mrs Minette Du Toit, Annelize Du Toit and Franck Leroy.

More stories will be added over time as more memorabilia comes out of attics!

 
           
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