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Mike and Angela Du Preez
Cape Chowists of Yesteryear

 

When they were children, Capetonian Mike du Preez - a retired Consultant Urological Surgeon - and his UK-born wife Angela, whose career had been in TV and PR, both grew up with dogs.    Though not, at that point, with Chow Chows !    Mike's experience of dogs was shaped by wire-haired fox terrier, Paddy, who accompanied him everywhere, even riding with him on the carrier of his bicycle.    Angela, meanwhile, grew up in England with first, a Cocker Spaniel called Barney, and later on, a miniature poodle, named Tosca, whose famous party-trick, was to stand to attention on his hind legs for the singing of the national anthem.

   
   
 

By the early 1970s, having settled with their two young daughters into their family home in Constantia, they decided the time had come to acquire not only a family pet, but also (following a couple of minor incidents with intruders) one who would be a reliable guard dog.

With two youngsters, it had to be a breed good with children - and in view of Mike's working such very long hours, it had to be a breed that did not require long periods of exercise every day.     Some friends kept two Chows, and on hearing of their "dog search", advised them to read up on the breed.    It didn't hurt, either, that Angela from childhood had harboured a deep admiration for Chows ever since watching a beautiful pair of blue Chow Chows, seen in a neighbour's garden from the window of the school bus every day !

So it came to pass that, on New Year's Eve, 1974, they bought Grant's Superstar, a red rough male Chow Chow - five-month-old son of the renowned Ch. Grant's Tsong Kapa Star-turn - from Mrs Schoeman of Grant's Kennels.     Within the home, the Du Preez decided to call him "Bamber" - after author Bamber Gascoigne who wrote books about China.   Less than a year later, in 1975, they added "Tutu" - a little black female, sired by Grant's Hsioung - to the family.   Named Tutu not for the Archbishop, but because her furry coat reminded Angela of a ballerina's black tutu! - she started off poorly, but matured into a fine bitch.    Despite one visiting UK judge advising them early on to 'get rid of' Tutu, both of these dogs were successfully made up to be champions.

During this time, Mike and Angela were also enthusiastic members of the Cape Utility Dog Club.    It was there that they met Jack and Golda Noble.    They maintained their association with both the Cape Utility Dog Club and the Nobles over the next twenty years - later working together again to establish the Chow Chow Club of the Western Cape, of which Dr du Preez became the first Chairman.   After Bamber and Tutu died - he in 1987 at the age of 13 from testicular cancer, and she in 1988, from colon cancer - the Du Preez mourned their loss, and waited a year or so before getting another dog.

Chow Chows were not their only passion, however.    As well as showing their total of five Chows, spanning the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, their other interests have always been many and varied  :  Mike with his sailing, and Angela with her ballet involvements, to name but two.
 
 

Mike had been an enthusiastic yachtsman for many years, crewing on Dragon yachts in England in the 1960s, and a decade later, in South Africa, helping to build the first Miura yachts in Cape Town.    (He had even been invited to be a crewman in the 1967 UK Olympic Dragon Trials - an honour interrupted only by the birth of their first child, a week earlier than expected !)    During the early 1970s he served as Rear Commodore at the Royal Cape Yacht Club, Cape Town, and remained actively involved with the club all the way through to the early 1990s, racing competitively, and even sailing from the Azores to Turkey in 1986.

 
   
 

Angela, during this same time-frame, served not only on the Committee, and as Chairman, of the 2000-strong Balletomanes Society, but was also contributing articles on ballet to various Performing Arts magazines.     And at the same time that the Du Preez were travelling around the country attending Dog Shows, they were also exhibiting prize-winning blooms at Rose Shows, which required just as much hard work and dedication.     They held many cups, and one year they won the prestigious Five Roses Trophy - awarded for five perfect blooms of a single variety.

 
   

When the Du Preez family finally did buy another dog, in 1989, it was a very handsome cinnamon rough male Chow Chow pup from Johannesburg breeder Cheryl-Ann Hurley (Lionheart Prince Charming of Dartington.  Family name : Sultan).    Aged just 3 months when he first came into their lives, this son of the legendary Ch. Cherie's Super Turbo of Lionheart himself soon began his Show career, going on to become an outstanding champion, and siring a lovely litter of seven puppies.

It was not long thereafter, in 1991, that - at the request of Countess Bolza, sister of the deceased - they 'adopted' a 2-year-old black rough bitch, "Mozsgo Siyen" (pet name, "Mitzi") - acquiring her from the estate of Mrs I de Ujfalussy, following the latter's tragic murder.   (They undertook to continue to show Mitzi, who had already begun to be shown by her late owner, and succeeeded in bringing her to champion status.)

Twelve months later, from Sultan's littler of seven puppies, born in 1992, they also kept one - "Funmankou Harem Princess of Dartington", bred by Dr A.H. Swartz - to whom they gave the pet-name, "Kismet".    A beautiful red rough female, with a lovely disposition, she was quickly made up to be a champion, but was never bred.   

 
   
   
   
   
 

As can be seen from these beautiful photographs, Mike has been a keen amateur photographer for many years and has compiled tremendous photographic records of his many diverse endeavours.

 
   
   
 

In fact, Mike's interest in photography went even deeper.    In the early 1970s Mike and a colleague investigated the setting-up of an X-ray registry for grading hip dysplasia in pedigreed dogs.   The idea was many years ahead of its time but was never carried forward.    Today, hip and elbow dysplasia grading schemes are commonplace in many countries  - and Mike's vision has been realized, albeit not exactly as he personally had planned it.

 
 

To this day, now living in tranquil but still busy retirement, both Angela and Mike speak of - and remember with moving affection - all of their beloved Chow Chows.

They say that - even more memorable to them than going along to watch the judging of the Chows at Crufts in the UK in March 2002 - the Chow Chow Picnic in Paarl in November 2011 was a most wonderful opportunity for them to, once again, connect with other Chowists and indulge their love of this magnificent breed.

 
           
 

Written by Angela Du Preez (former contributing editor of the South African Ballet Magazine, "Arabesque") for Mishna Chow Chows in 2012.
Photographs courtesy of Dr Michael and Mrs Angela Du Preez.

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

 
           
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