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Chow Chow Club of the Western Cape
1990 - 1994

During 1990 I was lucky enough to meet up with some like-minded ardent chowists. Mike and Jack instigated many informal encounters and enthusiastic conversations before forming, tentatively, the Chow Chow Club of the Western Cape. I say tentatively because, as Mike put it, "Chow people hate bureaucracy!"

Mike was adamant that "this is NOT going to be a political organization". From the inception he stated, "We will probably only meet three or four times a year. Our main interest lies with improving our breed in the Cape and providing a forum for Chow Chow enthusiasts to chat amongst themselves and share their pride in their magnificent breed. We will be keeping you informed of breedings, litters, shows and anything else that may be of interest! Please, by the same token, don't hesitate to share your gossip with us!"

This was in the days before the internet, when news of breedings, shows and such like was a lot more difficult to happen upon!

Mike is, of course, Dr Michael Du Preez. Together, Mike and his wife Angela, and Jack Noble and his wife Golda, had been founder members of the Cape Utility Dog Club in the early-to-mid 1970s. With the Chow Chow Club of the Western Cape, membership was open to all local Chow enthusiasts at an annual subscription of R20 per year. The business session of meetings was designed to never take very long and was always followed by some very special treat in the way of expert speakers.

 
   
 

At the first meeting, Jack Noble presented an outline of how to assess the points of the breed, ably assisted by his "Big Boy".

At one meeting local vet, Dr Robert Campbell - unusual amongst vets at the time in that he had actually lived with a Chow! - gave an address on "Your Chow and his Vet", illustrated by many Xrays and microscope slides.

Cheryl-Ann Hurley, then Chow Chow Breeder of the Year and Exhibitor of the Year within the Chow Chow Club of Transvaal, travelled down to the Cape especially to conduct a workshop for our members on the Good and Bad in Chow Chows, and the different styles in Chow breeding.

At another meeting we watched a video that Mike had imported especially for the purpose: "Judging in the Chow Chow - Conformation and Soundness in Relation to Judging" by Joan O. Joshua, a retired vet and long time show judge of Chow Chows.

At one of our last meetings GSD breeder and afficionado, Lynn Petersen, a geneticist by profession, spoke on genetics in breeding: "Your Chow Chow and his Designer Genes". With hindsight it is interesting to note that hip dysplasia was still relatively uncommon amongst Chow Chows at that time.

 
 
   

One of the highlights of the Chow Chow Club of the Western Cape was the "Swartland Chow Chow Rally", held for the first time in September 1992 at Antobi Kennels in Malmesbury, home of committee member, Ann Lotz. The first Chow Chow picnic! Mike declared: "The event has been designed as a delightful day out in the country for the dogs and their owners. It will give all an opportunity to see and meet the dogs that live in the area, and their owners and friends. Please note, however, that THIS IS NOT A DOG SHOW! We would love to meet as many non-Show Dogs as possible." The record shows that twenty-one Chow Chows were in attendance and the function was a great success - the start of a great Cape tradition!

 
   
   

In retrospect, we were privileged to be exposed to such a wealth of experience, expertise and enthusiasm. In 1993 the club was ratified as a specialist section of the Cape Utility Dog Club. Club committee members Mike, Jack and Malcolm Farre also served on the Board of the CUDC. In June of that year the first official annual general meeting was held. Jack Noble was unanimously elected Patron and Honorary Life President. Mike Du Preez was elected President, and Vanessa Munro was elected Secretary / Treasurer. Elize Farr, Fred Greeff and Ann Lotz made up the rest of the committee.

Mike outlined the goals of the Club: "To be educational and informative; to assist owners and would be owners with enquiries about the breed; placing unwanted and condemned chows; tracing owners of lost chows; assisting sick owners with temporary care for their chows; locating suitable studs; locating puppies for prospective owners; and assisting members in the resolution of disputes ...".

His vision included an important Archival function, with the accumulation of photographs, audiovisual and video material for use by members of the Club; an Outreach programme to isolated breeders; as well as social activities, rallies and chow orientated get-togethers. Mike hoped, not to stop backyard breeding so much as to interest such breeders in improving their stock and producing acceptable Chows.

Sadly, there was never another AGM. Jack died, and Mike unexpectedly transferred, with family and dogs, to Bahrain. Meetings and social get-togethers were replaced by newsletters. Without their vision and drive, the Club did not survive.

But we were all left enriched for having been a part of it!

 
           
 

Written by Vanessa Munro.

Records and Photographs courtesy of Dr Mike Du Preez & Vanessa Munro.
More stories will be added over time as more memorabilia comes out of attics!

 
           
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