Written by Pam Luckhurst with grateful acknowledgement to Joan Partridge
AS I sadly record the death of Mary Smyth of the great Waakzaam kennels on 20th May 2009 aged 92 years, the phrase ‘the end of an era’ has never been so poignant for the Keeshond world. Mary was one of the breed’s great characters and personalities, resiliently coping with adversity and always remaining cheerful.
Mary bought her first Keeshond bitch, Verscherry of Vorden, in 1955 not realising that she was about to start one of the most successful Keeshond kennels known, both in terms of breeding and showing. Within two years she and her husband David had started attending Championship shows and bred their first litter, producing a champion. ‘Cherry’ produced many top winning progeny and went on to win the Veteran class at the Keeshond Club show at the age of 11? years.
The kennel’s second bitch was Ch Waakzaam Voljasmija of Vorden who was the dam of W. Wellwillend and W. Wellrickend and by the end of 1966 five champions carried the Waakzaam prefix. Mary’s well-known Ch W. Wotan (by Ch Evenlode Monarch of Marrybelle ex W. Weisijunga) united the best of Rhinvevale and Evenlode blood with the best of Vorden from his dam who was a direct descendant of the famous Ch Volkerijk of Vorden who won BIS at Crufts in 1957. Her lovely Ch W. Wotan sired eight champions and in 1969 he went BOB at Crufts and was in the last six for the group. His son, Am Ch W. Wollenhoven, shared an interesting double with him by going BOB at Westminster in the same year.
Another great favourite was Ch W. Waag who, after a very successful puppy career in 1970, gained his title at 14 months of age. Ch W. Waag sired 11 champions, among them Ch W. Waagson and Ch W. Wiederman. Mary always felt good bitches were of great importance to a kennel and her Ch W. Waalre holds the breed record with six champion offspring, Ch W. Waltraute and Ch W. Welriekend each had five. Widely acclaimed as one of her best bitches, and one I always loved, was Ch W. Wursel who won her first CC at 8-months and went on to win BOB at Crufts in 1974. It is impossible to give an individual mention to all her champions, as between 1955 and 1985 Waakzaam produced 45 worldwide. Mary’s breeding and showing were greatly curtailed following the death of her husband David in September 1979. However, she continued as President of the N of E Keeshond Club for many years and her doggy parties in aid of the club funds were always greatly enjoyed and much appreciated.
I really got to know Mary at the beginning of the 1980s when she gave me so much support with my Ch Gavimir Nighthawk. I had always admired the Waakzaam breeding and tried to mate my foundation bitch, Rhinevale Roitelet, to Ch W. Waag, but it was not to be. Later on in 1979 when I was judging I found a young dog with Waakzaam breeding, Kwintex Katterwaad, that I was able to successfully put to my G. Verbena, which resulted in Nighthawk. Perhaps Mary was a little biased, but she was his number one fan and we became great friends over the years. Mary was a generous hostess and her supper parties were legendary - though one did have to be rather a ‘late bird’ to enjoy them right to the end! Mary did not relish early rising, though it had to be done for the dogs, but afterwards she preferred to rise later and could be found still typing out her breed notes in the small hours of the morning!
Mary started writing the breed notes for DW in May 1964 and I joined her to replace the late Barbara Glover in August 1991. We wrote the notes together until February 2001. In 1996 Joan Partridge and I put together ‘The Waakzaam Story’ in DW as a surprise for Mary’s 80th birthday, which she celebrated in style with a huge party! Mary’s last canine companion was a wonderful little Shiba Inu called ‘Tamiko’ who was very partial to gentleman visitors and ignored Mary completely when we went to stay and followed John everywhere! Mary had many friends in the Kees world that helped her to continue with her interest in the breed after David’s death and some of the dearest amongst these were Joan and Barry Partridge, Doris and Bill Purdon, Janet and John Tierney and Sheila and Peter Esland.
Following a short spell of illness last year Mary returned to her beloved home ‘The Swevic’ where she had spent so many happy years and which held such precious memories for her. Her knowledge of the Keeshond breed was immeasurable, which she had always been willing to share with newcomers and right to the present time in our doggy phone chats she could still run off the breeding of a dog without hesitation. We will all carry our own special memories of Mary, especially her unique style of handling her dogs at shows, but for me those phone chats were very special and Mary’s cheery greeting as she answered with: ‘Tidewell 330... Oh, hello darling,’ will always be my most treasured memory.
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