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Barrie Hudson meets Maisey a veteran labrador star of Cani-Cross
I MET the veteran athlete at her home in Rodbourne.
I’d been told she didn’t hold with formality, and I should just call her Maisey.
Maisey doesn’t run competitively these days, but she can still put on a fair turn of speed when in the mood.
Although not the most articulate interview subject, she’s far from standoffish. I’d barely said “Hello” before she tried to lick my face and climb on to my lap for a snooze. But that’s Labradors for you.
Maisey is a veteran star of Cani-Cross, sometimes referred to and pronounced as CaniX, in which human competitors run across country with one or two dogs harnessed to their waists.
At its most basic, all-inclusive level, it’s simply a way for humans and their pets to enjoy exercise.
And at its most competitive extremes? Here’s Swindon IT manager Ian Reade, who is one of the top-ten human CaniX athletes in Europe: “The dogs are strong. I’ve fallen, done a complete faceplant and they’ve just dragged me along.”
Over the weekend, Ian, 48, and his son Christopher, 23, will be at Cirencester Park to take part in the CSJ CanineMax Dog Games, when the 15th European Cani-Cross Championships will be among nine canine sports featured. More than 250 Cani-Cross teams from the UK, Slovenia, Switzerland, Russia, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland.
“It’s a lovely way to bond with your dog,” said Ian, “If you just look at the dogs when they’re running, you can see the enjoyment on their faces.
“The dogs see you put your running kit on and they’re waiting at the door to go out running with you.”
Ian is married to Lynda, 45, a sales administrator. Christopher works as a powder coater and his 22-year-old sister, Kathryn, is an accomplished horsewoman when not working in finance. The family also includes veteran Cani-Cross dogs Maisey and Lady, and current competitors Ozzy, Jet, Tia and Sam. All are Labs apart from Tia, a German Short-Haired Pointer. Ian will be running with Jet at Cirencester Park, and Christopher with Tia.
“What you find,” said Ian, “is that people have all breeds from Yorkshire Terriers to Great Danes, but the runners that want to take things to higher levels start to look at dogs that are good for running. You want an animal with staying power, athletic and able to pull.”
Some of the hundreds of thousands of Cani-Cross participants across Europe are developing what is known as the Euro-Hound from the bloodlines of Huskies, Pointers and Greyhounds.
Both Ian and Christopher are championship standard athletes. Ian’s achievements in the Cani-Cross master age class include five UK championships in the two dogs class, a victory in the two-dog Cani-Cross event at Crufts in 2010, a UK championship in the single-dog class and a rating that has been as high as seventh best in Europe.
Lifelong dog lover and running enthusiast Ian took up Cani-Cross in 2006 after seeing a poster advertising the sport, and Christopher joined him later.
In conventional athletics, Christopher has won Wiltshire championships at 800 and 1500m, is a Wiltshire cross-country championship winner and has many other victories under his belt.
Cani-Cross is not just for elite runners, though. “I’d recommend it to anybody who has a dog,” said Ian.“It’s for everybody.
“It’s a good way for people to get fit, it’s a good way for their dogs to get fit and it’s fun.”
Further information about Cani-Cross can be found at www.canix.co.uk
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