This post will be a throwback, a throwback to a time when I adopted my first rescue dog and learnt all about a new sport that would make a huge impact on my life.
Over three years ago now, I adopted Tilly, my first rescue dog who arrived on a truck from Spain, spending 2 days travelling roads and oceans to get to the UK with 20 other dogs through a wonderful group of people in Northern Spain.
I’ve told the story of Tilly’s first few months in my first blog post here but she was the reason this all started! After rescuing her the rose-tinted specs had to be adjusted and I had a real job on my hands. Before her arrival, I had had visions of running the coast paths of North Cornwall with her happily enjoying my company, sharing my mutual love of scampering along trails in all weathers. It was clear from day 1 that this wouldn’t be as I had imagined.
Tilly was a fairly broken dog (one of my dog trainers had referred to her as such too), with very little knowledge of what had happened to her in the 18 months she had been in the pound, we were having to work with what we saw each day. Taking it step by step.
As a passionate trail runner, running was a way of life for me and I desperately wanted Tilly to experience the joy alongside me. After much googling, I came across DogFit, they were speaking my language. I’d heard about canicross but had only seen it as a fairly elite sport at the time, I really hadn’t realised that there were complete beginners out there.
It seems this was the breakthrough I was looking for. The way in which they championed beginners, as well as regularly working alongside rescue dogs, made me confident that I had found someone that could help me.
I started looking into canicross as a positive way for me to bond with Tilly as well as enjoying the sport I loved in a safe and controlled way with her. It meant I could run with her, yet know she wouldn’t bolt away (she did that in the beginning as she was such a scared girl) and we could build up her fitness gradually. She had no muscle tone on her from living her first 18 months of her life barely exercising.
I instantly saw the benefits it was bringing to Tilly’s confidence and to my enjoyment. It gave me hope that this could improve so much more than our fitness. She was starting to trust me more and we built a very firm bond very quickly. Her confidence grew and she started to be able to socialise in a safe way.
It blew me away and to be honest, got me hugely emotional. How is this not obligatory for rescue dogs who struggle with socialisation and have anxieties, it was like a magic wand for the situation we were in? At this point, I became quite evangelical, wanting everyone to know about this sport and to understand it’s very real benefits to even the most broken of dogs.
It didn’t take me long to realise that with my England Athletics Leadership in Running Fitness qualification I could train alongside DogFit to bring this sport to my local area. I had never seen anyone running canicross with their dogs here and with such stunning coastline and scenery, I felt I was in a good place to spread the message!
I’m thankful to have had such an experience with Tilly as without it I would never have found canicross, DogFit or started a business alongside my gorgeous girl.