A-mushing we shall go — NOT

This is one sport that I think I can safely continue to avoid


’m a double-edged, multi-tasking (some would call it obsessive-compulsive) kind of guy.  I love doing two things at once because I hate wasting time. Even for short ferry rides I carry more gear than a Sherpa for Martha Stewart — food, magazines, my diary, a harmonica — even an inflatable pillow for naps.

When I heard about canicross my first thought was:  this is for me.

Canicross? The latest exercise craze. Apparently it began with some anonymous dog-sledder in Lapland looking for a way to exercise his doggy cohorts in the summer, snowless months.  What he or she came up with is, essentially one-on-one dog-sledding minus the sleigh.

Oh yeah — and instead of holding the reins, the human portion of the equation (formerly the sled driver) is lashed to the dog by a harness.

You’re familiar with walking the dog? This is running the dog. Fido picks the trail and sets the pace. Your assignment is to keep up and stay vertical.

Oh, and in order to keep your hands free for balance (and to make it extra interesting) Fido is attached to your crotch.

Pretty much. The canicross harness fits around your waist and loops about your upper thighs, terminating in a snap buckle in front of your … front.  The buckle attaches to about six feet of leash, the other end of which clips to the dog’s collar.  All you have to say is “Go!” — and you are officially canicrossing.

Canicross is pretty green as sports go. Historians have traced it back to its Scandinavian origins in the early 1970s. Within a decade it had spread south to France, where the world’s first canicross meet was held in Paris in 1982. Since then it has blossomed, eventually hopping the Atlantic to take seed in eastern Canada and parts of the U.S.

I know — you’re asking yourself why would anyone willingly attach themselves to a dog and let it drag them through the bush. Because in this hectic, stress-heavy world we’re stuck with, where people fumble with their Blackberrys even as the waiter is handing out menus; where parents text their offspring on the bus because it saves time — in our world, canicross is the very essence of multi-tasking. It enables you to take care of two chores at once: your dog gets exercise — and you get a serious cardiovascular workout.

How perfect is that? I’ve got a dog and I’ve got a gym membership. But there are not enough hours in my day to walk my dog AND toddle downtown to the gym. With canicross, I don’t have to.

I ordered the starter kit.  It includes the human harness (they call it a hands-free belt) — for $52 and a pooch harness (they call it a Shorty Ripstop Sport Harness) — for $34. I donned the belt, attached a long leash to it and clipped the other end of the leash to my dog, Homer.

“Go!” I said.

I don’t speak fluent canine and Homer is a critter of few barks, but I’m quite certain his response was the dog equivalent of “Huh?” Homer cocked his head, looked at me sideways, wagged his tail and sat down.

Homer (he is named after the donut-driven Homer of Springfield, not the Greek) is a Bearded Collie. He has never been a ball of fire, nor is he the Einstein of his breed — but he knows bedrock stupid when he sees it.  For the next hour we stumbled around the neighbourhood together; sniffing, peeing, pausing briefly to scratch and then onwards to sniff and pee and scratch some more. Homer, I mean.

I merely followed behind, a flunky biped, tethered to my dog by $86 worth of clearly superfluous yuppie gear.

Garrison Keillor famously said: “Dogs come when you call; cats take a message and get back to you.”

Mr. K. never met Homer.

Anybody want to buy a barely-used canicross starter kit?


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