Ana and Syra, competing in canicross. / sur

From abandoned puppy in Marbella to world canicross championship in France

Ana Gajate and her Schnauzer cross Syra love the sport they do together, and enjoy competing under the slogan Six Feet, Two Hearts and One Team

JOAQUINA DUEÑAS Marbella

It looks as if destiny intended Syra to be a champion, from the time she was abandoned as a puppy outside the Marbella Animal House veterinary clinic six years ago. “She was about six weeks old, in a basket, and had been well looked-after,” says the clinic owner, María Funes.

That day, María’s cousin Ana Gajate was returning to Madrid after spending Easter with the family and came to say goodbye. “She had been saying she’d like a dog, and I thought this puppy would be ideal. And now she has made her a champion!” María says.

Ana had always been athletic, but before she adopted Syra she knew nothing about canicross, which consists of running cross-country accompanied by a dog. “I wondered if I could take her with me for a run and looked it up on the Internet, and discovered canicross,” she says.

This year, they competed in the World Championship in Plédran, in Brittany, and came 48th. Syra made her debut in the competition in November 2017, in Madrid.

“I started teaching her by throwing a toy along the road and telling her to get it, because the dog always has to run in front,” Ana says. Since then, although most dogs who compete are breeds which can run long distances, such as lurchers, and Syra is a Schnauzer cross, she has come second in her category in the Madrid Mushing Cup and sixth in the Spanish Cup in 2020. Last year, they won the Madrid Canicross Championship.

It hasn’t always been easy, however. “A few years ago Syra was attacked by another dog and it took her a long time to recover. She was really badly injured, and she became scared of other dogs because the vets had to stitch up her stomach, ear and armpit and she couldn’t walk. But she recovered really well. To get over her fear of other dogs, we had the help of a trainer and although at first, when we competed and were going to overtake someone, she would hold back slightly, she’s amazing now,” she explains.

They slow down in the summer because of the heat, sticking to walks by the river, swimming and playing with a frisbee. They are both leading happy lives. “I always used to say to my grandmother that I would find love in Marbella, and I did, with Syra!” says Ana.