Lion-hearted Ginge goes for Crufts
A dog named after a lion is aiming for a triumph at Crufts having started her career with a £1 fun run.
Malaika, a Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla nicknamed Ginge, will compete in an agility class on Friday morning at the famous canine competition in Birmingham.
Her owner, trainer and fellow redhead Jenna Allinson from Howden, East Yorkshire, is "quietly confident" about her dog's chances, and said it all started three years ago when they were at a country fair.
"I took her to a game fair one day and there was a club there that had a have-a-go agility course set up, and I thought 'that looks like a little bit of fun, let's just see what she does with this', and she absolutely loved it.
"It only cost me £1 to have a go, and I took her round and she just took to it like a duck to water, and the people (from the club) said 'you might have a good little agility dog there, why don't you join the club?' And we did and we've never looked back," said Ms Allinson.
Adding: "I'm going in feeling quietly confident.
"We had to do a semi-final to get to Crufts and she actually won the semi-final, and essentially the dogs I'm going up against on Crufts are the dogs I've already beaten."
Ms Allinson said it takes about 12-18 months to train a dog to do agility - where the animal's fitness and the handler's ability to train and direct the dog over and through certain obstacles are tested - and said she trains with Malaika about two or three times a week.
She said she got the idea for her dog's name from a TV series about Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire.
"When they got two new lion cubs in, one of them was called Malaika and I really liked it," she said.
Ms Allinson said Malaika has won "hundreds" of prizes in her agility career, climbing from grade one to grade six in two years, with just one more grade to move up to.
When not competing, Malaika likes to relax.
Ms Allinson said: "When she's not flying around the agility circuit she's a really calm dog, she's really laid back. Nothing really bothers her. She's quite happy just to curl up on something quite comfortable and go to sleep."
Malaika gets "lots of treats", and particularly likes chunks of ham, chicken and cheese.
She gets excited before and after going into the ring, Ms Allinson said, adding: "I don't think she's aware of the achievement, but she's always aware that she's had a wonderful time."
The dog trainer said she will be "shaking like a leaf" on Friday morning, adding: "It's all down to me on the day. The dog doesn't know where she's going. So if I get it wrong, then it could all go bad."
Crufts runs from Thursday March 6 to Sunday March 9.