LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – The tricks of the trade for a Lakeland twosome are practiced to perfection. Then they are put to the test at a canine training facility in Anniston, Alabama.
“Alabama has mountains. I did not know that when I went for the first time,” Heidi Pitts said with a laugh.
Heidi, who is a public safety aide for the Lakeland Police Department, is the proud owner of Latt, a 7-year-old Australian Shepherd. She was born in Texas.
“Well,” Heidi told 8 On Your Side’s Gabrielle Shirley, “it stands for ‘look at that Texan.’ I am glad I have a creative friend because I was not coming up with anything!”
The two of them have competed together in three U.S. Canine Biathlons over the past three years. Heidi spotted the race on Facebook.
“I started reading what it was and I am like, ‘That seems awesome!’ I always wanted to do an obstacle course,” said Heidi, “and what better way to do it than with the dog.”
Heidi actually has four dogs, four cats and a pond full of fish but she chose Latt to be her biathlon buddy.
“I honestly said when I went, that I was going to win,” Heidi explained during the interview. “I said, ‘I am going to do this and I am going to win.’ I just know that this dog, she would do anything that I wanted, so I knew that we could do that. Whatever it is, we can do it.”
The obstacles include mounds of tires, drainage pipes and muddy rivers.
“There was an area that was called ‘Mossy Creek’ and it is full of moss,” recalled Heidi, “so we were slipping all over.”
Heidi and Latt finished in fourth place in their first race.
“I went off course,” said Heidi. “I will never forget it. That is what caused my loss!”
You can call the second race a redemption race because they crossed the finish line first.
The dynamic duo took to the course for round three in May. Heidi said a slide surprised them.
“I told Latt, ‘Tunnel!’ She put on the brakes. A lot of people sat down and put their dogs on their lap. I pushed her! I pushed her! She went down and, as soon as she landed, I said, ‘Go take it home!’ She knows that ‘take it home’ means we are coming to the finish.”
They stole the bronze medal beating 429 other female athletes and their dogs.
“I actually well up with tears when I finish because I do not think you can do anything better to build that bond with your dog,” Heidi said. “It is our thing. She will always be my go-to dog.”