In the late 1980s, the American Pit Bull Terrier was known as a vicious, aggressive dog; a true killer!
But if you would visit a quiet little ranch near Imperial Beach, California, back in 1993, you would have been greeted by a lovely 65-pound female APBT: Weela!
Officially an American Staffordshire terrier or a Yankee terrier, the pit bull’s reputation comes from bad people, drug dealers or gamblers that took advantage of this friendly and courageous breed that is ready to please their humans, training them to be bloody and to fight until their death.
Weela was never taught to fight, and it was raised with love and respect. Her behavior was nothing like the pit bull stereotype.
Her family taught her basic obedience and good manners, and even if she had a rough start in life, being abandoned, her confidence in humans was impressive. She grew up to be a very happy 65-pound dog, that loved to run around the ranch and interact with other people and animals from the ranch (horses, cows, and chickens).
She loved to swim and when her family went fishing, she was there. When her family wanted to relax, she joined them on the couch, asking for cuddles.
It looked like Weela was a typical normal pet, but suddenly, everything changed.
In 1993, Weela became the Ken-L-Ration Dog Hero of the year, the 40th dog so honored since the award began in 1954.
She earned this prestigious award because of her amazing courage during a massive flooding in California.
She didn’t just perform just one act of heroism, but she did numerous rescue acts both to strangers and animals over a period of 3 months.
She managed to save 30 people, 29 dogs, 13 horses and 1 cat, all of whom most likely would have died during the winter flooding in southern California.
In January 1993, heavy rains caused a dam to break, so the waters isolated both people and animals for 3 months.
Weela and two family members, Lori and Daniel Watkins, worked for six hours battling with heavy rains and strong currents, before reaching a neighbors’ ranch to rescue 12 dogs.
Lori Watkins said “She was constantly willing to put herself in dangerous situations. She always took the lead except to circle back if someone needed help”.
During the next month, 17 dogs and one cat were found stranded on an island, so on several occasions, Weela swam to the island, each time carrying 30 to 50 pound of dog food loaded into a backpack harnessed to her back.
Weela, continued to provide food until they were finally rescued on Valentine’s Day.
In the same period, Weela also led and guided a rescue team and saved 13 horses stranded on a large manure pile completely surrounded by flood waters.
When Weela was returning from one of her regular food deliveries to stranded animals, she came upon a group of 30 people who were attempting to cross the troubled waters.
She barked continuously and kept running back and forth, heading them to another place where it was safe to pass. Weela knew that the first place was dangerous and that the water was really deep.
After several months The Tijuana River finally became calm again, but Weela’s acts of heroism were recognized by her community. She received the Ken-L-Rations 40th award and a certificate of merit. Weela’s life finally seemed to have found its purpose and destiny.